February 2nd marks a beautiful Feast Day in the Catholic Church, the Presentation of the Lord. When Mary and Joseph, in fulfillment of the law, presented Jesus in the Temple, it was a very special domestic moment for the Holy Family, akin to a baptism today. But it was also a significant event in salvation history, for on this day Jesus “was revealed by the Spirit as the Glory of Israel and the Light of the nations.” (The Roman Missal)
February 2nd is also called “Candlemas Day,” for on this occasion the Church blesses the candles that will be used throughout the year. The use of candles is, as you know, a lovely, heart-warming part of Catholic life and liturgy. Candles are used in church during Mass; they are carried in processions; they are used as votives to symbolize our prayers; and they are often found in Catholic homes to express and strengthen the faith of the family.
Candles symbolize Jesus who presented himself as the “light of the world.” (Jn 8:12) And of course the most prominent of all candles is the Paschal Candle, solemnly blessed at the Easter Vigil, that stands proudly in our sanctuaries representing the Risen Christ.
But a funny thing about candles. They have to give themselves up to fulfill their purpose. A pristine candle, never lighted, with wick untouched, has never shed any light; in that condition, it’s useless. But a candle that’s doing its job of giving light will slowly melt away as the wick burns down and the wax disappears.
A burning candle, giving of itself. It’s what many people do in serving and helping others. I think of a husband or wife who exhaust themselves to care for a seriously ill spouse; of parents who are totally devoted, twenty-four-seven, to care for a child with special needs; of priests and religious who tirelessly sacrifice their own comforts and convenience in the service of Christ and his people; of so many laity who generously share their time and resources to support charitable causes that help people in our own neighborhoods and across the globe.
These folks are indeed the candles of our world who, in giving of themselves, make the world a better and brighter place in which to live.
Something to think about: Are there people you know who, by their sacrifices for others, are the light of the world?