You may have heard your parents or grandparents refer to Candlemas, or perhaps you’ve noticed it on a church calendar in your home. Candlemas is celebrated 40 days after Christmas on February 2nd, which is also the midpoint of winter.
The Catholic Church Celebrates 3 Holy Occasions on Candlemas
These events, prescribed in the Law of Moses, were to take place 40 days after the birth of a male child, which is why the feast is celebrated 40 days after Christmas to this day.
First, Mary and Joseph dedicated Jesus to God because He was their firstborn Son.
Second, Mary came to the Temple 40 days after giving birth to Jesus, and she and Joseph sacrificed two turtledoves as an offering for her purification, following the instructions in Leviticus 12: 1-4.
Third, Mary and Joseph presented Jesus in the Temple. Commemorated in the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, this event is described in Luke 2: 22-40. While important on its own, the Presentation also points to something more.
Candlemas is Connected to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
At the Temple Mary and Joseph encountered Simeon, who was promised by God that he would not die before seeing the Lord. As he takes the Christ Child in his arms, Simeon recites a prayer that has become known as the Canticle of Simeon. It is in this canticle, or prayer, that we see the origins of the other name for this feast: Candlemas.
Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled:
my 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
Luke: 2: 29-32
How the Church Celebrates Candlemas
On February 2nd, all the candles to be used in a particular church are blessed. The faithful are invited to bring their own candles so they can be blessed and used at home for prayer throughout the rest of the year.
Sometimes a candlelight procession precedes the Mass on this feast, other times people may just stand in their pews holding their own lit candles or small ones provided by the church. Regardless, the soft light that pierces the darkness is symbolic.
Candlemas is a reminder of Christmas when Jesus, the Light of the world, came to scatter the darkness of sin and death. Candlemas also subtly hints at Easter, the forthcoming and most significant feast of Light in the Catholic Church.
How You Can Prepare For and Extend the Beauty of Candlemas
Because Candlemas is at the midpoint of winter, consider incorporating some suggestions below to make this feast more meaningful:
- Clean your home as if you were hosting a party. Christmas season is over and it’s a good time to prepare physically and spiritually for Ordinary Time and the promise of spring.
- Procure some candles! Candlemas is about lighting up the darker days of winter. You can purchase a variety or look for some traditional beeswax candles. You also may want to try your hand at making your own.
- Take your candles to your parish’s Candlemas Mass or celebration. If this isn’t possible, ask your priest to bless your candles at an alternate time.
- Decorate your home with greenery to symbolize new growth and new life after a long winter.
- Prepare a special meal. After all, this IS a feast day.
- Turn on Catholic Music to set the tone from iCatholicMusic.
- Light your blessed candles throughout the year on Sundays and special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Don’t forget to include anniversaries of your sacraments and your patron saints.
- You can also light your blessed candles during times of prayer or even when keeping vigil awaiting a birth, when caring for an ill member of the family, or when mourning the loss of a loved one.
Also don’t forget to incorporate special prayers into your preparation:
- Reflect on the gifts God has given you, including His Son, and give thanks.
- Pray the Canticle of Simeon in recognition of God’s faithfulness to His people.
- Pray for your own purification in preparation for the moment you stand before your Lord and Savior.
- Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in making small sacrifices of reparation for those who reject the light of Christ and intercede on behalf of those people.
Remember That Catholic Radio Sends the Light of Christ Through the Airwaves
Don’t forget to check our radio program schedule as Candlemas approaches. You can also search for podcasts when it’s over to keep yourself focused on Christ in Ordinary Time and in preparation for Lent.