This coming Sunday we will celebrate the feast of the Presentation of Christ at the Temple in Jerusalem. This is the day when Mary and Joseph came to the Temple to complete Mary’s purification process and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, where they offered Jesus as holy (set apart for service) to the Lord. Both were prescribed by the Law of Moses and neither ritual was unique to Jesus. This feast day also came to be known as Candlemas, or the Festival Day of Candles, in which the priest would bless candles for use in the local church for the coming year and would occasionally send some of them home with his parishioners for them to use. It is one of the earliest known feasts to be celebrated by the Church.
Candlemas falls 40 days from the birth of Jesus because that is the day Mary would have completed her purification process as prescribed by the Law, which means that Candlemas always falls on February 2. It is also the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox and before there ever was a Groundhog Day (also observed on February 2), tradition held that when Candlemas fell on a sunny day, there was more winter to come. But when it fell on a cloudy, wet, or stormy day, it meant that the worst of winter was over. Tradition also holds that any Christmas decorations not taken down by Twelfth Night (January 5) should be left up until Candlemas and then taken down. Candlemas also officially marks the end of the Epiphany season, a season in which the Church celebrates Christ as being the light to the world.
It is within the feast that we will share the joy of the Holmes family this coming Sunday as the three children are baptized. This joyous occasion in the life of St. Augustine’s reminds us of our own baptism and the love that we know in Jesus.