This weekend, the Church celebrates two great feasts: the Presentation of the Lord also known as Candlemas Day and the Feast of St. Blase, Bishop and Martyr. February 2nd is the traditional end of the Christmas Season. Under the previous Church calendar, each liturgical season had approximately 40 days in it. Easter of course had 50 days culminating in the great feast of the Church Pentecost. In some countries, the Christmas crèche is on display until February 2nd. On that day, known as Candlemas Day, the faithful brought candles to church to be blessed. In addition, the priest would bless all of the candles that would be used for the coming year.
In returning to the more ancient term for this day (Feast of the Meeting or in modern parlance, Presentation), the Church wanted to highlight that Jesus was presented in the temple and consecrated to God. At that time, Mary and Joseph encountered Simeon and Anna who had been awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a savior. When Simeon beheld the baby Jesus, he blessed God: “Now, Master, you can dismiss your servant in peace; you have fulfilled your word. For my eyes have witnessed your saving deed displayed for all the peoples to see: A revealing light to the Gentiles, the glory of your people Israel.” Simeon had waited to see Jesus, and now that he had met the Lord (Feast of the Meeting), he could die in peace.
In celebrating this feast, the Church reminds us to be vigilant and hopeful. May each of us encounter Jesus not just once, but many times, before we die. The words of Simeon challenge us to look for ways to experience the presence of the Lord.
February 3rd is the Feast of St. Blase who is the patron saint of those afflicted with ailments of the throat. Legend has it that on the way to his martyrdom, he encountered a boy who was choking on a fish bone and St. Blase healed him. Over the centuries, the Church has invoked his protection against diseases of the throat: “Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every illness of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.” During this cold and flu season, we again ask for the protection of St. Blase.