Religion Wiki

Presentation of Jesus at the Temple

34,279pages on
this wiki
Add New Page
Add New Page Talk0
The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
Observed by Anglicans
Eastern Catholics
Eastern Orthodox
Oriental Orthodox
Roman Catholics
Type Christian
Date 2 February (Western Christianity)
2 February/15 February (Eastern Christianity)

The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus, and falls on or around 2 February. In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, the Presentation is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts, and is sometimes called Hypapante (lit., 'Meeting' in Greek). Other traditional names include Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord. In many Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season. In the Church of England, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is a Principal Feast celebrated either on 2 February or on the Sunday between 28 January and 3 February.


The event is described in the Gospel of Luke 2:22–40. According to the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to complete Mary's ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, in obedience to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15, etc.).

Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon the Righteous. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that "he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord." (Luke 2:26) Simeon prayed the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus:

"Lord, now you are letting your servant go in peace, just as you said. 30 I have seen with my own eyes the one you have sent to save people. 31 You have made this way for all peoples to be saved. 32 He is a light which will shine for those who do not know God. He is the one who will bring praise to your people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon then prophesied to Mary: "34 . . . 'He will be a sign that people do not believe in. He will make many people in Israel fall and rise. 35 (Yes, a long knife will cut your heart too.) What people think will be made known." (Luke 2:34-35).

The elderly prophetess Anna was also in the Temple, and offered prayers and praise to God for Jesus, and spoke to everyone there about Jesus and his role in the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:36-38).

Name of the celebration

In addition to being known as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, other traditional names include Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Greek-Catholic Churches (Eastern Catholic Churches which use the Byzantine rite), it is known as the "Feast of the Presentation of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple" or as "The Meeting of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ". In the Roman Catholic Church, it is known as the "Presentation of the Lord" in the liturgical books first issued by Paul VI[1], and as the "Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary" in earlier editions.

In the churches of the Anglican Communion, it is known by various names, including: The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in The Temple (Candlemas) (Episcopal Church), The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Anglican Church of Canada), The Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas) (Church of England), and The Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Anglican Church of Australia).

It is known as the Presentation of Our Lord in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In some Protestant churches, the feast is known as the Naming of Jesus (though historically he would have been named on the eighth day after the Nativity, when he was circumcised).

Liturgical celebration

Traditionally, Candlemas had been the last feast day in the Christian year that was dated by reference to Christmas. Subsequent moveable feasts are calculated with reference to Easter.

Western Christianity

Prior to the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Candlemas in the Roman Catholic Church marked the end of the Epiphany season. Green vestments were worn from the end of the Epiphany Octave until the beginning of the Lenten season, as required for ordinary periods (times after Epiphany and Pentecost) just as they are now worn between the Epiphany and Lent. ("Anptiphonale SRE" Polyglot Press Vatican 1912; "The Divine Office" Collins 1974) On the present Roman calendar the day before the Baptism of the Lord is the final day of the Christmas liturgical season.

Some non-liturgical Christmas practices are associated with Candlemas e.g. the crib in St Peter's Square remains in place until then. Traditionally the Western term "Candlemas" (or Candle Mass) referred to the practice whereby a priest on 2 February blessed beeswax candles with an aspergilium for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home. In Poland the feast is called Matka Boska Gromniczna (Matka Boska, "Mother of God" + Gromnica, "beeswax candle").

Within the Roman Catholic Church, since the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, this feast has been referred to as the Feast of Presentation of the Lord, with references to candles and the purification of Mary de-emphasised in favor of the Prophecy of Simeon the Righteous. Pope John Paul II connected the feast day with the renewal of religious vows.

Eastern Christianity

In the Byzantine tradition (Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic), the Meeting of the Lord is unique in that it combines elements of both a Great Feast of the Lord and a Great Feast of the Theotokos (Mother of God). It has a forefeast of one day, and an afterfeast of seven days. However, if the feast falls during Cheesefare Week or Great Lent, the afterfeast is either shortened or eliminated altogether.

The holy day is celebrated with an All-Night Vigil on the eve of the feast, and a celebration of the Divine Liturgy the next morning, at which beeswax candles are blessed. This blessing traditionally takes place after the Little Hours and before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy (though in some places it is done after). The priest reads four prayers, and then a fifth one during which all present bow their heads before God. He then censes the candles and blesses them with holy water. The candles are then distributed to the people and the Liturgy begins.

The services for the Meeting of the Lord contain hymns composed by many of the great Church hymnographers: St. Andrew, Bishop of Crete (7th cent.); St. Cosmas, Bishop of Maiuma; St. John Damascene; St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (8th cent.); and St. Joseph the Hymnographer, Archbishop of Thessalonica (9th cent.)

On the same day, Orthodox Christians also commemorate a wonder-working icon of the Theotokos known as "the Softening of Evil Hearts" or "Simeon's Prophecy." It depicts the Virgin Mary with her hands upraised in prayer, and seven swords piercing her heart. This is one of the few Orthodox icons of the Theotokos which do not depict the infant Jesus.

It is because of the biblical events recounted in the second chapter of Luke that the Churching of Women came to be practiced in both Eastern and Western Christianity. Though the usage has mostly died out in the West, the rite is still practiced in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Some Christians observe the practice of leaving Christmas decorations up until Candlemas.


In the Eastern and Western liturgical calendars the Presentation of the Lord falls on 2 February, forty days after Christmas. In the Church of England it may be celebrated on this day, or on the Sunday between 28 January and 3 February.

The date of Candlemas is established by the date set for the Nativity of Jesus, for it comes forty days afterwards. Under Mosaic law as found in the Torah, a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain for three and thirty days "in the blood of her purification." Candlemas therefore corresponds to the day on which Mary, according to Jewish law, should have attended a ceremony of ritual purification (Leviticus 12:2-8). The Gospel of Luke 2:22–39 relates that Mary was purified according to the religious law, followed by Jesus' presentation in the Jerusalem temple, and this explains the formal names given to the festival, as well as its falling 40 days after the Nativity.

In the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Feast, called "The Coming of the Son of God into the Temple" (Tiarn’ndaraj, from Tyarn-, "the Lord", and -undarach "going forward"), is celebrated on 14 February. The Armenians do not celebrate the Nativity on December 25, but on January 6, and thus their date of the feast is forty days after that: 14 February. The night before the feast, Armenians traditionally light candles during an evening church service, carrying the flame out into the darkness (symbolically bringing light into the void) and either take it home to light lamps or light a bonfire in the church courtyard.


The Feast of the Presentation is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. There are sermons on the Feast by the bishops Methodius of Patara († 312), Cyril of Jerusalem († 360), Gregory the Theologian († 389), Amphilochius of Iconium († 394), Gregory of Nyssa († 400), and John Chrysostom († 407).

The earliest reference to specific liturgical rites surrounding the feast are by the intrepid nun Egeria, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land (381–384). She reported that 14 February was a day solemnly kept in Jerusalem with a procession to Constantine I's Basilica of the Resurrection, with a homily preached on Luke 2:22 (which makes the occasion perfectly clear), and a Divine Liturgy. This so-called Itinerarium Peregrinatio ("Pilgrimage Itinerary") of Egeria does not, however, offer a specific name for the Feast. The date of 14 February indicates that in Jerusalem at that time, Christ's birth was celebrated on 6 January, Epiphany. Egeria writes for her beloved fellow nuns at home:

XXVI. "The fortieth day after the Epiphany is undoubtedly celebrated here with the very highest honor, for on that day there is a procession, in which all take part, in the Anastasis, and all things are done in their order with the greatest joy, just as at Easter. All the priests, and after them the bishop, preach, always taking for their subject that part of the Gospel where Joseph and Mary brought the Lord into the Temple on the fortieth day, and Symeon and Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, saw him, treating of the words which they spake when they saw the Lord, and of that offering which his parents made. And when everything that is customary has been done in order, the sacrament is celebrated, and the dismissal takes place."

Originally, the feast was a minor celebration. But then in 542 the feast was established throughout the Eastern Empire by Justinian I. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, killing thousands. The Emperor, in consultation with the Patriarch of Constantinople, ordered a period of fasting and prayer throughout the entire Empire. And, on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, arranged great processions throughout the towns and villages and a solemn prayer service (Litia) to ask for deliverance from evils, and the plague ceased. In thanksgiving, the feast was elevated to a more solemn celebration.

In Rome, the feast appears in the Gelasian Sacramentary, a manuscript collection of the seventh and eighth centuries associated with Pope Gelasius I, but with many interpolations and some forgeries. There it carries for the first time the new title of the feast of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Late in time though it may be, Candlemas is still the most ancient of all the festivals in honor of the Virgin Mary. The date of the feast in Rome was moved forward to 2 February, since during the late fourth century the Roman feast of Christ's nativity been introduced as December 25.

Though modern laymen picture Candlemas as an important feast throughout the Middle Ages in Europe, in fact it spread slowly in the West; it is not found in the Lectionary of Silos (650) nor in the Calendar (731–741) of Sainte-Geneviève of Paris.

The tenth century Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, bishop of Winchester, has a formula used for blessing the candles. Candlemas did become important enough to find its way into the secular calendar. It was the traditional day to remove the cattle from the hay meadows, and from the field that was to be ploughed and sown that spring. References to it are common in later medieval and early Modern literature; Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is recorded as having its first performance on Candlemas Day, 1602. It remains one of the Scottish quarter days, at which debts are paid and law courts are in session.

The Presentation is chiefly observed today in the Eastern Orthodox and Anglican traditions. In the Orthodox traditions it is the day on which believers bring beeswax candles to their local church to be blessed for use in the church or in the home.

Relation to Pagan celebrations

Candlemas depends on the date for Christmas: Candlemas follows 40 days after. Many Christians believe there is no independent meaningfulness to the date of Candlemas. It is possible that some features of Pagan observances were incorporated into Christian rites of Candlemas when the celebration of Candlemas spread to the north and west of Europe, where 2 February was sacred to the goddess Brighid (Brigid).

Modern Pagans believe that Candlemas is a Christianization[2][3][4] of the Gaelic festival of Imbolc, which was celebrated in pre-Christian Europe (and especially the Celtic Nations) at about the same time of year.[5][6] Imbolc is called "St. Brigid's Day" or "Brigid" in Ireland and Great Britain.[7] Both Brigid the Goddess and Brigid the saint are associated with sacred flames, holy wells and springs, healing and smithcraft. Brigid is a virgin, yet also the patron of midwives. However, a connection with Roman (rather than Celtic or Germanic) polytheism is more plausible, since the feast was celebrated before any serious attempt to expand Christianity into non-Roman countries.

In Irish homes, there were many rituals centered around welcoming Brigid into the home. Some of Brigid's rituals and legends later became attached to the Christian Saint Brigid, who was the Abbess of Kildare and seen by Celtic Christians as the midwife of Christ and "Mary of the Gael". In Ireland and Scotland she is the "foster mother of Jesus." The exact date of the Imbolc festival may have varied from place to place based on local tradition and regional climate. Imbolc is celebrated by modern Pagans on the eve of 2 February, at the astronomical midpoint, or on the full moon closest to the first spring thaw. Many Neopagans also call their version of the festival "Candlemas".

Some Christians counter that there is no evidence that this Gaelic festival was at all widespread, and no reasonable explanation for a small local Gaelic commemoration making its way to Jerusalem by the 4th century.

Historians have sometimes argued that the Roman church introduced Candlemas celebrations in opposition to the Roman Pagan feast of Lupercalia. The Catholic Encyclopædia is definite in its rejection of this argument: "The feast was certainly not introduced by Pope Gelasius to suppress the excesses of the Lupercalia," (referencing J.P. Migne, Missale Gothicum, 691). The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica agrees: the association with Gelasius "has led some to suppose that it was ordained by Pope Gelasius I in 492 as a counter-attraction to the pagan Lupercalia; but for this there is no warrant." Since the two festivals are both concerned with the ritual purification of women, not all historians are convinced that the connection is purely coincidental. Gelasius' certainly did write a treatise against Lupercalia, and this still exists; see Lupercalia.

Pope Innocent XII believed Candlemas was created as an alternative to Roman Paganism, as stated in a sermon on the subject:

Why do we in this feast carry candles? Because the Gentiles dedicated the month of February to the infernal gods, and as at the beginning of it Pluto stole Proserpine, and her mother Ceres sought her in the night with lighted candles, so they, at the beginning of the month, walked about the city with lighted candles. Because the holy fathers could not extirpate the custom, they ordained that Christians should carry about candles in honor of the Blessed Virgin; and thus what was done before in the honor of Ceres is now done in honor of the Blessed Virgin.[8]

In Armenia celebrations at the Presentation have been influenced by pre-Christian customs, such as: the spreading of ashes by farmers in their fields each year to ensure a better harvest, keeping ashes on the roof of a house to keep evil spirits away, and the belief that newlywed women needed to jump over fire to purify themselves before getting pregnant. Young men will also leap over a bonfire.

The tradition that some modern Christians and Pagans observe, of lighting a candle in each window (or in each room), is not the origin of the name "Candlemas", which instead refers to a blessing of candles, whether Christian or Pagan.

Traditions and superstitions

"Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and mistletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall"
— Robert Herrick (1591–1674), "Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve"

As the poem by Robert Herrick records, the eve of Candlemas was the day on which Christmas decorations of greenery were removed from people's homes; for traces of berries, holly and so forth will bring death among the congregation before another year is out. Another tradition holds that anyone who hears funeral bells tolling on Candlemas will soon hear of the death of a close friend or relative; each toll of the bell represents a day that will pass before the unfortunate news is learned.

In Scotland, until a change in the law in 1991, and in much of northern England until the 18th century, Candlemas was one of the traditional quarter days when quarterly rents were due for payment, as well as the day or term for various other business transactions, including the hiring of servants.

In the United Kingdom, good weather at Candlemas is taken to indicate severe winter weather later: "If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, / winter will have another bite. / If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, / winter is gone and will not come again."[9]. It is also alleged to be the date that bears emerge from hibernation to inspect the weather as well as wolves, who if they choose to return to their lairs on this day is interpreted as meaning severe weather will continue for another forty days at least. In the United States and Canada, Candlemas evolved into Groundhog Day celebrated on the same date.

The Carmina Gadelica, a seminal collection of Scottish folklore, refers to a serpent coming out of the mound on Latha Fheill Bride, as the Scots call Candlemas. This rhyme is still used in the West Highlands and Hebrides.

Moch maduinn Bhride, Thig an nimhir as an toll; Cha bhoin mise ris an nimhir, Cha bhoin an nimhir rium.
(Early on Bride's morn, the serpent will come from the hollow I will not molest the serpent, nor will the serpent molest me)
Thig an nathair as an toll, la donn Bride Ged robh tri traighean dh' an t-sneachd air leachd an lair.
(The serpent will come from the hollow on the brown day of Bride Though there should be three feet of snow on the flat surface of the ground)

The earliest American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College:

4 February 1841 — from Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris' diary …"Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate."[10]

In France, Candlemas (French: La Chandeleur) is celebrated with crêpes, which must be eaten only after eight p.m. If the cook can flip a crêpe while holding a coin in the other hand, the family is assured of prosperity throughout the coming year.

In Tenerife (Spain), it is the day of the Virgin of Candelaria (Saint Patron of the Canary Islands). February 2.

In Southern and Central Mexico, and Guatemala City, Candlemas (Spanish: Día de La Candelaria) is celebrated with Tamales. Tradition indicates that on January 5, the night before Three Kings Day (the Epiphany), whoever gets one or more of the few plastic or metal dolls (originally coins) buried within the Rosca de Reyes must throw a party on Candlemas. In certain regions of Mexico, this is the day in which the baby Jesus of each household is taken up from the nativity scene and dressed up in various colorful, whimsical outfits.

Sailors are often reluctant to set sail on Candlemas Day, believing that any voyage begun then will end in disaster — given the frequency of severe storms in February, this is not entirely without sense.

Other celebrations

In June 1992, the General Assembly of SYNDESMOS (the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth, a federation of Orthodox youth movements and theological schools around the world) proposed a World Day of Orthodox Youth to be celebrated annually on 2 February, to coincide with the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord. Members were urged to implement the celebration in their local parish churches "through concrete and appropriate activities that celebrate youth as an essential part of the Church’s present and not just its future." This proposal has received the blessing of the primates of all the local Orthodox Churches.

See also



  1. Liturgy of the Hours, February 2.
  2. Retrieved February 7, 2008
  3. [ NOS GWYL FAIR (Candlemas) Page]Retrieved February 7, 2008
  4. Imbolc Customs and Lore Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary, 1996. Retrieved February 7, 2008
  5. [ Milk Symbolism in the 'Bethu Brigte'] by Thomas Torma University of Ulster Center for Irish and Celtic Studies, eDIL Project. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  6. Brighid: What Do We Really Know? by Francince Nicholson, Celtic Well E-Journal, 1999. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  7. On St. Brigit and Pagan Goddesses in the Kingdom of God by Sherry Rowley, Canadian Woman Studies Vol 17,No.3 1998. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  8. Curiosities of Popular Customs and of rites, ceremonies, observances, and miscellaneous antiquities, by William Shepard Walsh, 1898. Pg. 168. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  9. Old sailors sayings

Further reading

External links

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

Also on Fandom

Random Wiki