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Celebrating Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple

The Feast of the Presentation on Wednesday, February 2, 2011, often called Candlemas, commemorates the presentation of Christ in the temple, which took place 40 days after his birth as Jewish law required, recounted in Luke 2:22-23:

Second temple model at the Israel Museum
(Photo by Ferrell Jenkins)

“When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord.’”

When Jesus was brought to the temple to be dedicated, two elders prophesied over him and his parents and declared his calling as the Messiah of Israel:

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: ‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.’” Luke 2:25-32

Moments later, the prophetess Anna, who was 84, also gave thanks for the child sent for all looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Many Christians today dedicate or baptize their children in the same tradition. The parents present their child at a church or congregation for prayer and exhortation.

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This feast also commemorates the purification of Mary, Jesus’ mother. According to Mosaic law, a mother who had given birth to a boy was considered unclean for seven days.

Although there are no special masses in Israel on this feast, visitors may want to visit the model of the second temple at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem or at the Temple Institute or, of course, the Temple Mount itself Another site is the Hulda Steps at the Temple Mount, a favorite site to say the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, and the Valley of Josaphat (or Jehoshaphat), which is the site priestly tombs from the second temple period. The valley wraps around the eastern side of the Old City walls.

The name Candlemas comes from the activities associated with the feast as it came to be known as the Candle Mass. In the Western Church, a procession with lighted candles is a traditional rite.

The feast falls on February 2, coinciding with Groundhog Day. Farmers believed that the remainder of winter would be the opposite of whatever the weather was like on Candlemas Day.

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