Saturday, February 1, 2014

Candlemas Day Tomorrow!

(Luke II. 22-32.) At that time, After the days of Mary's purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried Jesus to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord. And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons. And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law: he also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word, in peace: Because my eyes have seen thy salvation: which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Though most of us have long since put behind us all thought of candy canes and tinsel, tomorrow's feast actually marks the official end of the Christmas season. The precious days of Jesus' infancy hidden in the peace and security of Mary's confinement are coming to an end, with tomorrow marking His "introduction" to the world.  In the days when the Holy Family walked the earth, it was the custom for new mothers to go to the Temple to be declared officially "pure" forty days after the birth of a child (Lev. XII), and if that child was a firstborn son, it was Jewish law that the parents offer him officially to God at that time in order to show gratitude for the angel's sparing of the first-born of the Jews at the the time of Moses. (Exodus XII. 12)  Then, to redeem the child back from the Temple (Exodus XIII, 13), the parents offered a gift to be sacrificed in exchange, usually a lamb -- but if the family was poor, as Jesus' family was, a pair of turtle doves were sufficient.

 I love to imagine the Holy Family walking down a cobblestone road on the way to the Temple, the Infant Jesus bundled up and held close to the heart of His Mother, the turtle doves carried by good St. Joseph in a cage he made himself.  I wonder if anyone around them felt a spiritual nudge when the Infant Saviour passed by them? I wonder if I would have known it was the Holy Family passing by if I'd been there?
What a thought, though  -- that Jesus' parents, out of obedience to tradition, offered Him to the Jewish Temple, but then "bought Him back" with doves -- the symbol of peace.  In obedience and humility, Mary and Joseph fulfilled their  responsibility to the Mosaic Law that day, but the joy of the occasion was tempered when, upon meeting the prophet Simeon, Our Blessed Mother was reminded of the sorrows to come -- that her heart would be pierced with a sword.   Beauty and promise and sorrow that day were wrapped up together like the mysteries of the rosary, with the glory-to-come a glimmer in the eye of that bundled up Baby Boy.

Traditional Prayer for the Feast of the Presentation

Heavenly Father! look down from Thy throne of mercy upon the face of Thy Anointed in whom Thou art well pleased. Behold, He is this day offered to Thee in the temple for the sins of His brethren. Let this offering please Thee, and move Thee to have compassion on us sinners. In consideration of His humility and obedience, forgive us our pride and disobedience, and grant us, that purified by His blood, we may one day, having like Simeon departed this life in peace, behold Thee as the eternal Light which shall never be extinguished in the temple of Thy glory, be presented to Thee by Mary, our beloved Mother, and love and praise Thee forever. Amen.


There are many ways to celebrate this Feast. If you're lucky (or I should say blessed!), you will be able to attend the candle blessing ceremonies at your parish and have some candles blessed to bring home, as it's become the custom on this day to bless the candles used throughout the year in the Church's ceremonies.  If you're unable to start the day in this way, though, you can start the day with a pious commemoration, lighting candles on your family altar, or before an image of the Holy Family and say the prayer printed above or simply read from the prayers of the Mass for the day. 

Then plan other fun things to imprint memories of the day for the children!

Many cultures have perfectly wonderful celebrations to make this day special.  I mentioned many in this post a couple years ago, and linked to some more that included the history of the blessing of candles on this day -- as well as the customary crepe or pancake dinners -- in this postCatholic Cuisine is always a wonderful resource, with a list of links for many different recipes and feastday dinners, as well as a lovely idea for a Candlemas Tea!   Lacy at  Catholic Icing also has some wonderful ideas for celebrating the day in crafts and goodies.

And then there are always coloring pages! The following prints, in the public domain, may be used to color: just click and copy to your computer, then print.

As the Feast of the Presentation officially ends the Christmas Season, we list it on our mental calendars as "last call" for removing all our Christmas decorations.  Usually, by the second week after the Big Day, we've started taking down the peripheral garlands and wreaths; then, through the next month, we take down a little more and a little more until we reach "center" which is our big Nativity scene.  Nobody ever wants to tackle this chore.  It's a big to do, let me tell you! But by this time, we've also developed an emotional attachment to our pretty stable, with its trees and rocks and waterfalls, the little animals, the sheep, the Holy Family... It's a letdown for us all, removing it from its place of honor.  Nevertheless, by the first of February, we know we have to tackle it.  And it usually turns out that we're more ready than we think we are for the change.
This photo taken before Baby Jesus made His appearance...
It only took two or three hours today to get the whole landscape and the fragile figurines taken down and packed carefully away, then a little while longer to sweep and mop and vacuum up all the debris left behind. We're a little sad to see it go; the family room seems a little empty now!  But, there's also a sense of satisfaction in having it all finished -- and the lack of clutter, the feeling of "airiness," and cleanness feels kinda good!  It feels like we've taken the first step to a good spring cleaning.  It's a sort of "purification" that we've begun. All right, and good, and in the proper season.  A hint of things to come.


I looked it up, by the way: as of today, February 1st, we have 31 days until Ash Wednesday, and 77 days until Easter...


Sanchez said...

I found an interesting post on Candlemas, which presents it in light of various traditions:

Lisa said...

This is an interestin potpourri of history from the Episcopals -- I take umbrage, tho, to the backward slant they (and many non Catholics) prefer for the story of St. Brigid. The connection between our saint and the pagan goddess they link her with is circumstantial -- they are not the same "person," as is often asserted.

Devotion to St. Brigid may have taken the place of the Pagan goddess -- and some of the traditons associated with the old ways may have meshed in with the traditions adopted on St. Brigid's Day -- but St. Brigid was not "made up" by the Church to serve this purpose as many articles lead readers to believe. St. Brigid was a real, live person -- holy, pious, courageous, and devoted to God and to our Faith.

Just settin' the record straight -- They're just too often let slide, I think, these kind of assumptions, sprinkled in with real history.