Episco-Fact #173
January 30, 2020

EPISCO-FACT: What is Candlemas and why have I never heard of it?

Candlemas is a feast commemorating the purification of Mary, Jesus' mother, and the presentation of Jesus in the Temple. This story is only told in the Gospel of Luke. On the fortieth day following the birth of a son, Jewish mothers would present themselves in the Temple, on February 2, as would have been required by Jewish purity laws. Mary, accompanied by Joseph, is adhering to the law. They are righteous. Luke makes that clear.

Luke also makes clear that this is a portentous moment. Simeon and Anna, prophets, are there. They tell Mary about great and terrible things to come. This man and woman frame the coming tale for Mary, Joseph, and the reader of the Gospel.

The season after the Epiphany is characterized theologically and liturgically by the light of Jesus breaking into the darkness. Candlemas's liturgy is about the light proceeding the people into the Church. By this point in the liturgical calendar, all of the infant and boyhood stories are over, and the character of the stories moves into the mature work of Jesus. There are churches who observe Candlemas processions, and they listen to and preach on this moment of Mary's further understanding of who her son is, and Jesus's official introduction to his father's house.