The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
On this day the Church solemnly celebrates the presentation of Jesus in the temple, and the obedience and humility both of Mary and her divine Son, who, though not subject to the law in regard to purification and presentation, yet subjected themselves to it. Hence this feast is called the Purification of the Virgin Mary. In common speech we call it also Candlemas, because on this day the candles required for the divine service are blessed and carried in procession.
What is the design of this custom?
1. It is to remind us that Jesus, the light of the world, was offered up to His heavenly Father, by Mary, in the temple at Jerusalem, where He was called by Simeon a light for the revelation of the gentiles, and the glory of the people of Israel.
2. To remind us, also, of several important truths, to which the priest refers in the prayers at the blessings. Thus he prays that as the earthly light dispels the darkness of night, so Jesus, with the light of His divine doctrine, may clear away our spiritual blindness and ignorance, and lead us in the way of virtue; that as the Holy Ghost enlightened Simeon, so He may also enlighten us to acknowledge Jesus as the true light, to love Him and follow Him, to keep our hearts from the way of sin, and to guide them in the way of virtue, and to kindle them with the fire of holy love; finally, that God may preserve, in soul and body, those who use blessed candles with devotion, may hear their prayers, and grant them entrance into the kingdom of the eternal and ever-blessed light.
In the Introit of the Mass the Church sings:
"We have received Thy mercy, O God, in the midst of Thy temple; according to Thy name, O God, so also is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth; Thy right hand is full of justice. Great is the Lord and exceedingly to be praised in the city of our God, in His holy mountain."
Prayer (Extraordinary Form)
Almighty, everlasting God, we suppliantly beseech Thy majesty that, as Thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh, so Thou wouldst grant us to be presented to Thee with purified souls, Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, etc.
(Ordinary Form – New Translation)
Almighty everlasting God, we humbly implore your majesty that, as your Only Begotten Son was presented in the Temple on this day in the substance of our flesh, so you will have us presented to you with minds made pure. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Epistle: Malachi 3:1-4 (Extraordinary Form)
Thus saith the Lord: Behold I send My angel, and he shall prepare the way before My face. And presently the Lord Whom you seek, and the angel of the testament whom you desire, shall come to his temple. Behold he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts: and who shall be able to think of the day of his coming? and who shall stand to see him? for he is like a refining fire, and like the fullers' herb: and he shall sit refining and cleansing the silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall refine them as gold, and as silver, and they shall offer sacrifices to the Lord in justice. And the sacrifice of Juda and of Jerusalem shall please the Lord, as in the days of old, and in the ancient years, saith the Lord Almighty.
Gospel: Luke 2:22-32
At that time: After the days of Mary's purification according to the law of Mostls were accomplished, they carried Jesus 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 turtle-doves, or two young pigeons. And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when His parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law: he also took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word, in peace; because my eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples; a light to the revelation of the gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.
The Blessed Virgin presented herself and her divine Son at the temple so as not to give scandal to such as were ignorant of their being exempt from the law, to show from the first that Jesus was come to redeem sinners, and to leave us an example of humility and obedience. Mary offered the gift of a pair of doves, like the poor, because she was poor, and was not ashamed to acknowledge it before the world.
From the Homily of Pope Benedict XVI (Feb. 2, 2010)
On the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple we are celebrating a mystery of Christ's life linked to the precept of Mosaic Law which prescribed that 40 days after the birth of their first-born child parents should go to the Temple of Jerusalem to offer the infant to the Lord and for the ritual purification of the mother (cf. Ex 13:1-2, 11-16; Lv 12:1-8). Mary and Joseph also fulfilled this rite, offering to comply with the law a couple of turtle doves or pigeons. In giving a deeper interpretation to these things we understand that at this moment it is God himself who is presenting his Only-Begotten Son to humanity through the words of the elderly Simeon and the Prophetess Anna. Simeon, in fact, proclaimed Jesus as the "salvation" of humanity, a "light" for all the nations and a "sign that is spoken against", because he would reveal the thoughts of hearts (cf. Lk 2:29-35). In the East this Feast was called Hypapante, a feast of encounter. In fact, Simeon and Anna, who met Jesus in the Temple and recognized him as the Messiah so long awaited, represent humanity that encounters its Lord in the Church. Subsequently, this Feast also spread to the West, where above all the symbol of light and the procession with candles which gave rise to the term "Candlemas" developed. This visible sign is intended to mean that the Church encounters in faith the One who is "the light of men" and in order to bring this "light" into the world, receives him with the full dynamism of her faith.
Prayer (Blessing of Candles – Ordinary Form / New Translation)
O God, the true light, who radiate and create light eternal, pour into the hearts of the faithful, the brilliance of perpetual light, so that everyone in your holy temple who is graced by the splendor of these lights may succeed in coming happily to the light of your glory. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.