February 2 marks a feast (or holy day) that is near the end the season of Epiphany and a longer series of celebrations relating to the birth of Jesus. The feast is often called The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple. It commemorates the Jewish custom of presenting first-born male children to God in the Jerusalem temple 40 days after birth. Mary and Joseph faithfully followed this custom and brought Jesus to the temple along with an offering of two turtle doves (an option for poor people who could not afford a lamb offering). That is why this feast is celebrated 40 days after Christmas. The Gospel of Luke tells us that in the temple Jesus was recognized by holy people, Simeon and Anna, as the expected Jewish Messiah or savior.
This feast day is also recognized as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Lutheran church this day was also commemorated in the office, found in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, known as the churching of women. 40 days after child birth, mothers would return to the church for this blessing. The Gospel of Luke tells us that in the temple Jesus was recognized by holy people, Simeon and Anna, as the expected Jewish Messiah or savior.
Finally, The feast has another name, particularly in England — Candlemas. This name recalls the ancient custom of lighting candles to represent the lights in the temple at Jerusalem. We will be celebrating the final Sunday of the Epiphany season this Sunday on February 5th. This is a good time to look back over the last 40 days and consider what a blessing it is that Jesus, the Son of God, chose to become a real human being to share our life and to be our Savior from sin, evil and death. At St. Barnabas, we worship Jesus as the Son of God, and we invite you to join us.
The Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple
By Ambrogio Lorenzetti