This Feast has many names. It is called the Purification because Our Lady, some what more than a month after the birth of Our Blessed Lord, came to the Temple to make the poor woman's offering a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons to satisfy a law by which she was not bound. It is called also the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, because Our Saviour was offered to God by Mary His Mother and redeemed with the five shekels of sacred silver commanded by Moses. It is also called Candlemas Day, because of Simeon's word, "a light to the revelation of the Gentiles."
To make this beautiful thought come home to us by means of the senses, the Church puts into our hands a burning candle. We see its flame, feel its warmth, and are gladdened by its brilliancy. This light is the symbol of the little Child Saviour; He is brightness, comfort, enlightenment. We are to carry Him, as we carry the candle, to our homes, and keep Him with us to illumine our darkness, cheer us in coldness, safeguard us in fear. The shadow of Lent is already upon us; very few days more are given to the childhood of Our Lord. We shall soon have to turn to the "Man of Sorrows." But whilst He is still with us in Baby-beauty, let us take Him to our hearts, try to grow in His love, so that when sorrow creeps into His soul and overwhelms it we may be there to share it and to comfort Him.
There is another source of comfort in this beautiful Gospel story. We see Simeon and Anna in extreme old age delighting in God, and God delighting in them. Simeon, "just and devout," has been kept waiting all his years for 'the consolation of Israel." Day by day the promise to see the "salvation of God," the "light of the Gentiles," the " joy of Israel," has brought him to the house of God. And day by day the promise was deferred. Youth passed, early manhood, ripe maturity, old age. Then, led once again by the Spirit into the Temple, his eyes saw the "salvation prepared for all peoples," he held in his arms and pressed to his breast the Child Jesus, and in the joy of his heart he sang a canticle that has become the song of joy of departing day and of departing life: a song to be sung when hopes are fulfilled, trust made good, promises kept a song of overflowing thankfulness. Simeon was old, and had waited years confiding in God, trusting in His Word. And that Lord, though He kept him waiting, rewarded him even here below with rapturous joy.
Anna, a prophetess far advanced in years, dedicates her widowhood to God, departs not from the Temple night nor day, "by fastings and prayers serving the Lord." And the day of her reward came as it came to Simeon. Her prophetic eyes, like his, are gladdened by the sight of the Little One of Israel; her seer's soul perceives the majesty of the Jewish Babe, and she "confesses to the Lord and speaks of Him to all who look for the redemption of Israel."
And what lesson are we to learn? This: Simeon and Anna in extreme old age are delighting in God; there is no sense of emptiness in their hearts as in the hearts of worldlings; they have not grown disgusted with the Temple and the God of the Temple; there is no cry of despair in their simple hearts such as there was in that of the world's wise man.
We can learn still more, and with greater comfort still. God is delighting in them. See what kind His servants are "a doting old man and woman," the business man would say. Oh, get them put aside, he would add; "we cannot do with such in the service; we want muscular hands, quick brains, the strength of youth, the alertness of manhood. These are too feeble; they must make way; they have had their day." And the old man quits his desk and the old woman drops her needle; they are dismissed, and must manage as best they can. Not so with our God. We see the withered hands of fourscore and four years still raised in the Temple; we hear her works of "fastings and prayers" called in Holy Scripture "serving." She is sent as a messenger "to all that look for the redemption of Israel" a messenger at eighty-four !
In Simeon's shaking arms is laid the Creator of the world; his trembling lips are charged to break to Mary the news of her coming sorrow ; his feeble voice must sing the model thanksgiving song of all time. And he on the brink of the grave !
Do not we who serve God serve a good Master ? Need we fear that in our old age, in the days of our weakness, we shall be cast out, put aside ? Do we not see that with Him old age is acceptable, that His sanctuary, His service, His rewards are open to the old as to the young, to the weak as to the strong ? Oh ! we need be very happy in our service, very full of praise and rejoicing : "Glorify the Lord as much as ever you can, for He will yet far exceed ; and His magnificence is wonderful." We shall say much and yet shall want words, but the sum of our words is, He is all" (Ecclus. xliii. 29).
Source: Saints and Festivals, Imprimatur 1913
A coloring picture can be found below.