The Feast of
the Presentation of the Lord
The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Feb. 2) is also known as Candlemas. This feast commerates the day that the Blessed Virgin Mary presented herself and the Child Jesus at the temple, as Mosaic law required. The story is told in the Gospel of St. Luke (Lk 2:22-40). A wonderful explanation of this feast can be found at Fisheaters.
Mosaic law required that women who had given birth were to be excluded from the temple sanctuary for 40 days. After this period of cleansing, a ritual of purification was performed. It was at this moment that Mary went to the temple with her sacrifice (a pair of turtledoves or pigeons) in order to be purified. She also brought the Infant Jesus so that he may be redeemed by God, as all first-born sons must.
The focus for the Church is placed much more on the aspect of the consecration of Jesus than on Mary’s ritual purification. “This event is the first solemn introduction of Christ into the House of God.” Among the many reflections that may be profitable for us, one stands out: this feast shows to us the great virtue of obediance. Certainly, if anyone had reason to consider himself or herself no longer bound by Mosaic law, it would have been Mary:
She is the Mother of God – why should she have to humble herself to fulfilling purification rites?
Why should Jesus, the Son of God and her son, have to humble Himself in being presented in the temple like everyone else?
Why should He have to be redeemed in the House of God? Was it not He who came to redeem us?
Of course, the lesson for us is that our faith begins with obediance. Mary was obediant to the law, and so was her son. It is right and fitting that Jesus Christ and His mother should model for us all the example of faithful obediance.
This feast is also known as Candlemas. This name comes from the fact that the Church would bless the supply of candles to be used in church and homes for the next year. For great information about the symbolic and liturgical significance of candles, there is a very good article in the Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent.