This feast, celebrated on February 2/15, is also named The Meeting of the Lord. This is the final feast related to the Nativity of Christ, a period that began in November with the Nativity fast.
Today we commemorate the entrance of the Lord into his temple and his meeting with the elder Simeon. At the time of the Gospel reading, Luke 2:22-40, the Ark of God’s presence had not been in the Holy of Holies for almost 500 years, until the God of Israel entered the temple himself in the form of a Child. The Light was seen in the temple for the first time in half a millennium, for those with eyes to see.
As early as 450AD in Jerusalem, to commemorate that Light, people began the custom of holding lighted candles during the Divine Liturgy of this feast day. The blessing of candles on this day was so important in ancient England that it became known as Candlemas.
In Orthodox tradition, these candles are kept by the faithful, for use in your prayers, or to be lit during storms, crises, trouble or illness, in order to make present the prayers of the whole Church, in the same way that holy water blesses everyone it touches. Some fathers have made beeswax candles an illustration of the incarnation – as virgin bees produce pure beeswax, so from the Virgin Theotokos we receive Christ the Light.
The story of the Presentation is told in Luke 2:22-40. Mary and Joseph were observant Jews, so in observance of the command in Leviticus 12, Mary came to the temple for purification on the fortieth day after birth.
At this time the righteous elder Simeon (February 3) was living in Jerusalem. It had been revealed to him that he would not die until he beheld the promised Messiah. By divine inspiration, Saint Simeon went to the temple on the day when Joseph and Mary had brought the Child Jesus to fulfill the law.
Simeon received the divine Child in his arms, and giving thanks to God, he spoke the words the Church sings each evening at Vespers: “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people, a light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32). Simeon said to the Virgin: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be spoken against. Yes, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35).
At the Temple was an 84-year-old widow, Saint Anna the Prophetess (February 3), “who did not leave the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:38). In the icon of the feast she holds a scroll which reads: “This Child has established Heaven and earth.”
Troparion, Tone 1
Hail, O Virgin Theotokos, full of grace! From thee shone the Sun of Righteousness, Christ our God, enlightening those in darkness! Rejoice, O righteous Elder; thou hast received in thine arms the Redeemer of our souls, who grants us the resurrection.
Kontakion, Tone 1
By thy birth, thou hast sanctified the Virgin’s womb, and blessed Simeon’s hands as was meet, O Christ God; by anticipation thou hast saved us even now. Grant peace to thy faithful people, and strengthen the hierarchs thou hast loved, O thou who alone lovest mankind.