Last weekend, while talking with some Catholics it was mentioned that Monday was the Feast of the Presentation. In response, another in the group said that it was also called Candlemas. The first person asked why and was told because it was when we blessed candles used for the Feast of St. Blasé! I was dumbfounded; I shouldn’t have been, but I was. What ran through my mind was ‘this is why it is so important for Catholics to understand the liturgical calendar’ we need to know our faith and the traditions that help us live it.
Candlemas is a celebration that reminds us that Christ is the Light of World. That though darkness may be all around us we don’t despair because Christ is with us lighting our path and driving the darkness away from us. Simeon understood this well when he saw Christ being presented at the temple. His words of praise, called the Nunc Dimittis (Canticle of Simeon), have echoed throughout the milennia.
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.
For those of us who pray Compline from the Liturgy of the Hours; his words we make our own every night. We acknowledge Christ, the light; we praise God for His light; we celebrate that we have seen it.
But there is more and the celebration of Candlemas gives weight to it. The candles that we bless during Candlemas are also lit and carried by us during the service and remind us that by our witness we help spread His light. They are a call to holiness. That these candles can also be used the next day on the Memorial of St. Blasé is just another example of the beauty of living the liturgical calendar.