A young family worships at the Candlemas Mass at St. Stephen Parish in Southeast Portland. The Feb. 2 feast day honors the presentation of Jesus in the temple and the purification of Mary. (Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel)
A young family worships at the Candlemas Mass at St. Stephen Parish in Southeast Portland. The Feb. 2 feast day honors the presentation of Jesus in the temple and the purification of Mary. (Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel)

From the northern edge of the archdiocese to the southern edge, Catholics celebrated Candlemas with special liturgies.

The feast day, which occurs annually on Feb. 2, honors the presentation of Jesus in the temple and the purification of Mary.

The traditional liturgy for Candlemas includes the distribution of candles, as well as a procession around the church. Holding candles, the faithful walk around the building while Candlemas antiphons are sung. St. Stephen Parish in Southeast Portland and Sacred Heart Parish in Medford both celebrated the traditional liturgy at the beginning of Sunday Masses.

The feast day is one of the oldest in the church. It marks the official end of the Christmas season.

In his homily to Massgoers, Father Eric Anderson said Catholics look forward to the little candles lit during Mass becoming a large candle at the Resurrection.

“Right now we have a little candle in honor of baby Jesus.”

But Jesus grows from infancy, gaining wisdom and knowledge. He’s tempted in the desert and he travels with his apostles gathering disciples.

He “gets on the nerves of the Pharisees, Sadducees and high priests and will be put to death,” said Father Anderson. “But when he rises again, it will be a big candle. And we will bring that big candle, with another procession, back into this church.”

Candlemas is one of the most beautiful liturgies in the church’s year, said Father Stephen Kenyon, parochial vicar at Shepherd of the Valley Parish in Central Point. Father Kenyon celebrated the Candlemas Mass at Sacred Heart.

The priest went on to explain that the feast day is celebrated with a candlelit procession in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Mass. However, there are some differences between the liturgies. In the extraordinary form, a solemn blessing begins the Mass and candles are distributed to the faithful in the same manner as Communion. The priest gives each person a candle.

“The reason is that the candle symbolizes Christ, who as Simeon proclaimed is the Light of the Nations,” said Father Kenyon. “Then the candles are lit and the procession begins: God’s people are taking the light of Christ to the nations.”

The priest added that in the extraordinary form, the candles are lit not only at the beginning of Mass for the procession, but also during the Gospel and the Consecration.

The candles lit at these times represent “a sign that Christ, the ‘True Light’ who has come into the world, is revealed to us at the proclamation of the Gospel and in his true presence in the Eucharist.”

“For me, one of the most profound moments came when I elevated the chalice after consecration. There reflected in the gold of the chalice I could see the lit candles of the people kneeling in adoration. What a powerful sign: in that chalice at that moment was the Light of the World himself — the very same one who extends his light to all who believe in him and receive his light through baptism,” concluded Father Kenyon.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org