FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF OUR LORD IN THE TEMPLE, ALSO CALLED CANDLEMAS OR CANDELARIA
FEAST DAY – 2nd FEBRUARY
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord. As it is written in the law of the Lord – Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord. And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons. – Luke 2: 22-24
The Feast of Candelaria is celebrated annually on February 2 and continues until February 5. Candelaria in English is known in the Catholic Church as the ‘Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ’ because it commemorates the day when His mother, Mary, brought Him to the temple for the first time. The day is both culturally and religiously significant and is cherished in Bolivia.
On the Feast of Candelaria, also known as the commemoration of the Solemnity of the Presentation of the Lord and also called as Candlemas Day, many Catholic churches hold the blessing of candles to remind the faithful that “Jesus is the Light of the world, who, by His birth, saved the human race from eternal damnation and expelled the darkness of evil and death.”
The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is the first public episode in the life of Jesus, celebrating his presentation at the Temple in Jerusalem, to be redeemed by his parents’ sacrifice from a state of sanctity of his birth, and predestined by his firstborn status to serve as a priest in the order of Melchizedek. In Western Christianity, the additional name Candlemas, is added. This Feast day is also known as the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary.
The Lord Jesus Christ, forty days after his birth, according to the Jewish custom, was presented in the temple in Jerusalem by his parents, Mary and Joseph. Saint Luke’s Gospel narrates the story. After the Presentation, Jesus started his public ministry, as a boy and later as an adult.
He would even refer to his own body as a temple which he would raise up in three days, putting the Jewish Community against him. Jesus’ life was a continual offering to God the Father from the very beginning to the very end. It was in his temple that the Lord God of Israel was most present, so Mary and Joseph brought their son to God Himself.
In the Catholic Church, especially since the time of Pope Gelasius I (492-496) who in the fifth century contributed to its expansion, the Presentation is celebrated on 2 February and is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and the Lutheran Church, the episode was also reflected in the once-prevalent custom of churching new mothers forty days after the birth of a child.
The event is described in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 2:22–40). According to the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days (inclusive) after His birth to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn son, in obedience to the Torah (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12–15, etc.).
Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb; Leviticus 12:8), sacrificing “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Leviticus 12:1–4 indicates that this event should take place forty days after birth for a male child, hence the Presentation is celebrated forty days after Christmas.
Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that “he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Luke 2:26). Simeon then uttered the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus.
Simeon then prophesied to Mary: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:34–35).
The elderly prophetess Anna was also in the Temple, and offered prayers and praise to God for Jesus, and spoke to everyone there of His importance to redemption in Jerusalem (Luke 2:36–38). The very building where Jesus was presented by His parents, was burned and destroyed by a powerful Roman army under the future Emperor Titus in 70 A.D. and was never rebuilt. Our faith is historical, but it has a global reach which does not allow it to be planted in just one culture or just one location. Christ is destined for all cultures and all times.
Every Catholic church with the Blessed Sacrament is a Holy of Holies, which fully expresses the deepest mysteries of our faith. There is no strict need to go on pilgrimage to Rome or to Jerusalem once in your life. Every Catholic church in every place, encompasses and transmits the entirety of our faith. God’s hand must have been involved in the headship of the Church migrating from Jerusalem to Rome in the first century. Saint Peter saw no need to remain in Jerusalem in order to be faithful to his Master. The Church is where Christ is, Christ is in the Holy Eucharist, and the Holy Eucharist is everywhere.
We attend church, as the Jews went to their many synagogues, because God is always present in the house built for him, the church. God is surrounded and protected by His priests, saints, sacraments, music, art, and worship. In a church, God is fully clothed, equipped, and armored, fully represented and understood. We dedicate ourselves to Him there, and receive Him there in His Body and in His Blood. In the Sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus is fully present and it is the commemoration of his Last Supper with his apostles. Therefore, the feast of the Presentation of our Lord in the temple gains added significance, for that is his real home.
Lord Jesus, as an infant you were brought to the temple by your parents to fulfil the religious custom of the Jews. Help all parents to initiate their children into the faith with responsibility towards God’s mission in their lives, which is primarily to inculcate their faith in the next generation by their words and by their actions, so that the faith will be handed on where the faith is first learned, in the family and in the home.
Help parents to guide their children in spiritual works and to pursue the truth above all else, preparing Christian children to understand their place in the religious life, to know Christ, to follow the commandments of God and to propagate the kingdom of God among the peoples of the world, all in Jesus’ Name. Amen