Presentation of the Lord – Candlemas

Source: backhrntryst

I saw an interesting sight a few years ago in my neighbourhood on December 26, the Feast of Saint Stephen. The household across the street had their discarded Christmas tree on the sidewalk, ready for pick-up by the city. It caused me to wonder when most people think that Christmas ends.

Some people are pragmatic about taking down decorations and assume Christmas ends on the day before we head back to work or school. Fair enough! More religious types speak of Epiphany and think of the song The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Of course, those who are in the know realize that Catholicism ends the Christmas season with the Baptism of the Lord. So, being a relatively younger Jesuit (can you be relatively young at 65!), at least younger that most Jesuits, I used to wonder why an elderly Jesuit I lived next door to used to leave his nativity set up until February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple.

In my naivety, I thought he was out of it. Or just too lazy to store the nativity set. It turned out that Fr. Larry was on to something. Candlemas, February 2, celebrates forty days after Christmas. Traditionally, it was the official end of Christmastide, marking the end of the liturgical seasons of Christmas and Epiphany. That was suppressed before I was born.

Susan Wills, a writer for Aleteia, suggests that courageous people leave decorations up until February 2. “Neighbors may shake their heads, but it could also be an opportunity to reintroduce them to the wonderful season of Epiphany and the glorious, multi-faceted Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.” So, Fr. Larry was much more courageous than I am!

This Feast commemorates the epiphany of the Lord to the elderly and righteous Israelites Simeon and Anna. Simeon refers to Jesus as the light to the Gentiles and it is traditionally on this day that beeswax candles are blessed for use at home. The Holy Family is visiting the temple to fulfill the obligations of the old law.

Simeon recognized Jesus as Messiah and prepares Mary for the sorrows of Holy Week; “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” We know that Mary pondered and treasured the mystery of her son. It took her a while to comprehend the truth of who he was.

Simeon and Anna were more intuitively aware of the truth of this baby and their awareness was immediate. They knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Is it because they were older and wiser?

Is it because they were so in tune with God? Or, is it, perhaps, because Mary and Joseph are parents who just want what is best for their child and don’t want to know too much that may upset them.

Simeon can declare, “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation.” Anna is moved to speak to others of what she has experienced, much like the later disciples who proclaim the Good News.

Candlemas is forty days after Christmas Day. It is midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. Perhaps that is why the same day is known as Groundhog Day. We are halfway to spring, so it’s a good opportunity to ask what the remaining weeks of winter will bring.

We already may be thinking of spring and our hopes for new life. Meanwhile, let’s take a minute or two to ponder how we are experiencing the epiphany of the Lord.



Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Noel Fernandis
    Posted at 01:17h, 02 February Reply

    Thank you, Fr. Philip! This is quite inspiring.

  • Susan Garbett-Snidal
    Posted at 03:17h, 02 February Reply

    Good thoughts. I always keep my Christmas things up way too long for most people! Nice to read that I am not bonkers…well not about that, at any rate!
    I love all things Christmas and think that we tend to rush through it and miss the wonder. So kudos to all who still have their tree up!

  • Gabrielle Feuvrier
    Posted at 03:32h, 02 February Reply

    great to read your post, Philip. The Nativity set is still up in our community chapel… We’ll store the set this evening, until next Christams season… Happy Feast day !

  • John Montague
    Posted at 07:37h, 02 February Reply

    I just took down the wreath on our front door. Thank you for your thoughts today Philip.

  • Vicky Chen
    Posted at 07:46h, 02 February Reply

    Gee, discarding a Christmas tree on December 26!! That family must be one of those putting it up in November. Hahaha. I only have a light-weight small one made out of vine branches which I keep as long as I like way after today. I don’t need to discard it either. The lights are on a timer. It really cheers up my spirit especially in the dark mornings and evenings these days. Christ the Light has come to us…… and He is staying!

    Thank you, Fr. Phil. Always enjoy reading your reflections. I don’t have anything serious to share though. 🙂

  • Charles Pottie-Pâté
    Posted at 08:30h, 02 February Reply

    Thank you Phil. But the name of the feast is the Presentation of the Lord as an important moment in the the revelation of this Child – the light to the nations and for the glory of your people, Israel. The response and recognition of Simeon and Anna are rooted in their deep faith and longing for the Messiah.
    The Candlemas name comes from a very secondary and later tradition. Unfortunately, many parishes don’t even celebrate this feast adequately.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 10:56h, 02 February Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Maria Skarzynski
    Posted at 12:24h, 02 February Reply

    What a beautiful writing Father Philip. I also put up the decorations and the creche on the 24th. and take it down today. The gospel of Simeon and Anna has always been so real – they knew !! In their hearts and did not hesitate to announce it. Thank you !

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