Candlemas Day, Saint Blaise, Candles and Throats.
Candlemas, Candles, throat blessings and the Feast of Saint Blaise. All these wonderful blessings and feasts, the Church gives to us in these two consecutive cold dark days in the dreary month of February.
As a convert it has been hard to keep these similar sounding events straight in my mind and every year since my conversion, I still need to refresh the distinctions between Candlemas, and the Feast of Saint Blaises. Through Divine Providence, both of these celebrations have candles associated with them, but they are two very separate events. So here is a little primer for Candlemas Day and the Feast of Saint Blaises.
Candlemas Day is actually the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord when the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph bring Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. Following the precepts of the Law, they brought an offering to the priest and Mary was ceremonially purified. At this momentous occasion, the devout Simeon rejoices that God fulfilled his promise to him that he would not see death until the coming of Messiah. The feast has also been called the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
How do candles fit in here? Where does the name Candlemas come from? Since Jesus is the Light of the World, candles, the only source of light back in the day, were used to symbolically represent this light. The early Church celebrated this feast day with candlelit processions to remember the momentous occasion of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, the Messiah, light of this world coming to us. Even now, the Church blesses candles for anyone who wishes to bring them to the priest on this day, making those candles sacramentals to be used at home.
This feast day is so important to the life of the Church that the Canticle of Simeon (Lk 2) is recited by every priest and religious, as well as many lay people throughout the world daily when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours.