With exceptions of years like this, when it falls on a Sunday, and is shifted to the next day, every February 2, (which is the 40th day from December 25, when the birth of Jesus is marked) is, in the Church’s Calendar, a commemoration of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
This is also marked as Candlemas with which the coming of the Light of the World and the blessing of the candles for the year are celebrated. The Candlemas is also the absolute final day for the Christmas decorations, any of which is not removed on the Epiphany Eve, must be removed.
The original presentation of Jesus in the Temple was in keeping with the provisions of the Divine injunctions (Luke 2:23-24), both for the dedication/consecration of first male child (Exod. 13:2, 11-12) and for post-natal rituals (Lev. 12).
The Law stipulated that a woman who gave birth to a male child (There was a different stipulation for birth of a female child) would be unclean for seven days, after which the boy would be circumcised on the 8th day and the woman would continue in the blood of her purification for thirty-three days (making forty days from the child birth). At the fortieth day, she would present the prescribed offerings to the priest for sacrifice for her to be clean from the flow of her blood. The required offerings, whether for a male or female child are a one-year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a turtle dove for a sin offering. If she could not afford a lamb, she would bring either two young pigeons or two turtle doves, one for burnt offering, in place of a lamb, and the other, still, for sin offering. Mary offered two turtledoves or two pigeons (Luke 2:24) presumably because she and Joseph were not rich enough to buy a lamb. The Purification of Mary is, therefore, also marked on the day.
However, the focus in the Feast/celebration is more on the dedication/presentation of the boy Jesus at the Temple than the purification of Mary. Parents were not specifically required to take their first son to the Temple for dedication or consecration to the Lord. But Jesus’ parents seized the occasion of the purification of Mary to take their son to the Temple for dedication to the Lord. In this act of these poor parents presenting their first son at the Temple, the Word of the Lord by Malachy: “…And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple…” (Mal. 3:1) found a fulfilment. The pious, elderly and prophetic man and woman, Simeon and Anna, having spent their lives in prayer and waiting in the Temple for the Messiah were fulfilled and inspired by the Holy Spirit, they prophesied on the mission of this child.
that he would see the Messiah before his death, Simeon (Luke 2:25-35) recognised the boy Jesus as God’s salvation, said the “the Nunc Dimittis” and proclaimed Him “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for people of Israel.” The Candlemas on the day is about the celebration of this Light. Simeon also indicated the nature of His mission by warning Mary of her share in it that would include a sorrow pierced heart. He foretold the Calvary and the suffering that would precede the victory of the Light over darkness.
Anna (Luke 2:36-38) also praised and thanked God for Jesus and spoke about Him to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
• The Venerable Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba, FIMC, CMC, is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,
Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.