Traditionally called ‘Candlemas’, the feast of the Presentation has several meanings. The lectionary readings are the same each year, and identify Jesus with ‘the Lord whom you seek’, the one whose unexpected appearance ‘in the temple’ is predicted by the prophet Malachi. The appointed Psalm, appropriately, extols the beauty and wonder of God’s ‘dwelling place’ and the joy of being there. The association with candles, carried in procession, comes from the fact that a central part of the Biblical episode recorded in the Gospel for the day is the aged Simeon's 'Nunc Dimittis' in which he expresses the remarkable insight that the baby he holds in his arms is 'a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of God's people Israel'.
Candlemas comes forty days after the nativity, and has long been regarded as the very last feast of the Christmas season. This is not just because it records a Jewish birth rite, but because Simeon's words summarize so memorably the truth of the Incarnation, and thus give candles special meaning. The traditional observance of Candlemas emphasizes this by including a prayer of blessing for the candles that will be used throughout the coming year, at home as well as in church.
God our Father,
Source of all light,
this day you revealed to Simeon the light of your revelation to the nations.
+Bless these candles and make them holy.
May we who carry them praise your glory, walk in the path of goodness and come to the light that shines forever.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
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