Forty days after the celebration of the Nativity of the Lord, the feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple is also celebrated, which in the Catholic tradition falls on 2 February.
The feast day is called “Candlemas” because with the presentation at the Temple Jesus was formally subjected to the rules of the law, but in actual fact he was coming to meet his people, who were waiting for him in faith, becoming “light to illuminate all peoples”: the rite of blessing candles derives from this.
Showing the same light as Jesus
“We received a small candle at the start of the celebration,” began fr. Francesco Patton, Custos of the Holy Land, who presided over the liturgy in St Saviour’s church in Jerusalem in the presence of the whole Franciscan community. “We know that Jesus illuminates in many ways: his words are a light that shines in the darkness of our history, of our lives and of our conscience. Our candle is small, but with our consecration we are summoned to show the same light as Jesus, and illuminate our brothers and sisters because we have received this gift from Jesus himself.”
On the same day the Church celebrates the Day of Consecrated Life, established by Pope John Paul II in 1997, the Custos reminded his confreres and the religious who had gathered for this special occasion how consecrated life is “a participation in the consecration of Jesus”: “I think,” he continued, “that we ought to feel that our life is a gift. We have received this gift and we must, as St Francis says, learn to “return it”, through the daily gift of ourselves” (the complete homily of the Custos is here ).
“Continue to pray non-stop for peace”
Fr. Francesco Patton also sent all the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land a letter as Lent is soon to start, in which he also exhorted the Franciscan community to continue praying non-stop for peace.
“I invite you,” the letter says, “to use the specific wordings of Masses for peace in wartime and of displacement for refugees and asylum-seekers, to pray the rosary for peace, and to organize special vigils and celebrations for peace.”
The feast of the Religious Congregations of the Holy Land at the Latin Patriarchate
In the afternoon, the Patriarch of Jerusalem of the Latins, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa presided over the Eucharist in the crowded church of the Patriarchate: the Union of Religious Women and the Episcopal Committee for Consecrated Life invited all the male and female Congregations to gather to give thanks to God for the gift of the consecrated life. During the celebration, the religious present also renewed their vows, each in their own language.
In his homily, the Cardinal insisted on the difficulty of seeing, in this tragic time of war and conflict, “the provident presence of a merciful God, who acts, works and changes the life of the world.” He then exhorted, like Simeon and Anne, not to be frightened by the evil that is rampant in this moment in history, because consecrated people see and show the world the light that illuminates their gaze, and they have to pass on this gaze which transcends the present suffering and which brings consolation. “I would like us,” H.E. Pizzaballa emphasized, “here and now, as religious, to also be capable of this gaze and see the Light which illuminates all peoples, to succeed in seeing the redemption of Jerusalem. In the sea of hatred that has flooded over us, ours is a testimony of love which is carried out, with patient care, of oil poured on to the many wounds of this time and these peoples: a testimony of consolation and salvation.”