This Sunday, February 2nd, is one of the great feasts of the Christian calendar. The feast we celebrate today goes by many names. In modern times it is most commonly known as the Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple, or the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It also bears the traditional name of Candlemas. The abundance of names for this great feast fittingly reveals the richness of the celebration, for today many wonderful events coincide.
In only 18 verses, St. Luke paints a rich tapestry of events that would take several homilies to unpack fully. Today we celebrate Christ’s consecration to God, and are inspired by Mary and Joseph’s humble obedience to the Law of God. But I would like to focus on the third name of today’s feast: Candlemas.
We call it Candlemas (Mass of Candles) because on this day it is traditional to bless candles that will be used in both the liturgy and in private devotion for the coming year. The theme of candles is drawn from the famous canticle that Simeon exclaims upon seeing and holding the Christ child – the “light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for the glory of [God’s] people Israel” (Lk 2:32).
For truly, Christ is the Lumen Gentium, the Light of the Nations. He illumes the dark corners of our lives and offers his peace to all peoples. We who know his love are meant to reflect his light by the way we live our lives. The feast of Candlemas invites us to consider how well we bear Christ’s light to the world – a world in desperate need of his loving illumination. Our models in this are the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, the first bearers of Christ’s light. In humility and obedience they offer their whole lives in the service of God, and offer their Son – the Son of God – for the salvation of the world.
When we let Christ into our lives and open ourselves to the light he wants to impart to us, we cannot help but be transformed. This transformation cannot be static or private. Rather, when Christ transforms us there must be a corresponding commission to witness to the marvels he has worked for us. So let us proclaim Christ, the Light of the World, who transforms the darkness of our hearts into light, joy, and love. Let us witness to the Light in our own lives, so that by reflecting his rays more people may come to know the peace that only Christ can give. May the whole world cast off the works of darkness and embrace the True Light: Jesus Christ.
Kevin Ponte – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
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