First of all, happy Candlemas! Candlemas has traditionally been the final day of the Christmas Season although today there are differences between Calendars in the Catholic Church. In the Old Calendar, it is the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary while, in the New Calendar, it is the Presentation. In both the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is remembered, but in the Latin Mass, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Purification is given special emphasis. I attended a beautiful Latin Mass today at the Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia in which candles were lighted. It emanated such hope with the illumination of that light that the troubles of the world and the Church seem possible to overcome with the Light of Christ.
How can we benefit from this day in the interior life, especially amidst troubles, sufferings, and struggles with faith?
I find it helpful to reflect on the joy and sorrow of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple and the Prophecy of Simeon. There are other topics that we can focus on like the Light of Christ, but joy and sorrow are helpful because they reach so many aspects of the Catholic Faith.
Today I was praying in front of a creche of the Infant Jesus at the Carmelite Monastery – a cradle with the Infant Jesus inside. His captivating facial expression makes me think that He wanted to share His joy with the world and love everybody in it. However we know that the Infant Jesus is not loved throughout the world – that, even with this offering of joy and love, the world hated Him enough to crucify Him. This reality breaks my heart. I can understand the pain of the Blessed Virgin when Simeon told her about the piercing of her soul when Christ was presented to him. It was a prophecy of the Passion, and her Child, Who wants to love us all, would be hated by the world. In the joy of presenting her Son, she already experienced sorrow from the pain that He would undergo – He, an Innocent Child and her God! The Infant that I saw in the creche would have His joy and love rejected and would be killed because of our sins.
Still God has a way of drawing joy from sorrowful situations – for instance, taking the sorrows of Good Friday and bringing from them the joy of Christ’s Resurrection. In the midst of the Blessed Virgin’s sorrow, we can see that her hope was always present as her faith was, mirroring how they would be during her Passion.
Then how can the Presentation and the Prophecy of Simeon help in prayer?
The meeting of joy and sorrow is an opportunity to work on cultivating joy in the midst of suffering – something connected with sorrow. In prayer we can be reminded that joy and sorrow might come alongside each other, that sorrow might give way to joy, and that times of joy might be followed by sorrow. For people who are suffering, it can help to reflect on sorrow and joy together as they might view their sufferings in light of the Passion and Resurrection. They might see the value of being joyful in the midst of suffering and think of the joy of Heaven as a reward for enduring suffering well. It can increase their love to see the joy that Christ offers us, even in the midst of the sufferings of life.
There are other areas of emphasis. We could meditate on Christ’s love in the context of the Prophecy of Simeon and the Presentation, for instance. That can be helpful motivation to endure times of suffering well for the sake of loving Christ.
Considering the helpfulness of these topics, what means are available to pray about them?
We could do Lectio Divina with a passage taken from the Prophecy of Simeon. We could pray a devotion related to the Seven Sorrows of Mary. The Prophecy of Simeon is one of those Sorrows, and there is an emphasis on the piercing of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as described earlier. In addition it is possible to pray about the Presentation in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. For that matter, mental prayer in general could be done, and that could entail various means. For instance we could meditate with a statue of the Infant Jesus in front of us.
We do not have to limit meditating on these topics to the Christmas Season. It can be done at any time, and they might give way to others.
There is another post related to meditating on the Presentation and the Prophecy of Simeon. It is “The Incarnation, the Eucharist, and the Passion”: olsprayerforbroken.wordpress.com/2021/01/09/the-incarnation-the-eucharist-and-the-passion/. It might be helpful to try combining all or some of these topics in mental prayer in and outside of the Christmas Season. That can be done by meditating on the Presentation or the Prophecy of Simeon and focusing specifically on how they relate to the Incarnation, the Eucharist, and/or the Passion, for instance.