CATHOLIC PROGRAMS LIVING OUR CATHOLIC FAITH | January 29th
This week on Thursday, February 2nd, we celebrate four distinct, yet linked feast days: The Presentation of our Lord, the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, the Meeting of the Lord (Hypapánte in Greek) and Candlemas.
A great mystery is honored this day, when our Lord, the infant Jesus is presented in the temple. Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem for the first time forty days after his birth. The Law of Moses (Mosaic Law) required them to consecrate their firstborn son to God, and additionally for Mary to submit to ritual purification forty days after childbirth, which involved a sacrificial offering in the temple. This presentation finds its complete and perfect fulfillment in the mystery of the passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord. The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child to God in the Temple and his buying back (redemption) from God.
Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph were poor and so they had to sacrifice a “pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons” since they could not afford a lamb (Lk 2:24). Joseph offered two pigeons in the Temple as sacrifice for the purification of Mary after her childbirth and for the presentation and redemption ceremonies performed for baby Jesus. Of course, Mary was at all moments since her Immaculate Conception pure – perfectly so, yet she gives us an example of humility and obedience to God’s law – a sign of respect for traditional practices and an avoidance of the appearance of sin (we call it scandal). She and Joseph comply with all ordinances, even though it wasn’t necessary.
The feast also commemorates the encounter in the temple between the Holy Family and St. Simeon – the prophet (this is also known as his feast day!) and St. Anna the prophetess (feast day: Friday, Feb 3rd), called the Meeting of the Lord. It is also known as the Feast of the Purification of Mary, and the Feast of Candlemas. It is also called the Feast of Encounter (Hypapánte in Greek) because the New Testament, represented by the baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna. It is a beautiful image: two young parents and two elderly people, brought together by Jesus. He is the one who brings together and unites generations!
Candlemas was born from the words of St Simeon, “For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Lk 2:30-32). Jesus is the Light of the World, so on this day, the Church blesses candles for use throughout the year. This is the perfect time to purchase some tapered candles and has them blessed for you to use at home throughout the year. This way, your blessed candles will illuminate your family dinners, special occasions, and discussions (hopefully including stories of the Saints). Another fun idea would be to limit electricity usage that day each year – and work/eat by candlelight only once the sun goes down.
This brings me back to Punxsutawney Phil – and Groundhogs Day! While America is watching to see if the groundhog will notice his shadow, we Catholics celebrate the Candlemas tradition, dating back to the Middle Ages. “If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, winter will have another bite. If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, winter is gone and will not come again.” Let’s pray for cloud and rain as we begin our pregame for Lent.
Our Lady Queen of Angels, pray for us.