Candlemas: The Presentation of the Lord and The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
By: Juliana Rose Pettis
This coming Sunday, February 2nd, 2020, Catholics around the world will celebrate Candlemas—a tradition which commemorates both the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Traditionally, it marks the end of the Christmas season. Many European cultures still stand by this tradition today, despite the General Roman Calendar of 1969. The addition of the solemn blessing of candles came about in the eleventh century and is still continued in some churches. As Catholics the question is, why do we celebrate the end of the joyous season of Christmas?
The Presentation of Christ in the Temple marks forty days after His birth, and an important part of Jesus’ early life. It demonstrates that the Son of Man came to establish a religion by His participation in this Jewish custom. One can see the consistency of Christ’s witness and words from infancy to manhood, “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law of the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill them” (Mt. 5:17). Through the aid of His earthly parents, Christ observes the Law of God. Similarly, this same day the commemoration of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary occurs. In the Gospel of Luke, it is written, “the day came for them to be purified as laid down by the Law of Moses” (Lk. 2:22-23). Here the Blessed Virgin, sinless and pure, radiates humility and obedience as she adheres to the ritual cleansing. Together, Mother and Son exemplify the importance of following God’s Laws.
The blessing of candles symbolizes that Christ is the Light of the World— “a light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of Your people Israel” (Lk. 2:32). This feast marks an important feature of Christ. A feature that every Catholic should strive to be—light. Christ brings forth an important truth to all people in this event of His life through the means of His earthly parents, especially Our Blessed Mother. He is our salvation. He is the Light that must be shone on all people. Whether a procession is held on this day or not, it is every Catholic’s duty to process forth throughout the rest of this year bearing fervently the light of Christ daily. Only the light of Christ can penetrate the darkened hearts of this world. Candlemas reminds us that Christ is not only a Light to be brought into our homes, but the Truth that all must see within our hearts.