Vatican envoy’s Candlemas homily in Medjugorje

Candlemas is a Christian holiday celebrated every year on February 2. It commemorates three occasions: the presentation of the child Jesus, Jesus’ first entry into the temple, and the Virgin Mary’s purification.

Archbishop Henryk Hoser, the Vatican envoy stationed in Medjugorje, delivered this beautiful homily on February 2, 2020 for this year’s Candlemas.

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, we are celebrating an important and very significant Feast day which has accompanied the life of the Church for over a thousand years. She (the Church) wants to underline three truths of our faith and three opportunities for the life of the world and our daily lives.

The first one insists on the absolute priority of God. The Presentation of the Lord Jesus in the Temple shows and reminds each of us that we must first serve God. The Son of God who became the Son of Man is presented in the temple—offered to the Father and to humanity. At his baptism in the Jordan, a voice came from Heaven, confirming: ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’ (Mt 3.17).

If we want to serve our neighbors, then we also give priority to God. In every man and in every woman, we serve God, who created them in His own image and likeness. Such is the fundamental dignity of every human being!

The second possibility concerns the light of the world. The old man Simeon praises God, saying: for ”my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” (Lk: 2, 30-32)

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the only true light of the world that illuminates the human heart. Without it all are immersed in darkness. ”The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light; on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen.” (Mt 4,16).

This painting from the 1800s by artist Marianne Stokes is titled Candlemas.

The liturgy strongly emphasizes the light, which was announced by Simeon when he compared the child to the “light to the Gentiles”. That is why in the liturgy the candles are blessed and a candlelight procession is held. After all, the word “Kandelora,“ which in some parts of Croatia is used for this Feast day, comes from the Latin candelarum, which means candles. This feast day invites us to meditate on Christ—the Light—and for ourselves to be light for the world.

This is the reason why we started this Mass with the blessing of candles—a gesture that already announces the liturgy of light on Easter night.

This Feast day also speaks about Mary’s presence in the Temple. She is the one who carried the Light of the World in her arms! This is the third opportunity that is offered to us in our lives.

This Feast day is celebrated forty days after the Nativity, because this is how long Mary waited before she went up to the Temple. Like the birth of Jesus, the Presentation in the Temple marks the end of the time of waiting and opens the time of the Lord’s permanent presence with us and among us.

In some European countries, the Blessed Virgin Mary is shown with a blessed candle in her hand; believers call upon her to protect them from lightning and other natural disasters, as well as from wolves—which means from all the forces of darkness. This image illustrates the well-known prayer: (Sub tuum praesidium…)

We fly to thy protection, O Holy Mother of God: 

despise not our petitions in our necessities, 

but deliver us always from all dangers, 

O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.

The witnesses to the scene, Anna and Simeon, represent those awaiting the Messiah as the consolation and deliverer of Israel. On this day, the Messiah was presented to the Father; he was offered and recognized. From that moment on, Jesus could begin to live his hidden and public life in our space and our time, in our heart and in our family and social communion.

All the persons who were in the Temple on that day were, in their own way, consecrated: both the members of the Holy Family, as well as Anna and Simeon, who all gave their lives to the Lord. They are beautiful examples of lives lived in anticipation of the Messiah. Jesus always inspires men and women to consecrate their lives to Him. This is an opportunity to give thanks for the gift of a consecrated life.

At the initiative of Saint Pope John Paul II in 1997, every year on the second of February, the Day of Consecrated Life is celebrated. John Paul II highlighted the three goals of this day.

That day is first and foremost a day of thanksgiving, explains the Pope: “it answers the intimate need to praise the Lord more solemnly and to thank him for the great gift of consecrated life, which enriches and gladdens the Christian community by the multiplicity of its charisms and by the edifying fruits of so many lives totally given to the cause of the Kingdom.”

A Greek icon from the 1420s relating to Candlemas.

This day is also intended to promote a better knowledge of and esteem for the consecrated life. “In contemplating the gift of consecrated life, the Church contemplates her own intimate vocation of belonging only to her Lord,“ emphasized John Paul II. “The primary role of consecrated life is to preserve in the Church the historical form of life that the Son of God lived when he came to this earth.”

This day is also an invitation to all consecrated persons “to celebrate together solemnly the marvels which the Lord has accomplished in them, For this they are invited to reflect on the gift received, to discover by a more illumined faith the rays of divine beauty spread by the Spirit in their way of life, and to acquire a more vivid consciousness of their irreplaceable mission in the Church and in the world.“

Let us give thanks to the Lord in this radiant and luminous evening! May the Mother of God, who carries Jesus, holding a candle in her hands, guard us, protect us and enlighten us with the light of the Holy Spirit.

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