You know one of the things I love about Catholicism? It is not just a set of moral beliefs or a place to go on Sundays: it is entire culture, a way of life rooted in God’s love for us and our love for Him. Nowhere is that more evident than the liturgical year, especially feast days that hold significance for our faith and our daily lives.
This Monday, February 2nd, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation, also known as Candlemas. Until a couple of years ago, I thought by this point the Christmas season was long over. However, it is on this day that the Vatican packs up its gorgeous life-size Nativity scene to put it in storage until next year. While my small sons are sad to see the sheep, cows, and small Baby Jesus go, we also mark this Feast by saying goodbye to our crèche.
The significance of the Presentation is, as its name implies, that it celebrates the day that Joseph and Mary offered Jesus to God the Father in the Temple. This wasn’t something unique to the Holy Family, Mosaic law dictated that each family should dedicate their sons to God as well as make a sacrifice. Their journey to the Jerusalem Temple signified the end of Jesus’s arrival (the first Christmas!) and the beginning of his young life when he grew in holiness as the son of Mary and Joseph.
It’s a great reminder to me about what we’re called to give to God. Mary and Joseph’s set quite the example; they offered their vocations as parents, their time to travel to the temple, their only son and money for the temple sacrifice. God gave them more than they could possibly imagined – the Son of God as a son – and they are simply dedicating Jesus and their own lives back to God, the source of all good things
There are a couple ways that we can celebrate this Feast. First and foremost, is going to Mass and offering God our own lives, just as Mary and Joseph did. Or, if you can’t make Mass, consider stopping by your parish at another time during the day, light a candle, and offer your day to God.
The second has to do with candles, which is, of course, connected to why the Feast is also known as Candlemas. Before The Second Vatican Council, on this Feast people would process into Church with lighted candles to commemorate Christ’s entrance into the temple. Candles would be blessed both to be used on the altar at Mass and for families to have in their homes.
If your parish doesn’t publicly bless candles on this Feast, you can still ask your parish priest to bless candles for you. And, whether blessed or not, having candles lit in your house throughout this Feast Day is a physical reminder of Christ Who is the Light of the World.
In my house, we’ll plan on lighting a candle or two and praying the Canticle of Simeon, the priest at the Temple who had longed to meet Jesus his whole life. He prayed,
Lord, now you let your servant go in peace,
your word has been fulfilled:
My own eyes have seen the salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.
These small lights and short prayers recited together are just one opportunity the Liturgical year offers us to tangibly enter into the Christian life. What will you offer to God on this Feast of the Presentation?