This year, the Church’s liturgical calendar provides a rare treat; the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord will be celebrated on a Sunday. This observance is fixed to Feb. 2 and it continues the Christmas revelation of Jesus as the fulfilled light of the world.
The fact that Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus to the temple is similar to how parents still offer their infant children to the Lord in baptism. Every child is uniquely special and parents seek to show this by dedicating their children to God. As Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple, they hear more amazing news about their child.
The Gospel of Luke records that a holy man named Simeon received Jesus in the temple and announced Him to be the light of the world. Coming just after the Baptism of the Lord, Epiphany, and Christmas itself, it is no wonder that this feast has in some places been regarded as a conclusion to the Christmas season. The decorative lights of Christmas remind us all of the true light of the world born in time. Now that light is taken from the manger to the temple to begin His service.
Over the centuries, Christians have observed this day in different ways. One interesting title under which the feast has been recognized is “Candlemas.” By the 11th century it seems that the faithful would gather in some central place near their church at which the candles for the next year — both for Mass and for people to take home — were blessed.
Some would then be lit and a formal procession into the church would follow while the words of Simeon from St. Luke’s Gospel were sung. Today many parishes still bless candles on this day and despite the advances of electricity, Mass is celebrated with lit candles.
The hope offered by a simple lit candle is palpable. In a world that atrocious actions seem to suggest is without it, memorial candles can be seen in front of most locations where the loss of life is especially acute. Some Christians even still light blessed candles in their homes during especially bad storms.
Light always brings hope and Christ surpasses all we could ever hope to experience. God reminds us of His abiding care through the light He shows and revealed especially in His temple. That light is worth taking home.
FATHER BRYAN BABICK is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.