February 2nd, the 40th day after Christmas is known as Candlemas, though the lighted candle symbolizes only one of the four events being commemorated. The main event which is being commemorated is mentioned in the Gospel of Saint Luke: “When the days for their purification were completed according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2,22)
Two events overlap here, the purification of Mary and the presentation of Jesus. According to the law of Moses, a woman who gave birth to a boy was excluded from sacred worship until she offered a small sacrifice for her purification 40 days after the birth (Leviticus 12, 2-8). The law also required that a firstborn son was to be presented to the Lord, and then bought back by a payment to the temple (Exodus 13, 13).
Two other elements are added here, the Meeting, and the Light of the world. The Meeting (Hypapante in the Greek church) referred to two elderly people who were in the Temple in Jerusalem. They were Simeon and Anna, who were guided there by the Holy Spirit so that they could meet the six-week old Jesus, referred to by Simeon as “the light of the nations”. (Luke 2, 32) Simeon and Anna were praised for their constant presence in the temple, faithfully waiting the fulfillment of their promise.
There is one other participant, the temple priest, whose duty it was to take the new-born child from his parents, and offer him up to the Lord. The priest is not mentioned in the Gospel, but I think he deserves our attention. He was privileged that day, more than he could ever have dreamed, just because he was where he was supposed to be, doing what he was supposed to do.
I think that priest’s privilege of holding Mary’s Son in his arms is an encouragement to all of us. You may find the routine of daily work monotonous and even boring, but remember that temple priest. By being faithful to where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to do, you may have the unexpected privilege one day of making contact with someone whose presence will change your life for all eternity.