Candlemas

Tomorrow marks the feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, or as it is more commonly known: ‘Candlemas’. This is some way provides some sort of a bridge in the Churches year as we are out of Christmastide and the octave of the Epiphany and slowly preparing ourselves for Lent, eventually culminating in both the agony of the cross and the glory of the resurrection.  In Luke’s Gospel, his account of Christ presentation contains a theme which is quite common throughout the Bible, if not two of the most important themes of scripture: Sacrifice and Christ as the Light of the World.  Mary and Joseph were complying by the Mosaic Law and taking the infant Jesus to the temple forty days after his birth for his purification, (better known as the redemption of the firstborn). Due to the Holy Family’s lowly status they could only afford “”a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Leviticus 12:1-4) rather than the lamb, which by then was used as a sacrifice for the wealthier families in Israel. The two themes of Candlemas are present when Jesus, Mary and Joseph encounter Simeon, in the temple. We do not know much about this man apart from the fact that he was a man of great piety and devotion as described in Luke’s Gospel. Simeon had also been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see the face of Christ before he departed this world. Indeed God, true to his word fulfilled this for Simeon during his encounter with Christ at the temple. When he blessed Christ he uttered these immortal words which have echoed throughout the ages “For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared for all nations, the light to enlighten the Gentiles and give glory to Israel, your people.” (Luke 2:29–32) Yet despite this beautiful and poetic blessing that he gives to the infant Christ he also delivers, what would have been a chilling prophecy to Mary, out of which Simeon foresees his eventual agony and triumph on the cross: “Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35) We do not know how long Simeon spent with the Holy Family in the temple and to be quite frank it is pointless to speculate this. All that we know is that within his conversation with the Holy Family he prophesised Christ’s pain and triumph on the cross and like Isiah, centuries proclaimed that he would bring “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighted: I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” (Isaiah 42:1) A common tradition is that we bless candles on Candlemas Day not just to proclaim that Christ is the Light of the World but to light his way Calvary. In Advent we answered John the Baptist’s call to prepare the way for Jesus’s birth, at Candlemas we are preparing the way for Jesus to begin his mission, his mission to preach the Gospel to the Nations, to bring love to those who are unloved and to bring salvation to all.ImageImage

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