|ancient icon of the Presentation|
Feb 2nd commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem, a traditional observance of faithful Jews on the birth of a first son. It has special resonance in this case, of course, since it prefigures the Eucharist in which day by day we have the opportunity to give God back the gift he gives us. So Mary and Joseph return to God that which uniquely came from God.
Commonly called Candlemas, the feast of the Presentation has several meanings. The association with candles comes from the fact that a central part of the Biblical episode is the aged Simeon's 'Nunc Dimittis' with its description of the baby Jesus as 'a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of God's people Israel'. It has also been regarded as the very last feast of the Christmas season, not just because it records a Jewish birth rite, but because Simeon's words summarize so memorably the truth of the Incarnation. In the ceremony for Candlemas, candles for use in both church and home are blessed with this prayer:
God our Father,
Source of all light,
this day you revealed to Simeon
the light of your revelation to the nations.
Bless these candles and make them holy.
May we who carry them praise your glory, walk in the path of goodness
and come to the light that shines forever
Grant this through Christ our Lord.