THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
On Tuesday this week we will celebrate the feast of Candlemas or the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. Traditionally it marks the end of the feasts included in the Christmas cycle of the Liturgy. We recall Mary and Joseph bringing Jesus to the Temple forty days after His birth, according to the requirements of the Law; and Mary submits herself to the rite of purification, which of course, she didn’t need. However, the Liturgy celebrates primarily the entrance of the Infant Jesus into the Temple “to present Him to the Lord” and His meeting with the old man Simeon. Simeon also makes the prophecy about the sufferings Mary will have to endure and he pronounces the Nunc dimittis (Lord, now let your servant depart in peace) which we say every day in the Divine Office at Compline (prayers said before retiring for the night).
At the beginning of the Mass on this day, candles are distributed, blessed and carried lit in procession which is a symbolic presentation of the truth Simeon proclaims, that Jesus is “the light to lighten the Gentiles.” The candles are held lit during the Gospel and during the Eucharistic Prayer. The lighted candle is also a symbol of the Christian life, of the faith and grace which should shine in our souls.
Jesus, while being taken to the Temple, although He is God, offers Himself to the Father as the Divine Victim for sin who will die on the cross for the sins of the world. One could say that His presentation in the Temple is like the Offertory of the Mass, which will then be consummated on Calvary. Candlemas is a beautiful feast, full of meaning and symbols.
Fr Paul Gillham
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