By: Father Sean Templeton
Today we celebrate the Presentation of Christ in the Temple and the Purification of Mary. This feast is also known as “Candlemas.” Why do we celebrate this? It is a connection to the Old Covenant and shows how Jesus fulfills it.
Counting forward from December 25 as Day One, we find that Day Forty is February 2. In accordance with Leviticus 12, a Jewish woman lived in semi-seclusion for 40 days after giving birth to a son, and accordingly it is on February 2 (or the closest Sunday) that we celebrate the coming of Mary and Joseph with the infant Jesus to the Temple at the conclusion of that time.
The Holy Family was in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice, both on behalf of Mary (for her purification) and on behalf of Jesus (for redemption in accordance with Exodus 13) as a first-born male. As they did so, they were greeted by the aged Simeon and Anna who prophesied that Jesus would be “a light to the Gentiles and the Glory of Israel.” We celebrate the light of Christ that brings our redemption with candles today. We do this symbolically in the liturgy to remind us that we are to take forth His light into the world! We also begin to look forward to Jesus' purifying us in Lent. Get ready, this Sunday is the culmination of the Epiphany Season!