St. Anastasia Parish in Newtown Square marked the Feb. 2 feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – also known as Candlemas Day – with an evening Mass and a procession with the rite of blessing of candles.
On that day the Catholic Church celebrates the biblical account of Simeon’s proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah when he was brought by Mary and Joseph to the Temple in Jerusalem as a means of presenting him to God the Father. Simeon exclaimed he could die a peaceful death for he saw the salvation of the world in the “light of revelation,” the child Jesus (cf. Luke 2:22-38) – thus the symbolism of the light of a candle.
This was the first year that St. Anastasia celebrated this feast with so much solemnity.
When Father Brandon Artman, parochial vicar, was studying at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, he always enjoyed taking part in this particular celebration as an organist and music director. The feast included an elaborate candle blessing and a procession of the entire seminary community early in the day.
He hoped one day to continue this annual tradition when assigned to a parish. With the encouragement of Father Michael Colagreco, pastor, it happened.
“Our parishioners appreciate our efforts at making the feasts and solemnities extra special,” said Father Artman. “Of course, we offer it all for the glory of God.”
Folks brought candles from home to be blessed on Candlemas Day, joining those in the parish church that were blessed for use in for liturgies throughout the year.
“I brought my own candles to be used at special times coming up,” said Andrea Clancy, a parishioner of St. Anastasia. “It’s a nice message you get from tonight. It was very uplifting.”
Approximately four dozen parishioners and guests of St. Anastasia came out for the Mass and blessing rite. Father Artman presided over the liturgy with Father Colagreco concelebrating and Deacon Christopher Hilden assisting at the altar.
Joe Holden provided the music and the hymn “Christ Be Our Light” was sung as the congregation came together to celebrate the Eucharist.
“Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel,” said Deacon Hilden as he proclaimed Simeon’s words in the Gospel reading.
In his homily, Father Artman explained how Simeon realized who Jesus was in the Temple, and that the holy man could see the salvation that God had been preparing. Father Artman drew the connection between Jesus as the light for the Gentiles and how light guides people through the long dark days of winter, bringing people together through the light of candles.
“We’re looking for light,” said Father Artman. “Jesus was presented as a light to shine. Candles speak as a light from God.”
Before the final blessing, Father Artman reminded everyone they obtain the gift of eternal life through Christ.
Mass concluded with the hymn “I Want to Walk as a Child of Light.”
“I thought it was beautiful,” said Clancy. “I found it very uplifting.”
Jean Blaisse of St. Anastasia also brought her own candles that were a handmade gift from a friend. She said her friend relies on lighted candles to maintain concentration during prayer, so she is going to give that a try herself this coming Lent.
“I’m going to use them when I say my daily prayer,” said Blaisse.
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