The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple

By Monique Sammut | February 2, 2018
Christmas and Candlemas

The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus (also known as the Feast of the Purification of Mary or Candlemas) is celebrated on February 2.  In the Old Rite, this day marked the official end of the Christmas Season.  While many Churches and people take down Christmas decorations around the Epiphany, some choose to wait until February 2.  This prolongs the Christmas spirit several more weeks!

The Number Forty

When the Presentation marks the end of Christmas, this holy season lasts exactly 40 days – December 25 until February 2.  This parallels the 40 days of Lent!

The number 40 is a significant one in the Bible.  The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years before entering the Promised Land; Jesus prayed in the desert for 40 days and nights, and after the Resurrection, Jesus was with his disciples for 40 days.

A Biblical Feast

The Presentation is the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, and it is rooted in Scripture.  Luke 2:22 tells us:

“When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord….”

Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after he was born and according to the Law of Moses, they presented him to the Lord.   Also, following Jewish custom, while they were at the Temple, Mary was purified – as all new mothers were.  This is why the Presentation is sometimes called the Feast of the Purification of Mary.  The Holy Family followed the Law and the Jewish customs faithfully and humbly.

Why Candlemas?

The Presentation is also called Candlemas, because of the tradition of blessing candles on this day and carrying them in a procession.  But what do light and the Presentation have in common?  They are connected in the Prophecy of Simeon.

While Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were at the Temple, they met Simeon, a holy man who had been told that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah.  When he saw Jesus, Luke 2: 29-32 tells us he said,

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in sight of all the peoples, a LIGHT for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

Simeon prophesied that Jesus would be a light to the nations, and this was the significance in the name Candlemas.  The Presentation celebrates the coming of the Light of the World; a light in the darkness.

“A Sword Will Pierce Your Heart”

Simeon’s prophecy continues in Luke 2:34-35 as he speaks to Mary:

“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword swill pierce) so that the thoughts of many hears may be revealed.”

This beautiful, but sad prophesy refers to the Crucifixion and the pain Mary would experience from seeing her son suffer.  While the Presentation is one of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, the Prophesy of Simeon is one of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

A Reminder

February 2 is fairly early in the New Year and is a wonderful reminder that God is with us.  He is the Light that has come to dispel our darkness.  Moreover, we belong to Him and are His beloved children.  He came to save us, He loves us, and He always walks with us.

“Light of the World, you step down into darkness, open my eyes let me see.” Hillsong