What is Candlemas?
On 2nd February Christians celebrate Candlemas, which marks both the purification of Mary 40 days after the birth of Jesus and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Here, Father Mark Broadway, Margam Ministry Area, reflects on the importance of Candlemas as Christian's around the world turn their attention 'from the crib to the cross.'
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. Luke 2:22
This week I've gone ahead and have bought my Easter eggs for the year. I buy them online, from the Meaningful Chocolate Company. They are called The Real Easter Eggs, and they come with a little booklet that tells the story of the first Easter.
It might seem a bit early in the year to be thinking about Easter, but it wasn't just the fact that Real Easter Eggs can now only be bought online, that hastened my purchase. In fact, what prompted me to think about Easter is that this Wednesday, 2 February is Candlemas. This day marks a great pivot point in the Christian year, where we turn away from the festivities of Christmas and turn towards the cross of Christ, and the empty tomb.
Candlemas commemorates the presentation of Christ in the Temple
My children's Nativity Set is still up on the mantelpiece, but that will be coming down today, as we celebrate the Presentation of Christ (another name for Candlemas, along with The Purification of Mary) in the temple as a very young baby. 40 days on from his birth and 33 days from his circumcision. Jesus went through these rituals as the Jewish son of Jewish parents, and they are full of symbolic significance.
Of course when Christ, as an infant, participated in these works of the law he did so in a way which was different from how they had ever been celebrated before. This is because the works of the law were, in some sense, about Him. The rituals pointed forward to Him. In going through them he fulfills them in a unique and remarkable way.
33 days from his Circumcision he was presented by Mary to God in the temple; 33 years later he would present himself, with Mary watching on, to God upon the cross. He is the first born of Mary who redeems him with the blood of sacrifice in the temple. He is the first and only Son of God who redeems us with the sacrifice of his own blood.
As I put the crib and Nativity Set away, I will pause to consider how He who was held in his mother's arms as she presented him will be so held again after his crucifixion. May we ponder the prophet Simeon's words to Mary:
"This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Luke 2:34-35 NRSV