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.
Here is a short form for blessing candles during the liturgy of the Feast of the Presentation:
Antiphon: The Lord is my light and salvation, whom then shall I fear?
V: You, O Lord, are my lamp:
R: My God, you make my darkness bright.
Celebrant: Let us pray. (silence)
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 your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This blessing is based upon and incorporates Psalm 27:1 (antiphon), Psalm 18:28 (versicle and response), Exodus 27:20 and John 1:6 (prayer).
Some of the blessed candles may be used in a candlelight procession that begins the liturgy. A blessing specific to the Feast of the Presentation may be offered at the end of the liturgy. The two blessings bookend the entire celebration.