The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple on the 2nd of February is also a day for all religious to renew their consecration to God, this being the World Day of Consecrated Life, as proclaimed by St. John Paul II in 1997. This year is also our Church Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons. By means of the evangelical counsels, they have offered themselves to God, following Jesus—‘the chaste, poor and obedient one.’ In the early Church, this feast was called the ‘Encounter’ and later ’til the liturgical revision, it was referred to as the ‘Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ and popularly named ‘Candlemas’ due to the tradition of blessing candles. This feast also symbolically lies at the midpoint between Christmas and Easter.
The ceremony of the blessing of candles which takes place at the beginning of the Mass was inspired by the words of Simeon, who says in his canticle that Jesus is “a light of revelation to the Gentiles” (Lk 2:32). We carry the blessed candles in a procession as a sign that we carry the “Light of the world.” As Jesus was carried by his parents, we too carry His Light to everyone we encounter. We do this during the procession, praying that our hearts be aflame with the love of Jesus as we bring his life and light to the world. Jesus is the “light shining in the darkness of a secularized world, the “true light which enlightens everyone” (Jn. 1:5,9), as first declared by Simeon.
The Infant Jesus comes to the Temple not only to offer a sacrifice but to be the foretold Paschal Sacrifice who will free us from sin and its inimical effects. Let us imitate the example of Simeon and Anna in the Gospel (Lk 2:22-40) by welcoming the light of Jesus into the temple of our hearts and offering our lives to the Lord in prayer and selfless service. Prayerful openness to the Holy Spirit will ensure our not getting lost in the dark in our journey through life, as we try to be beacons of light so that others may find their way. Let us offer our daily tasks, trials and encounters in life to God in union with Jesus’ offering of himself on the Cross, that we ourselves keep straight on our path to eternal life. A challenge is inspired by the challenging words of a song—“Take your candle, go light the world!”