Candlemas and the consecrated life

The Pope emphasizes the theological and liturgical connections between the two

The Vatican Today site reports on the connection between the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the observance of World Day for Consecrated Life:

Pope Benedict celebrated on Thursday evening Solemn Vespers for the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord at Saint Peter’s Basilica here in Rome. The Feast celebrates the presentation of Jesus in the Temple forty days after his birth, and is also known as Candlemas on account of the Blessing of Candles and Procession that take place during the liturgy. In his homily during Vespers, the Holy Father noted that the liturgical significance of the Feast, and especially the idea of Christ the Light: “This is one of those cases in which liturgical time follows historical time, because today we mark precisely forty days from the feast of Christmas; the theme of Christ the Light, which has characterized the series of Christmas feasts and culminated in the Feast of the Epiphany, is taken up and extended to the celebration today.”

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord also marks the observance of World Day for Consecrated Life. The Holy Father connected the Gospel story of the Presentation of Christ with the consecration of men and women who have dedicated their lives to the Church: “On today’s feast we therefore celebrate the mystery of consecration: the consecration of Christ, the consecration of Mary, the consecration of all those who commit themselves to following Jesus for the sake of the Kingdom of God.” The yearly celebration is an opportunity to express gratitude for the work of those who have dedicated their lives to the service of God and of their neighbour by embracing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. At the same time, it offers a chance to promote vocations to consecrated life, especially through prayer.

Here are some remarks made two years ago on this feast day by Benedict XVI:

In conjunction with this Liturgical Feast, as from 1997, Venerable John Paul II decreed that a special Day of Consecrated Life be celebrated in the whole Church. In fact, the sacrifice of the Son of God symbolized by his presentation in the Temple is the model for every man and woman who consecrate their life totally to the Lord. The purpose of this Day is threefold: first of all to praise and thank the Lord for the gift of consecrated life; secondly to promote knowledge and appreciation of it among the whole People of God and lastly to invite all those who have dedicated their life totally to the cause of the Gospel to celebrate the marvels that the Lord has worked in them. As I thank you for coming here in such numbers, on this Day dedicated particularly to you I would like to greet each one of you with great affection men and women religious and consecrated people and to express to you my cordial closeness and heartfelt appreciation for the good you do at the service of the People of God.

The brief Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews that has just been proclaimed, successfully combines the motives at the origin of this significant and beautiful event and gives us some ideas for reflection. This text—basically two verses, but they are heavily charged with meaning—opens the second part of the Letter to the Hebrews, introducing the central theme of Christ, the High Priest. One should really consider as well the verse immediately preceding them, that says: “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” of faith (Heb 4:14). This verse shows Jesus who ascends to the Father; while the verse that follows presents him descending towards human beings. Christ is presented as the Mediator: he is true God and true man and for this reason truly belongs to both the divine and human worlds.

In fact, it is precisely and only on the bases of this faith, on this profession of faith in Jesus Christ, the only and definitive Mediator, that consecrated life, a life consecrated to God through Christ has meaning in the Church. It has meaning only if he is truly the mediator between God and us; otherwise it would merely be a form of sublimation or of escape. If Christ were not truly God and at the same time fully man, the foundation of Christian life as such would be lacking as, in quite a significant way, would the foundation of every Christian consecration of man and woman. The consecrated life, in fact, “powerfully” witnesses and expresses the reciprocal seeking of God and man, the love that attracts them to each other. The very fact of being consecrated makes the consecrated person, as it were, a “bridge” to God for all who encounter him or her a reminder, a reference point. And this is all by virtue of the mediation of Jesus Christ, the Consecrated One of the Father. He is the foundation! He who shared our weaknesses so that we might participate in his divine nature.

Read that entire address on the Vatican site.


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About Carl E. Olson 1121 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications.