Let us celebrate the feast of the Presentation of our Lord in a solemn way, illuminating the mystery of the day with lights. St. Cyril of Alexandria (+444)
The Presentation of Our Lord: the feast of Christ "a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" (Luke 2:32).The oldest written account of this feast dates to the fourth century: "The fortieth day after Epiphany (Christmas) is indeed celebrated here (in Jerusalem) with the greatest solemnity." (Egeria, Diary of a Pilgrimage, Ch. 26).
This is indeed a celebration of Jesus as our light, which the Church, since her early days, has symbolized using material light. Indeed, the same St. Cyril of Alexandria makes mention of processions of light for this feast.
The use of material light, of fire, continues today in the Church. In our own parish, we do not hesitate to make use (generously!) of candles: the sanctuary lamp, votive candles, processional candles, altar candles... The suspended "sanctuary lamp" indicates the Real (Eucharistic) Presence of Jesus in the tabernacle (to which, by the way, we traditionally express reverence-upon entering and leaving the church-by a genuflection, i.e. a gesture of lowering the right knee to the ground). We continue the ancient custom of two lighted candles, on either side of the Gospel, when read at Sunday Mass. St. Jerome (+420) attested that "whenever the Gospel is to be read, candles are lighted although the sun is already shining. Of course, it is not done to dispel the darkness but to express our joy" and because "under the material light that Light is represented of which the Psalmist speaks: 'Your Word, 0 Lord, is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path'." (Psalm 119:105) We offer the option of votive candles before the statues of Christ the King, Mary, and/or St. Agnes, following the tradition since the early 300s of candles or oil lamps being burned before sacred images. Of course, candles are placed upon the altar. And, finally, like the processions witnessed by St. Cyril, today there will be a procession of lights.
Burning candles create a prayerful atmosphere because, in their capacity to make manifest, to reveal, they remind us of Christ, "the True Light which enlightens everyone" (John 1:9) and "that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all." (I John 1:5) Let us celebrate the feast of the Presentation of our Lord in a solemn way, illuminating the mystery of the day with lights!
Yours in the Light of the World,
From the desk of the Rector