by Sr. Sheila Campbell MMM Ireland 03.02.2024
Yesterday was Candlemas Day. It was also the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. But today I want to talk about that older name. February 2nd marks the midway point between the darkest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere) and the Spring equinox. It marks the beginning of light again. Usually, I go walking in the early morning and it is around this time of the year when I begin to notice the stretching of the days and the small changes that herald Spring.
The use of candles in religious practice predates recorded history. In ancient civilizations, from the Greeks and Romans to the Egyptians, candles were associated with various deities and revered as conduits between the earthly and divine realms. The flickering flame became a symbol of life, enlightenment, and the eternal spirit.
In the Church, candles hold a central place. We all remember the Advent wreath, lit during the weeks leading up to Christmas, with its candles symbolizing hope, peace, joy, and love. In each Catholic church, the sanctuary lamp, often a red candle, signifies the presence of the Blessed Sacrament and during the Easter Vigil, the Paschal candle is lit, representing the resurrection of Christ. It is no coincidence that candles are lit at baptism and at a deathbed – they light up all the important passages of our lives. I am just remembering that when I made my religious profession of vows, it was with a candle in my left hand and the profession formula to be read in my right hand!
Nowadays, many people do not have a formal religious practice, but candles continue to be a source of solace and reflection. Beyond organized religion, people light candles in times of prayer, meditation, and remembrance, creating a universal language of peace and hope.
Let Candlemas this year bring deep joy into the depths of our soul. Candles, with their soft glow and flickering flame, transcend cultural and religious boundaries, embodying the shared human quest for spiritual connection.