I’m a Catholic because I love the Lord, not out of any desire for old world culture. That for me is just a really great perk of being Catholic.
I love those big feasts of the Church, where the great and ancient tradition seems to become larger than life, filling your heart with incense and candlelight, like the Easter vigil, or midnight Mass. They call you back, they remind you that your entire lifetime is but a flickering candle in the dark, and your entire age is just one more moment in an everlasting procession. It’s a deep feeling of belonging that is truly indescribable.
Then there are those small, almost cultural feasts that seem to fill out the edges. If Pentecost is the cake, Candlemas is the frosting.
Yes, I know, it’s not officially called Candlemas anymore, it’s the Feast of the Presentation, but we bless candles on that day, so dangit, it’s Candlemas. For generation upon generation we have celebrated this day. We have blessed our yearly portion of candles on this day for as long as we can remember. (Did you know groundhog day is based on the tradition of basing weather forecasts on Candlemas?)
Now to you and me, this makes a lot of sense. Candles are special things, and lighting candles generally only happen on special days. We light candles at our dinner table when we want to make the meal special, we put candles on our birthday cakes and it brings light, a dangerous fire hazard and a wish. We light a couple candles when we have guests, or just to make the house smell nice. There is one thing we do not do however.
We do not light candles so that we can see.
But just a hundred years ago, that is what candles were for. They were light bulbs. Nothing all that special, and just a bit more expensive then we would like. I bet we even complained about the rising prices of candles, and their decrease in quality. They were right up there with tissue paper, just a household item.
This is what I love about Candlemas. It is making the normal day to day things holy. Setting them aside for a more divine purpose. It is not so much about taking something rather special and making it more so. Quite the opposite. It takes the completely mundane, and makes it something so holy that it can only be used to serve God Himself.
Viewed in this light, Candlemas is an allegory to the entire Christian life. Is that not what we are all called to do, make the mundane holy? To take our seconds, minutes and hours and give them to Christ? To take our boring mundane bodies and hearts of cold wax, and to set them on fire?