The Institute for Christian Formation
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
(also known as Candlemas)
In France, this feast day is called La Chandeleur, from the French word chandelle which means candle. It has been a tradition in France for centuries to eat crepes on this February 2nd feast day. You can find a recipe for these crepes here. In the French city of Marseille, the traditional food for La Chandeleur is a boat-shaped cookie/pastry called navettes, French for “little boats.” This is again a centuries old tradition, and the pastries are eaten following the candlelight procession. You can find a recipe for navettes here.
So celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas) with candles, crepes and boat-shaped cookies!
There is a wonderful book for younger children, “Three Wise Women of Christmas” (ISBN 978-0-7586-1108-6), written by Dandi Daley Mackall and illustrated by Diana Magnuson. This book tells the stories of Mary, the Mother of Jesus; Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist; and Anna, the elderly Jewish woman who was in the Temple when Mary and Joseph took the forty day old Jesus to the Temple, as was the custom. And here is a coloring page of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple.
Simeon prophesies that Jesus will be a “light of revelation for the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32a). Simeon knew he could now die in peace, because he had seen the Messiah whom he had awaited - the child who was the Light of the World. And every year on February 2nd, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, we recall in a special way that Jesus is the Light of the World when candles are blessed at our Church’s liturgy. We
Presentation of the Lord into the Temple
Byzantine, Early 11th Century
Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City
Simeon blessed Mary and Joseph, and then told Mary that her child would be a sign of contradiction, and that a sword would pierce her heart. (See Luke 2:34-36.)
Anna, an elderly prophetess, was also present at this “meeting.”
Slowly read the Gospel passage for today (Luke 2:22-40). Which adult do you most identify with in this Gospel – Mary, Joseph, Simeon or Anna? Why? What do you think went through Mary’s mind when she heard the prophesy Simeon spoke to her? What do you think Joseph thought when he heard Simeon’s words? How do you think this encounter changed Anna?
On February 2, forty days after Christmas Day, we celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Christians have been celebrating this feast for over 1600 years! A Christian pilgrim to Jerusalem around the year 400 gives an account of the celebration of this feast, complete with a procession with candles.
The Presentation of the Lord is a feast of light. On the fortieth day after his birth, Jesus is brought to the Temple. Here Jesus, the Messiah, meets, or encounters, Simeon
and Anna, elderly Jews who had been awaiting the Messiah’s birth. You can read the story of this encounter in Luke 2:22-40, which is the Gospel for this feast day. When Jesus was 40 days old, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, as was the Jewish custom. While in the Temple, the Holy Family encountered Simeon, an elderly Jewish man filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he saw Christ. Simeon recognized that the infant Jesus was the Christ, took him in his arms, and blessed God with a beautiful song of praise (see Luke 2:29-32). This song is known as the “Canticle of Simeon,” or the “Nunc Dimmitis.” “Nunc Dimmitis” are the first two words of the Latin phrase “Nunc dimittis servum tuum," which means “Now let your servant depart” in English. This is the first phrase in Simeon’s song of praise. Simeon’s canticle, or the “Nunc Dimittis,” is the Gospel canticle sung every night by Christians around the world as they celebrate Night Prayer, or Compline, one of the Hours in the Liturgy of the Hours. You can learn more about Compline here. Below, you can listen to the Nunc Dimittis: Robert Parsons (1530-72), “First Great Service: Nunc dimittis Voces Catabiles”, Barnaby Smith conducting.
then bring some of these candles to our homes for use in prayer throughout the year. Place these candles in a special place in your home and light a candle at the beginning of prayer. Remember that just as Jesus is the Light of the World, we, the baptized, are called to let our light shine for others as we bring Christ to the world!
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2 is exactly forty days after we celebrate the Nativity of the Lord on December 25. It is a custom to keep a reminder of Christmas up through the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. When you take the rest of your Christmas decorations down at the conclusion of the Christmas Season (the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord), keep the figures of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – in a place of prominence in your home. You can do this in your parish church, as well.
Click on the image above to download our ICF handout on "The Feast of the Presenttion of the Lord."
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