“Be merry, really merry. The life of a true Christian should be a perpetual jubilee, a prelude to the festivals of eternity.” St. Theophane Venard
Joy. I could sure use some after spending three weeks cooped up in a sick household. The beauty of flickering candlelight. The warmth of the sun. The hope of eternal happiness. At the end of the long month of January, we are gifted with a feast that gives us all of these things.
Celebrated on February 2, the Feast of Candlemas is the antidote to the mid-winter blahs. It is a day for reigniting the joy of Christmas–a day for remembering that all we need for real happiness is Christ, the light of the world.
There is a lot to understand about this feast. Candlemas celebrates the Presentation of Our Lord and the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary–two reminders of the Holy Family’s Jewish heritage and their obedience to the laws of their faith. But at the center of these customs is a Light. In the midst of laws and rituals and rules is a Presence that inspired an old man to proclaim, “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.” (Canticle of Simeon at the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple)
Simeon’s joy is obvious. Can’t you see him forgetting the formality of the moment in the temple as he steps forward to express his joy over seeing the Christ-child?
I want Simeon’s joy to overflow into our era. Rather than burden my young children with too many explanations and history lessons, I want them to simply experience the essence of Candlemas. I want to rise early and smile and giggle over a breakfast of crepes and pancakes. I want to attend morning Mass and return home with a boxful of blessed candles and the grace of a day started right. And when twilight falls, I want to light every candle I can find and watch my children’s eyes grow wide with wonder.
This is the essence of Candlemas. The beauty of candle flames, the hopeful expectation conjured by light pushing out darkness, tastebuds tingling with sweet treats, and eyes brightened by cheerful colors. Celebrating our Catholic feast days trains the senses to fall in love with faith and family. Someday, one of my children might be struggling, or hurting, or questioning, and they will eat a bite of crepe or see the light of a candle and it will all come back: that beautiful day and their loving family, all centered around Christ and His Church. They will see the light and, like Simeon, they will have to follow it. Not because I explained everything perfectly, but because we lived the joy.
May Candlemas bring the joy of the light of Christ to your family!
Resources for Candlemas information and inspiration: