O Thou, Who through Thy birth hast sanctified the virginal womb,
and Who hast blessed the arms of Simeon as it is meet,
do Thou, when wars prevail, give peace to Thy people.
Hail O thou, full of grace, virgin and Mother of God,
for from thee has arisen the Sun of Justice, Christ God,
illuminating those who are in darkness.
This Feast, celebrated on February 2, has several names, all pertaining to the various meanings of the Feast. In the Eastern Church it is called Hypapante or Encounter, because Simeon and Anna encountered the Infant Jesus in the Temple. We usually know it as the Feast of the Presentation – the 40th day after His Birth when Jesus was presented by Mary and Joseph in fulfillment of the Law of Moses. The Law also prescribed that mothers submit to a rite of purification at the same time, so today’s Feast has a strong Marian significance. Our Lady, who is All-pure, willingly submitted to this rite, giving us a marvelous example of obedience to the Church in all things.
Adorn your bridal chamber, O Sion, and receive Christ, the King. Greet Mary, the gate of heaven, with loving embrace; for she bear the King of Glory, the new Light. There stands the Virgin, in her arms the Son begotten before the day-star.
This Feast is also called Candlemas Day, the day on which all the candles to be used in the Liturgy are blessed. This signifies that Simeon called Jesus the Light of Revelation to the Gentiles. By our Baptism and Confirmation we are required to bring the Light of Christ to the world too, and so before Mass the priest gives each of us a candle. Then all go in procession into the Church with the lighted candles.
We should never forget that consecrated life is a gift which comes from on high, an initiative of the Father “Who draws His creatures to Himself with a special love and for a special mission” (Vita Consecrata 17). This look of special love profoundly touches the heart of the one called, who is urged by the Holy Spirit to place himself or herself in the footsteps of Christ, in a particular way of following Him, by means of assuming the Evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience.
In 1997, Pope John Paul II designated this day as Consecrated Life day. He chose this day specifically because this Feast “reveals the mystery of Jesus, the One consecrated by the Father, come into the world to carry out His will faithfully.” All religious are obliged by their religious consecration to do this in a special way. Consecrated life the Pope said, is a “stupendous gift” of the Father to the Church. On this day everyone should “give unceasing praise and thanks to the Lord” for this gift. Furthermore he intended that celebration of this Feast should “promote a knowledge and esteem for the consecrated life by the entire People of God.” “What would become of the world if there were no religious?” he quotes from St. Teresa. Yes, with all our hearts we thank God for our call to religious life!