Today is February 2nd. To most people in America, this is Groundhog’s Day. For Catholics it is also the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple (also called “Candlemas”).
In Lev. 12, we read that Israelite women were to present themselves to a priest 40 days after giving birth for ritual purification. February 2nd is 40 days after Christmas. Further, Exodus 13:2&12 both state that they must present their firstborn to a priest to be consecrated to God. Mary and Joseph were devout Jews, so they would have followed the law. We also recognize that Mary, being sinless, didn’t need to be ritually purified, but that she was respectful and obedient to the law, so she did anyway.
Today we celebrate the event when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to Jerusalem and dedicated Him in the Temple (see Lk. 2:22-40). Simeon and Anna were two holy people in the Temple, and they both reacted with great joy to be in the presence of Jesus.
Simeon was told he wouldn’t die until he saw the Messiah, and when he finally saw Jesus, he exclaimed:
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.” (Lk. 2:29-32)
There have been many commentaries on this quote, but I just wanted to highlight the bold/underlined word: light. Simeon called Jesus the “light” for revelation and glory. Like a flashlight in the dark, Jesus is the Truth, which sheds light on everything so that we may see properly and know what is really there. Jesus is God’s fullest revelation of Truth, and by His teachings, Church, and sacraments, we are guided into a fuller knowledge of the truth.
This is behind the Church’s tradition of blessing candles on Feb. 2 every year. That is why today is also called “candlemas.”
Today is also celebrated by some (particularly the Polish) as the end of the Christmas Season. The Presentation is the final feast day that is based on the date of Christmas. Many people will continue to celebrate the Christmas/Epiphany season until today. In my family this year, we have kept our tree and manger up even after the end of the main Christmas season (which lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus). This extends the celebration of Christmas to a 40-day celebration akin to that of Easter’s 50 days.
May Jesus be a light to your day and your life, drawing you out of the darkness and into a fuller understanding (and love) of the Truth.
Photo Credit: http://www.stbarsaumochurch.com/Portals/0/Sermons/13-j-presentation.jpg