Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
LK 2:22-40 OR 2:22-32
February 2, 2020
Growing up near Lake Erie, my family was no stranger to “tornado warnings.” Our home was located right in the middle of “tornado alley.” And while there were far more false alarms than actual funnel clouds, the injuries, deaths, and destruction resulting from two actual “touchdowns” over the course of about 15 years conditioned us to take storm warnings very seriously. When we heard the sirens, my parents would hustle us down to the least vulnerable corner of the basement, at which point, we would gather around a “holy candle” that my mother would light, and we would pray the Rosary. By the end of storm season, there would be little left of our “holy candle.” It would have burned down to a stub. But that was not a problem, because, each year, it would be replaced by a brand new candle.
The “holy candles” were blessed by the pastor on February 2…THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS IN THE TEMPLE, also referred to as Candlemas.
The tradition of blessing candles 40 days after Christmas dates back to the seventh century. The practice was inspired by the witness of Simeon and Anna, whose testimony echoed the Christmas message:
The Christ-child was indeed The Light that God had sent into the world to dispel the darkness of sin and death.
Sharing these sorts of “Catholic family memories” today, many people would consider taking shelter in the light of a “holy candle” superstitious. In fact, not every pastor continues to bless and distribute candles to the faithful. Not every Catholic family has a blessed candle in their home to light on those occasions when dark storm clouds, of whatever nature, threaten security or happiness.
Moreover, it’s sad to consider how few families these days gather to pray the Rosary together. Some traditions are sadly forgotten and lost, but what will withstand the passage of time is The Gospel. This week’s Gospel finds the Holy Family gathered together in the most secure of places…The Temple…The House of God. They are joined by two elders of the community who seek refuge and comfort in that holy place. Simeon issues a warning to Mary, but the realization that they are in the presence of the Light of Christ makes this the most joyful of occasions.
Simeon is now prepared to walk into the darkness of death, confident that Eternal Light awaits those who recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior. For her part, Anna’s life of prayer and fasting were richly rewarded, having been included in this further revelation that Jesus is the Lamb of God Who will take away the sins of the world. She cannot contain her joy and shares The Good News with “all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.”
After all these centuries, Simeon’s warning is still very relevant, and should be taken seriously by everyone. Few people will be spared the violent storms that threaten our security and peace. But when we seek shelter in the Light of Christ, we will be saved. Knowing this, how can we not experience the joy that Anna felt in the presence of the Holy Family? We may or may not have a blessed candle in our home, but the Light of Christ will always be close by to dispel any darkness that threatens us. Knowing this to be truth, we can say with confidence:
Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to Your word.