the shortest distance is between
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. This feast is the final conclusion of the cycle of Christmas and Epiphany. Today, 40 days after Christmas, we complete the Christmas celebration because according to the Mosaic Law, it was necessary to offer one’s firstborn son to the Lord 40 days after his birth. God Himself is presented in the temple, and the law is finally, and fully, fulfilled.
The prophecy of Malachi tells us what we celebrate (3:14): “Suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek.” Formally, officially, in an unprecedented way, the Lord God almighty enters the temple made by human hands for His glory and honor. According to Malachi’s prophecy, the Lord comes to His temple to purify the people from their sins, that they may be able to present to God “righteous offerings” which are pleasing to Him (Mal 3:3). The first of these offerings, the one which established perfect worship and made every other offering valid, is Christ’s offering of Himself to the Father. For Him, ransom was not necessary, as it was for all the firstborn of the Jews. Remember the story of the Passover, and the blood on the lintels, and the passing over of the destroying angel. No, Jesus was the willing victim who would be sacrificed for the salvation of the world. But in conformity with His condition as a newborn son, God wished to be offered by the hands of His Mother.
This ritual moment is also the occasion by which Jesus meets in the temple those of His people who were awaiting Him in faith. He is received by Simeon, “righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel” (Lk 2:25) (Jesus is the consolation!), and by the prophetess Anna, who lived in prayer and penitence. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, both recognized the promised Savior in the little one presented by a young mother with the humble offering of the poor, and they burst into songs of praise. Simeon took Him in his arms and exclaimed a great prayer, one that the Church prays every single night.
By recalling this event, we go to meet Christ in the house of God, where we shall find Him in the celebration of the Eucharist, to greet Him as our Savior, to offer Him the homage of ardent faith and love like Simeon and Anna and finally to receive Him, not in our arms but in our hearts. This is the significance of the “Candlemas” procession: to go to meet Christ, “the light of the world”, with the burning flame of a Christian life which ought to be a luminous reflection of His exceeding brightness.