What is Candlemas?
Today is a day of purification, renewal, and hope. On this day, exactly 40 days after Christmas, we commemorate Mary's obedience to the Mosaic law by submitting herself to the Temple for the ritual purification, as commanded in Leviticus. Saint Luke tells us (St. Luke 2:22-24) “And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Mary, of course, didn't need this purification -- which Catholic women imitate, in a sense, with the rite of the “Churching of Women” -- but she submitted out of obedience to the Law. Also, as the Lukan verses revealed, Our Lady and St. Joseph presented Jesus to the Temple for His "redemption," also per the Law. Also commemorated on this “Feast of Light” (“Lichtmess” in German) or “Feast of the Candles” (Candlemas in English) is the prophecy of Holy Simeon -- the “just and devout” man of Jerusalem who was inspired by the Holy Ghost to know that he would live to see the “consolation of Jerusalem” -- and the encounter with the aged widow, Anna the Prophetess, who lived in the Temple and confessed Christ upon meeting Him. It was Simeon to whom Mary presented Jesus, and in his prophecy to her, he told Mary her heart would be pierced with a sword, a prophecy found in the second chapter of the Gospel according to (St. Luke 2:34-35) “And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.” On this day, there will be a Blessing of the Candles and Procession. The symbolism of the candles is described by Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB, in his Liturgical Year: “The mystery of today's ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to Ivo of Chartres, the wax, which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee, always considered as the emblem of virginity, signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by His conception or His birth, the spotless purity of His Blessed Mother. The same holy bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus who came to enlighten our darkness. St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us consider three things in the blessed Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, he says, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on top, is His divinity.”