The Feast of the Presentation, celebrated on February 2, is one of the major feasts in the church year. It is sometimes known as Candlemas or the Feast of the Purification. This feast is celebrated forty days after Christmas and commemorates the presentation of Jesus and the purification of Mary in the Jerusalem temple (Luke 2:22-40).
The name “Candlemas” focuses attention on the candlelight procession that is a part of the liturgy. It became customary to bless not only the candles carried in the procession but also the year’s supply of liturgical candles and to give parishioners a blessed candle to take home.
The candlelight is an outward and visible sign of Christ who illumines our heart and inner being. This is the light that Simeon saw and of which he speaks:
Lord, you now have set your servant free
to go in peace as you have promised;
For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior,
whom you have prepared for all the world to see:
A Light to enlighten the nations,
and the glory of your people Israel.
St. Anselm (1033-1109), Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking about the mystery of this day, asks us to consider three aspects of the blessed candles. He says, “The wax of the candles signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, the wick figures His soul, and the flame His divinity.”
The following is an abbreviated form for blessing the candles:
V: Our help is in the name of the Lord;
R: The maker of heaven and earth.
V: The Lord be with you;
R: And also with you.
Celebrant: Let us pray.
O Gracious Father, almighty and eternal God, you created all things out of nothing, and by your command caused the labor of bees to be revealed in the perfection of wax. You commanded your servant Moses to keep lamps continually burning before you. Bless and sanctify these candles that their light may be for us a visible reminder of the true light who enlightens everyone coming into the world. All this we ask through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.