Candlemas Day

On Candlemas Day every family should carry home a blessed candle, which will have a special place on the home altar and will be lit in all moments of danger, during thunderstorms, during sickness, in time of tribulation. – Around the Year with the Von Trapp Family

My pastor announced that he will bless candles on Candlemas Day, Feb. 2. Now, my only challenge is finding a box big enough to carry our candles to church to be blessed. This feast, so rich and sensory, is a true treasure, nearly lost to modern times.

I am just beginning to understand how the candles of Candlemas are inextricably tied to the Feast of the Presentation. My dear friend Donna is such a good listener. I think that she is especially blessed with this virtue because she has suffered so in her lifetime. She was widowed very young and has since cared for her aging mother. Whenever I go to her to sort my own trials, she prays with me on the phone. And then, she promises to "light a candle." She almost always has a prayer candle lit, I think.

When Our Lady took Jesus to the temple and Simeon greeted them, he recognized the light first. He said that Jesus was "the light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel" (Lk 2:32). Then, he told the Blessed Mother that she would suffer: "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk 2:34-35).

 She did not understand but she did know that she knew the Light, the Lord, was hers in her suffering. When we suffer, we turn to the Lord, who came as light and life to the world. And we can light a candle to remind us of those words of Simeon who coupled forever the suffering with the Light. What beautiful sacramentals candles can be in the domestic church!

I've always loved candles; I am drawn to light and beauty. In candlelight, the hard edges of the world are softened. Now, I feel drawn to them as I'm drawn to prayer. Christ settles over the candlelit room and softens the edges of the harsh world while illuminating my soul with His holy will. We appeal to our senses when we prepare our homes with candles to use throughout the year.

For many years, my family has enjoyed advent candles. My children like to light them, like to snuff them, like to sing about lighting them. Those pink and purple tapers bring the liturgical year to light every night at our dinner table and I'm always sad to put them away. They are replaced right after advent with gold candles for the Christmas feast, but when that season ends, there are no candles on our table.

This year, I decided to buy some blue pillar candles for the table for the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God. I was so pleased with this new tradition (just once and it's a tradition), that I started thinking about how we could bring the liturgical year to our table all year 'round. Combined with traditional prayers keyed to the calendar, the candles would be a visual reminder of the life of Christ in the Church.

I researched traditional symbols for different seasons of the liturgical year and I bought pillar candles in appropriate colors. To the traditional green, purple, and gold or white, I added blue candles to use for Marian feasts. Next year, I will make the candles from beeswax, but in the interest of time, this year I purchased paraffin candles.

Using very thin beeswax, the children cut liturgical symbols and melted them onto the pillar candles. There are flowers and hearts on the Marian blue candles, fish and loaves of bread on the green candles, an empty tomb and an egg on the white candles for Easter. The result is a series of liturgical candles to use throughout the year at the dinner table.

Then, we made some blue novena candles using beeswax and soy wax with some blue dye in large Mason jars. We'll use these throughout the year on our Marian prayer table. I love the idea of a perpetual candle to remind us to continually come to the Blessed Mother for a good chat. What the children don't know is that my husband will be reminded on all the Marian feasts to bring home flowers for Mary. With fresh flowers and candlelight, this table will always look lovely.

We also have some tapers to bless. These belong with our miniature Mass kit. Katie is particularly fond of lighting candles when she sets the altar. And she is also fond of snuffing when she has finished there.

Finally, I stocked up on beeswax votive candles. These are sweet smelling candles that I will light when I offer my prayers for friends and family. And I ordered an extra box for Donna — I figure I've used at least that many in her house over the years.

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