Candlemas for the Souls

If we could gather, we’d be in the Undercroft this evening.

Luke 2:22-38

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation
that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother,

“Behold, this child is appointed
for the fall and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is opposed

(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also),
so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

At-Home Resources

To help you celebrate and remember the Feast of the Presentation at home today, here are:

  • the Bulletin for our short liturgy, modified for you to use at home;
  • a 9 minute video — the story of Simeon, with beautiful fine art images to accompany the story (embedded below — to be watched in the midst of the liturgy);
  • links to I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light and The Lord is My Light. These songs are part of the liturgy. You will find the lyrics in the Bulletin above. Just in case the melodies are not familiar, we want to be sure that you can sing along.

At All Souls, we have borrowed the Mexican tradition of sharing tamales for the Feast of the Presentation. If you’d like to support a local business, you might consider tamales — or any Mexican fare — for dinner tonight! In 2020, we ordered the delicious tamales we ate together in the Undercroft from La Cocina de Maria in West Chicago. Tamales require ordering ahead, but you might enjoy some tacos or quesadillas on short notice.

Jesus, a Light for the Whole World

The Feast of the Presentation is considered by many to be the close of the Christmas to Epiphany Season. Forty days after a child was born, the mother was required to go to the temple for ritual purification. At this time, she was able to re-enter public life. In modern parlance, we might consider this the end of her “10th month of pregnancy.”

As Mary and Joseph presented their son at the temple — in the traditional way — they had this surprising and poignant encounter with Simeon, and then Anna. Some consider Anna the first missionary to the Gentiles, as she declared to all who would listen: this child shall be the light — the light for the whole world!

Why Candlemas?

Simeon sang a song when he met Jesus. We call it the Song or Cantlcle of Simeon, or the Nunc Dimittis (“Now Thou dost dismiss,” in Latin). Simeon declared that the Christ Child would be a light to the Gentiles. For this reason, on February 2, families would bring their candles (to light their daily lives in the coming year) to the temple to be blessed. Similar to the December 25 service being known as the Christ Mass, the service to celebrate the Feast of the Presentation became known as the Candle Mass.