Today Joseph and Mary bring Jesus to the temple to present him to the Lord, and Simeon takes him in his arms and blesses the God of Israel with these prophetic words. Today is known as Candlemas, one of the cross-quarter days of the Celtic calendar, midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The light has grown by nearly an hour since Christmas and will continue to grow by leaps and bounds as we make our way to Easter, just nine weeks away! In other words…spring is coming!!
These flowers are called Candlemas Bells…also known as Snowdrops – they are a sign of hope that spring IS going to come and IS going to push winter away! (Although this year we have barely had anything resembling winter around here!) There is a tradition that an angel helped these Candlemas bells to bloom and pointed them as a sign of hope to Eve, who wept in repentance and in despair over the cold and death that entered the world after she and Adam had been cast out of paradise.
The custom of blessing candles on this day is an ancient one. Blessed candles have a sacramental nature – physical objects which contain a spiritual reality and draw us into the presence of the Holy Spirit who shines his light upon us. They reveal to us both the nature and the cost of our Christian vocation.
Today marks the anniversary of death of one of the great witnesses of our times, Father Alfred Delp, S.J., hung in a Nazi prison on February 2, 1945. Throughout his life, Father Delp had a great devotion to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. He prayed constantly for the grace to become like a candle, spending the wax of his life so that others could behold the light of Christ in the midst of the darkness that was the Third Reich. During the final Advent of his life, he wrote a series of sermons from his prison cell about the ultimate personal coming of the Lord which he was about to experience:
“The fate of humankind, my own fate, the verdict awaiting me, the significance of Christmas, can be summed up in the sentence ‘surrender yourself to God and you will find yourself again.’ Others may have you in their power now; they torture and frighten you, hound you from pillar to post. But the inner law of freedom sings that no death can kill us, life is eternal.”
Father Alfred Delp, and all martyrs of the culture of death, orate pro nobis…teach us and obtain for us that freedom in the Holy Spirit which will enable us to joyfully surrender to the sword of the Word of God that pierces our heart and draws us to the Cross.
Mary, Star of the Third Millennium, pray for us!