Sunday, February 3, 2013
The Presentation of Our Lord
Today, 40 days after the celebration of the birth of the Lord we gather to celebrate the Presentation of the Lord. We commemorate the ritual purification of Mary as prescribed in the Law of Moses after the birth of Jesus. We celebrate and remember the fact that 40 days after the birth of a Jewish boy, it was the custom to take him to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented to God by his thankful parents and so Mary the Mother of Jesus and Joseph the foster father of the Lord take him to the temple in accordance with the Law. In pre-Christian times, this day was known as the feast of lights and it celebrated the fact that the days were once again growing longer while the night were growing shorter. Light was triumphing over darkness.
Now in addition to the 40 days purification required by the Mosiac Law, it doesn’t take too much savvy to figure out that Christians of the 5th and 6th centuries sort of “baptized” the pagan feast of the return of light with the coming of Jesus, who is the Lord of life. (Jhn 1: 1-5) Thus, the feast of the Presentation of the Lord became the day on which candles, which were the primary source of light in those days were blessed. They reminded the early Christians that Christ was the light of the world. (Jhn 1: 9)
Before Jesus came the world lay in darkness but with the birth of the Lord, the light of salvation dawned upon the world. Christ is the light of the world and therefore today we bless candles that remind us the light of Christ. Candles also remind us that as Christians we must bring the light of Christ to the darkness of our little corner of the world and as we bring the light of Christ to all we meet, we too will be used up in the service of the Lord as the wax of the candle is used up throwing off its light.
Today is also a special day on the secular calendar. It is Groundhog Day and of course if the groundhog sees his shadow today, we’re in for a 6 more week of winter weather. This comes from an old German proverb that goes as follows - "The badger peeps out of his hole on Candelmas day, and, if he find snow, walks abroad; but if he sees the sun shining he draws back into his hole.” So if the famous American groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, we are in for more winter weather! Now right before I came down to celebrate Mass, I looked up on the computer what the furry little monster predicted and it seems that he didn’t see his shadow so that means an early end to winter. This year, I absolutely agree with him! Sorry Brother Charles … (he loves snowy winters)!
So Groundhog Day is all about seeing shadows while Candlemas day is all about seeing light. Maybe we can put the two together and come up with a bit of a lesson. All of us have been filled with the light of Christ. At our holy baptism we were given a candle that was burning, taking its light from the Easter Candle our symbol of the light of Christ. And we are told that we are to keep that light burning brightly until the day when we go out to meet the Lord. Now, that is our task, but as we know, sometimes we compromise the light of Christ. We sin. Sin brings bits of darkness, shadows into our lives and dims the light of Christ given to us.
All of us, if the truth be told, are a mixture of light and shadows. We desire to follow Christ our light, but our sin cast shadows on that light. On this Candlemas day, as we come to Jesus the light of the world, perhaps we should ask him to give us the wisdom, the strength, the courage to always live in his light and to share his light that he has given to us with all those we meet.
May we pray:
Lord, help us keep your love, your light burning brightly in our lives. Give us the wisdom and the strength to avoid the shadows of sin in our lives. Help us carry your light to all we meet until that day when we go out to meet you, the Lamb of God who is the light of the city of God, the heavenly city of Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God.
Father Stephen McKinley, OFM Conv
Rector of the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe
Spiritual Advisor to the MI for the USA & Canada