When did you last light a candle at home, in church? In a time of celebration? A time of grief? A lighting candle can bring consolation, light and warmth to one who is grieving. A lighting candle enhances a meal, a prayer environment or an event. There are safety warnings around lighting candles. Sometimes one can only feel and see the darkness beyond the light. Lighting candles add joy to the birthday cake celebration. A candle when lit can bring hope and light.
The light on the Tower on the Hill of Allan was a beacon of hope in preparation for the feast of St Brigid. The Olympic flame is a symbol used in the Olympic movement. It is also a symbol of continuity between ancient and modern games.
Candles are a key feature of Church liturgies. The light represents Christ’s presence as the sacristan lights the candles on the altar for the celebration of Mass. The sanctuary lamp is continually alight in the sanctuary reminding God’s people of the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
Children receive a Baptism candle when baptised, lit from the Paschal Candle. This light is a sign of faith for their lives, which enables and empowers them in their Baptismal call. On the first day of Creation God separated the light from the darkness. He made the day and the night.
During this time of restriction when people cannot attend Mass or receive Holy Communion, they go to the Church to light a candle and pray privately. People and families amble into the Church. They move from shrine to shrine and intercede with Our Lady, the Sacred Heart and the saints as they seek God’s protection and support.
On the 2 February, the Church celebrates ‘The Presentation of The Lord’. This day is also called Candlemas because the people bring their candles to the Church where the priest blesses them. It is significant that the Church celebrates this feast 40 days after the birth of Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world. This is one of the Church’s oldest feasts, which the Jews celebrated in Jerusalem since the fourth century. This year with Covid restrictions, the Church will celebrate Candlemas differently.
The ritual that takes place generally includes a procession where the people process into the Church with blessed lighting candles. This takes place before Mass. In an antiphon, the priest invites the people to ‘welcome Christ the king’. He recalls Mary in the temple as she carried Jesus in her arms, ‘King of glory and new light’. He recalls Simeon who took the baby in his arms announcing him as ‘Lord of life and death and Saviour of the world’.
The Gospel (Luke 2:22-40) proclaimed at Mass today gives the account of Mary and Joseph as they presented Jesus in the temple. There they encountered Anna and Simeon. Simeon, on whom the Holy Spirit held up the baby, blessed God and said that Jesus was, ‘the light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of your people Israel.’
Today the Church also celebrates ‘World Day for Consecrated Life.’ The Church celebrates lives consecrated to God and prays for them. Those in religious life commit themselves to live their baptismal consecration through the practice of the vowed life. The baptism call invites people to respond to God’s love in continuing Jesus’ mission.
So today as God’s people celebrate this feast, God’s people go together to meet Jesus the light of the world. Jesus is the true light who comes ‘to enlighten the Gentiles and give glory to Israel, your [his] people’. The Gentiles were those people who were not Jews.
Today also, the installation of Dermot Farrell as Archbishop of Dublin takes place in the Pro-Cathedral. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit will rest on him as happened for Simeon and proclaimed in the Gospel (Luke 2:22-40), to guide and accompany him. In Dermot Farrell’s episcopal motto, he states that, ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord’ (Psalm 124). Let us trust in God always.
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Read: From the Bible or the Grow in Love/ I nGrá Dé Children’s e-book read the Scripture of the ‘Presentation of Jesus in the Temple’ (Luke 2:22-40)
Pray: On your Rosary beads, pray the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Presentation in the Temple. The family might like to light the online Virtual candle from the dashboard of the Grow in Love/I nGrá Dé website
Chat: With your family, take time to chat about your Baptism and family Baptisms. See if you can find your Baptismal Candle at home and photographs of the celebration and ceremony
Art: Make a card for your godparents and ask them to pray for you or draw a candle and write on it, ‘Jesus is the Light of the world.’
Sr Anne Neylon