The second of February marks the fortieth day since Christmas and is the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. In S Luke’s account of the Gospel, we hear that on the fortieth day, an offering was made for the purification of Mary and for the redemption of the firstborn. At this moment Simeon and Anna greeted the child with joy, Simeon calling him ‘a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel’. In association with this text, the Church has blessed candles on this day, hence the name Candlemas.
Candlemas is one of the most ancient celebrations of the Church. The fourth century pilgrim Egeria described the celebration:
XXVI. [The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.] But certainly the Feast of the Purification is celebrated here with the greatest honour. On this day there is a procession to the Anastasis; all go in procession, and all things are done in order with great joy, just as at Easter. All the priests preach, and also the bishop, always treating of that passage of the Gospel where, on the fortieth day, Joseph and Mary brought the Lord into the Temple, and Simeon and Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Famuhel, saw Him, and of the words which they said when they saw the Lord, and of the offerings which the parents presented. And when all things have been celebrated in order as is customary, the sacrament is administered, and so the people are dismissed.
We will keep the external solemnity of Candlemas this Sunday, 29 January 2023, with the blessing of candles and a procession at the Parish Mass. Please make it a priority to join us on this great feast.