The Catholic Church is well known for its use of blessed, lighted candles, which are a traditional symbol that represents Jesus, the light of the world, a light shining in the darkness. You may recall that Christmas is celebrated at the darkest time of the year to symbolically show the contrast between spiritual light and dark: the light that Christ brings to the world and to souls opposes and triumphs over the darkness brought by Satan. The Church has traditionally used beeswax candles to further symbolize purity, authenticity, and industry as reflected in the work of virgin bees. In addition, to give light the candle is burned, it is sacrificed, as a reminder in our worship that Jesus Christ saved us by His Sacrifice on the Cross, the Supreme Sacrifice of Love. To know true love we too must take up the cross and lay down our lives in love of God and neighbor.
Therefore, it is most fitting that candles for home and sanctuary use are blessed on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, forty days after Christmas. In the traditional calendar it is also listed as the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was the day, as is recorded in the Gospel of Luke, that Mary and Joseph, according to Jewish law, presented Jesus in the temple; where Anna and Simeon, though old, had long been waiting in eager expectation for the coming of the savior. Their fidelity and love for God and His temple would not go unrecognized and unrewarded. Simeon would proclaim as he took the infant Jesus in his arms, probably in tears: “Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel; a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.” May we proclaim the same truth by the light of our lives in Christ,
Yours in Christ the Light of the World,
The Rev. Mark G. Mazza