The Light of the World
Feb 8, 2020
Someone asked me recently when the Christmas season ends. According to our liturgical calendar, the Christmas season ends with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, which is typically celebrated the Sunday following the Solemnity of the Epiphany, which had traditionally been on January 6, but that is no longer the case. Even though the current end of the Christmas season is the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, that wasn't necessarily always the case. At one point, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2 was the end of the Christmas season. I believe that Christmas decorations are kept up at the Vatican until this feast.
The Presentation of the Lord is the event found in Luke's gospel in which Mary and Joseph, in obedience to the law of the Lord, presented and dedicated to God their first (and only) born Son, Jesus Christ in the temple forty days after His birth. In the temple that day was the just and righteous man, Simeon, upon whom the Holy Spirit rested; the Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not see death until he witnessed the Messiah. Upon seeing and encountering Jesus, Simeon blessed God and cried out, “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”
This exclamation from Simeon is prayed by all priests and deacons every night while praying Night Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, the “official prayer of the Church.” The last line, which I underlined, is also the basis for why this feast is also referred to as Candlemas. Christ is the light of the world, the light who reveals the Father to all people, the light who reveals the glory of God. Because of that, this is the day to bless the candles to be used throughout the year, candles which remind us constantly of the presence of Christ, the light of the world, in the in the Blessed Sacrament and in the Sacred Liturgy.
The blessing of candles on Candlemas sometimes involved a procession from where the candles were blessed—sometimes another chapel or church—to where Mass would be prayed and celebrated. In the procession, people would carry small lit candles: a reminder of the light of Christ given to them at baptism, a reminder of the promises made in baptism. This procession with lit candles serves as a warmup and foreshadowing of what is the come: the blessing of the Paschal candle and procession with the light of Christ at the Easter Vigil.
On a personal note, I will be away for a little over a week. Fr. Nick Weibl will be back to celebrate Mass with you next weekend. I know he will be happy to see all of you, and I'm sure you will be happy to see him. Know that I will continue to pray for you and offer Mass for you while I'm away, and don't worry, I plan on coming back! Have a great week!