Delivered by Canon Raphael Ueda, ICRSS:
Candlemas, February 2, 2014
Today’s feast of Candlemas, which derives its origin from the local custom of Jerusalem, marks the end of the Christmas season. Forty days after his birth, in the obedience to the law, Our Blessed Mother went to Jerusalem to make the accustomed offerings and presented Jesus in the Temple. In the Temple there was an old man, called Simeon, who came by the Spirit into the Temple. He had received revelation from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ, the Savior.
In order to celebrate this event more fittingly, the Church today blesses candles and gives them to us. The lighted candle is a symbol of the Catholic life, of the faith and grace of which should shine on our soul. It is also the image of Christ, the light of the world, a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, according to Simeon’s canticle.
Indeed Light is used often as symbol of joy and of life-giving power, as darkness is of death and destruction.
In our daily conversation there are many expressions that use the word “light. “For example, to begin to understand something, we say “My algebra class has been hard for me, but I’m beginning to see the light. I was totally confused, but I began to see the light after your explanation."
Or, to reveal or clarify something: We say, “This discussion shed some light on the problem. Let’s see if Ann can throw any light on this question."
For our spiritual life, light is indispensable.
In the beginning of human history, God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light. God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness. In Christianity, from the very beginning, light was considered a symbol of the divine nature and the divine presence. Christ is the true light, and at His transfiguration His face did shine as the sun and His garments became white as snow. At the conversion of St. Paul there shined round him a great light from heaven.
The lighted candle of Today’s Liturgy must remind us that we must bear Christ in us, the source of our life, the author of faith and grace. Faith is the supernatural virtue which is necessary for our salvation. It is a free gift of God and is accessible to all who humbly seek it by surrendering to His will and accepting God’s truth.
The light of faith: this is how the Church’s tradition speaks of the great gift brought by Jesus. In St. John’s Gospel, Christ says of Himself: “I have come as light into this world, that whoever believes in Me may not remain in darkness." Saint Paul uses the same image: “God, who said, let light shine out of darkness, that has shone in our hearts."
The ancient world which hungered for light had seen the growth of the worship of the sun god and invoked each day at sunrise. Yet though the sun rises anew each morning, it is clearly incapable of casting its light on all aspects of our life. The sun does not illuminate all reality. Its rays cannot make us understand especially the last things, the reality of death, judgment, heaven and hell which are awaiting us in life after death.
We are conscious of the huge horizon which faith can open before us, so we can invoke Jesus as the true sun whose rays bestow life. To Martha, weeping for the death of her brother Lazarus, Jesus said: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
Those who believe can see, they can see with a light that illumines their entire journey of faith, for it comes from the risen Christ, the morning star which never sets. Some people might say that that light might have been considered sufficient long ago, but is of no use today, for a modern world of rationality and technology.
Faith thus seems to some as an illusory light, preventing us from boldly setting out in search of knowledge and love of God. But we have to be assured that faith is not something as a meaningless step in the dark, to be taken in the absence of light, moved by blind emotion, or as mere personal and individual light, capable perhaps of warming the heart and bringing personal consolation, but not something which could be presented to others as a shared light which can point the way.
Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused, it is impossible to tell good from evil or indicate the road to our destination from other roads which take us in endless circles, going nowhere.
We need to see once again with the genuine simplicity of Simeon that faith is light. For once the flame of faith dies out, all other lights begins to dim. The light of faith is unique, for it is capable of illuminating every aspect of our life. Faith is born of an encounter with the living God as Old Simeon held the Child Jesus and recognized this Child Jesus as God. God is calling us and reveals His love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives.
Simeon said to Our Blessed Mother “Behold this child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted."
Jesus’s presentation in the Temple was the offertory of His Life.
To follow Jesus involves necessary the contractions and suffering which we need to endure for the love of God.
Saint Paul said “For both the Jews require signs, and the Greeks seek after wisdom. But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness. But unto them that are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Dear faithful, let us confide our lives to Jesus and learn to offer ourselves with Him to God the Father. Amen.