This Sunday (February 2) is the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus Christ, also known as Candlemas, and part of our worship gathering will be a blessing of candles to be used this coming year in worship and personal prayer.
Candlemas is one of the oldest feasts of the Christian church, celebrated since the early 4th century, and a tradition developed of people bringing candles to their local church, where they are blessed to be used for the rest of the year in prayer.
So if you have candles you use for personal prayer and devotion, you are invited to bring them to church this Sunday to be blessed!
“Why are we always blessing ordinary things around here?” you might ask. Think of it as a way of setting a common thing apart for a special use, much like the water in the baptismal we use each Sunday to remind us of our baptism, or the bread and wine we use for Holy Communion, or the blessing we pray before eating a meal.
It also helps us inhabit a more sacramental way of seeing the world. We’ve been brainwashed by secularism to think that the created world is just “ordinary” and that it doesn’t have much to do with God. But Scripture paints a very different picture for us. Creation is anything but “ordinary” or “neutral.” The world is in fact “charged with the grandeur of God,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins put it, and God communicates his presence to us through the created order, not in spite of it.
So learning to see created things, like bread, wine, water, chalk, candles, and other people as holy and capable of ministering God’s presence to us is a vital task for us today.
The candles we use in prayer and worship are an outward and visible sign of the inward and invisible light of Christ who shines on our heart and inner being. Lighting a candle in prayer symbolizes the presence of Jesus, “the true light that shines on everyone that has come into the world” (John 1:5).
So, following the practice of the ancient church, we’ll bless candles on Sunday to be used for prayer and worship. Pick up some extra candles this week to use in prayer, and bring them to worship on Sunday to be blessed! If you’d like to order some candles, I use these and they work very well.