“When the day came to purify them according to the law of Moses, the couple brought him up to Jerusalem so that he could be presented to the Lord, for it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every first-born male shall be consecrated to the Lord.’ They came to offer in sacrifice ‘a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,’ in accord with the dictate of the law of the Lord.”
Today’s feast is exactly 40 days after Christmas. The Presentation in the Temple (the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary) and The Purification of Our Lady which according to Scriptures tells us that Mary and Joseph fulfilled the Jewish law and custom by taking their baby boy to the Temple to present him to God. They also went to sacrifice two young doves. Mary followed Hebrew purification laws – Jewish women were required to offer a ritual sacrifice and receive a blessing in the Temple forty days after giving birth. Being completely pure, Mary did not have to undergo this ritual, but did so anyway as an obedient woman of God.
Once there they met a holy and devout man, Simeon, who took the child in his arms and made a great prophesy about him. He gave thanks to the Lord, singing a hymn now called the Nunc Dimittis:
Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord,
In peace, according to Thy word:
For mine own eyes hath seen Thy salvation,
Which Thou hast prepared in the sight of all the peoples,
A light to reveal Thee to the nations
And the glory of Thy people Israel.
Simeon proclaimed the infant would be, “A revealing light to the Gentiles, the glory of your people Israel”. As a result, light and candles play an important role before and during Mass on this day and that is why the most common name for this Feast is – Candlemas. On this day there will be a blessing of the candles and a procession.
Simeon also spoke a prophetic word to Mary, foretelling her future sorrow.
Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.
Candlemas Day was also the day when some cultures predicted weather patterns. Farmers believed that the remainder of winter would be the opposite of whatever the weather was like on Candlemas Day. If the sun cast a shadow on Candlemas day, more winter was on the way; if there was no shadow, winter was thought to be ending soon. This practice led to the folklore behind “Groundhog’s Day,” which falls on Candlemas Day. Here in Pennsylvania today, the famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, did not see his shadow which means an early spring!
Fun things to do today:
- make Candlemas Cookies (catholiccuisine.blogspot.com).
- make beeswax candles – which is the traditional choice for liturgical candles (still at least 51% beeswax if they are used in Mass).
- have a Candlelight Dinner.