The Presentation of the Lord, popularly known as “Candlemas,” traditionally concludes the celebration of Christmas. It commemorates the presentation of Jesus in the Temple forty days after his birth, an occasion when offerings were made and the mother was ritually purified. Simeon’s prophecy referred to Jesus as “a light to enlighten the pagans,” summing up the Christmas theme of light coming into the darkness, but also points towards the Paschal Mystery, for He was “destined to be a sign that is rejected” (cf Lk 2:22-40).
February 2 is the 19th World Day of Consecrated Life, a commemoration begun by Blessed John Paul II in 1997.
In his message for the 1st World Day of Consecrated Life, the Pontiff explained that the day has three purposes:
In the first place, it answers the intimate need to praise the Lord more solemnly and to thank him for the great gift of consecrated life, which enriches and gladdens the Christian community by the multiplicity of its charisms and by the edifying fruits of so many lives totally given to the cause of the Kingdom …
In the second place, this day is intended to promote a knowledge of and esteem for the consecrated life by the entire People of God … The third reason regards consecrated persons directly. They are invited to celebrate together solemnly the marvels which the Lord has accomplished in them, to discover by a more illumined faith the rays of divine beauty spread by the Spirit in their way of life, and to acquire a more vivid consciousness of their irreplaceable mission in the Church and in the world.
Immersed in a world which is often agitated and distracted, taken up sometimes by the press of responsibilities, consecrated persons also will be helped by the celebration of this annual World Day to return to the sources of their vocation, to take stock of their own lives, to confirm the commitment of their own consecration.
The World Day of Consecrated Life is held on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the Pope explained, because “the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple is an eloquent icon of the total offering of one’s life for all those who are called to show forth in the Church and in the world, by means of the evangelical counsels the characteristic features of Jesus — the chaste, poor and obedient one.”
In Vita Consecrata, the 1996 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Saint John Paul II wrote of the different forms of consecrated life as “the many branches which sink its roots into the Gospel and brings forth abundant fruit in every season of the Church’s life.” These diverse forms include: Monastic Life, the Orders of Virgins, Hermits, and Institutes completely devoted to contemplation, Apostolic Religious Life, Secular Institutes, Societies of Apostolic Life, and new or renewed forms of the consecrated life (cf. Vita Consecrata, 6-12). Each form is described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.