|from UCAN Spirituality|
having grown up with a fairly decent knowledge of the Scriptures, i nevertheless completely missed the cultural significance of Mary and Joseph's trip to the temple during which Anna and Simeon meet the baby Jesus and Simeon utters the famous Nunc dimittis. it turns out that Judaic law required all women to participate in a purification ritual forty days after giving birth, which included a dedication of the infant back to God -- hence why we celebrate this feast forty days after Christmas, and why it was known in the ancient church as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. the liturgy for celebrating the Feast of the Presentation also includes a processional and blessing of candles.
"In obedience to the Old Law, the Lord Jesus, the first-born, was presented in the Temple by his Blessed Mother and his foster father. This is another 'epiphany' celebration insofar as the Christ Child is revealed as the Messiah through the canticle and words of Simeon and the testimony of Anna the prophetess. Christ is the light of the nations, hence the blessing and procession of candles on this day. In the Middle Ages this feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or 'Candlemas,' was of great importance." — from Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year
Almighty ever-living God, we humbly implore your majesty that, just as your Only Begotten Son was presented on this day in the Temple in the substance of our flesh, so, by your grace, we may be 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, one God, for ever and ever.
we celebrated with steak and roasted red potatoes -- nothing that really evoked the candle theme, but a feast nonetheless!