Having grown up with the Novus Ordo Mass only, I had never heard of Candlemas until recently when I started following a Latin Mass group online. For those unaware of this Marian Feast, here’s a brief introduction to the meaning and beauty of Candlemas.
According to Mosaic law, a woman who just gave birth is unclean and must go through a ritualistic cleansing. This includes an offering or sacrifice at the temple of a yearling lamb or two turtledoves or pigeons in thanksgiving to the Lord. (Leviticus 12: 1-8) While Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day, the ritual purification for the woman took another 33 days, totalling 40 days. Even though Mary did not need purification, she fulfilled the law in accordance with jewish traditions. An explanation can be read here.
Jesus is the Light of the world and we celebrate this Marian feast especially to remember that Mary is the bringing of Light as she brought His Light into the world. Many will bless candles, especially beeswax candles, on this special day. Also, many keep the nativity up until Candlemas. I love my Willow Tree Nativity so I was very happy to leave it up. Those with fake Christmas trees will even leave their trees up, sometimes taking off the ornaments and leaving the lights only. Other traditions include lighting candles in the household and saying a special blessing using the words of Simeon.
“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32
I’m not sure why this isn’t a thing in the local parishes around me, but I was happy to learn about this beautiful feast and it’s traditions. Imagine the glory of God coming down through a virgin to be a Light to all the world. Mary is the bringer of Light and Jesus is consecrated to the Lord on this day as the firstborn. The meaning behind this day is deep. Why would we dull the day and forget this feast? We should strive to bring it back to the parishes and let His Light be known on this day.
We will be taking down our nativity today. When we sit down to dinner, I will be sure to light a candle and say the words of Simeon during our mealtime prayer. Let’s bring this Marian feast back to common tradition.