Tomorrow is traditionally the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is also known as Candlemas. There are references to light in the liturgy and we bless candles.
Candlemas is the conclusion of the Advent/Christmas cycle. We are 40 days from the Nativity of our Lord. The Law required that first-born sons were to be presented, offered in the Temple and the ritual purification of the mother took place. Mary and Joseph fulfilled the Law and encountered the prophetess Anna and old Simeon, who had been awaiting the Messiah. Simeon takes the Child in his arms and pronounced his Nunc Dimittis, which we repeat each night at Compline, and told Mary that a “sword” would pierce her heart.
Greek Christians call this Hypapanti or “encounter”, that is, of the young and old, Christ and Simeon, the New covenant and the passing Old.
Liturgically, the Marian Antiphon and response changes. We have been singing Alma Redemptoris Mater since the beginning of Advent. This ends on Candlemas. Hereafter we sing Ave Regina Caelorum through Lent until Spy Wednesday of Holy Week.
Because of the antiquity of the feast, there are many cultural traditions for its celebration. For example, in some French speaking regions it is customary to eat crêpes, in Mexico tamales.
There is some lovely poetry connected to Candlemas, such an evocative day. Robert Herrick has his “Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve”, the last stanza of which was set to music by Kate Rusby. Christina Georgina Rossetti has her “A Candlemas Dialogue”. St. John Henry Newman wrote a poem “Candlemas”.
Here is “A Song For Simeon”, in free verse, by the greatest poet of the 20th century, T.S. Eliot: