On February 2, the Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of the Lord which occurs forty days after the birth of Jesus and is also known as Candlemas day, since the blessing and procession of candles is included in the liturgy.
In the days in which Jesus was born, there were three legal ordinances which were required by every Jewish parent that had given birth to a firstborn son. The first of these ordinances was the rite of circumcision. This took place eight days after the birth of the son in accordance with the covenant of Abraham (cf Gen 17:9-14). The second was the purification of the mother, which lasts 40 days(cf. Lev 12:1-4), and the Sin Offering, i.e. the two turtle doves (cf Lev 12:6-8).
The third ordinance required by Jewish law was the presentation (cf Ex 13:2) The male firstborn of every man or animal belonged to the Lord. If they were to be allowed to live, then their lives must be purchased from the Lord, who spared them during the passover.
This was also an illustration of what Jesus would do on the cross. He would redeem us who were dead in sin in order that we might have life. The purchase price would be His own blood. A life would be paid for a life.
It was at this moment, at the Temple, that Simeon and the prophetess Anna would recognize the infant boy as the promised Messiah. Simeon was overjoyed to have seen with his own eyes the salvation of the world and called Jesus “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32). Anna “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).
Jesus is the Light of the world. We rejoice today because “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone (Is 9:1). Like Anna and Simeon, once we have seen Jesus, the light, we do not hide the light, or try to cover it up. We give thanks to God and speak about Him.
Last week, despite ridicule from media and increasing hostility from those who promote the culture of death, hundreds of thousands of mostly young people took to the streets of Washington DC to stand for Life. To those who would say that he Light of Christ in the Catholic Church is fading away I say “think again.” Each of these young men and women allowed the Light of Jesus to shine through them as they stood against the darkness of the culture of death. In them, and through you, Jesus, our Light will continue to shine.
God Bless you all on this Feast of the Presentation.
Father Robert Letona