By Denise Trull
Candlemas is upon us once again. It is one of my favorite feasts in the Church year. It is the day of dancing flames. And candles, candles everywhere - glowing in the darkness like miniature, opened doorways to Eternal day.
The candles used for the rest of the year are blessed on this day. And we hear old Simeon’s words, “My eyes have seen the salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all the nations. A light of revelation to the Gentiles….”
Words that echo to the ceiling of this old, Southside Church and fill us with a gladness that we are the gentiles of whom he speaks. Christ has suddenly come to the temple. Christ has filled the world with light. Candlelight. And we rejoice.
It is a Mass filled with family loveliness; the loveliest thing being that our Pastor insists that all the little children be given a candle to hold as well, all lit with a tiny flame that mesmerizes them - their happiness for such a solemn duty is palpable because their Pastor trusts them with fire, they and their watchful mothers. And not one candle has ever dropped. These children’s faces, already beautiful, are made more so by candlelight entrusted to them in love. It is joy, it is wonder, it is singing and procession this, the Mass of the Candles.
What is the great revelation this night? What have Simeon’s old eyes seen? The answer is softly spread from one held candle to the other. A baby. Tiny as a candle flame. Simeon has seen a baby. And he has been allowed to hold Him with the quick smile and outstretched arms of Our Lady. And Simeon discovers in a shower of dazzling grace that he is gazing into the large, infant eyes of the “glory of his people Israel.” And Simeon believes.
Our Lady holds that Baby out to us all today. And we like the little children in the pews are allowed to hold His light within us through the flame of a tiny host. We are much like those little children. Perhaps we are nervous holding His light. We might feel we are too clumsy for such a duty. Too young in the faith. We might drop Him through sin. We might fail Him. We might let the world blow the flame out. We are so unworthy to carry His light in our trembling, fallen hearts. What was Our Lady thinking, letting us fallen mortals hold the light of the nations within us? This, her shining infant son. But she does.
She smiles and patiently shows us how to hold him - in humility, in meekness, in wonder. She trusts us like those little children in the pews are trusted by their loving Pastor, holding their candles tightly with determined concentration, little though they be. We also learn to carry His light and not be afraid, because He trusts us.
And then we start seeing these small but steady flames everywhere around us. People who are not afraid to receive the light and hold it high. Poets, writers, musicians who refuse to live in the darkness of the world and show us the beauty that lies beyond the darkness. That lovely older gentleman who listens to our doubts and lends us his tenacious optimism to carry us through a dark time. The absolution that hurls our sins into nothingness with the sign of our salvation. Every Host held high against the despair of the world and every priest who said yes to his vocation. The simple kindnesses, the much needed laughter of a friend at our foibles, a long awaited forgiveness suddenly extended. Children who love us in spite of our mistakes and impatience. Martyrs. Helpful husbands. Understanding wives. Lovely nuns in monasteries praying for us daily. Sacred artists painting us pictures of our homeland so we do not forget where we come from. Heartening hymns, prayers, and rosaries said over and over on our behalf. These are the candles that light the world - which are held in trembling but willing hands and who daily whisper one after the other, “Our Lady let me hold Him. Our Lady let me hold Him. And I have not let him go.”
Let us rejoice on this day of Candlemas. May we each know the dazzling grace of Christ that is held in our trembling but willing souls - lighting a world that shall never overcome it. Praise Him!