The Presentation in the Temple ~ Philippe de Champaigne
The Feast of Candlemas, which derives its origin from the local observance of Jerusalem, marks the end of the Feasts included in the Christmas cycle of the liturgy. It is perhaps the most ancient festival of Our Lady. It commemorates, however, not only the obedience of the Blessed Virgin to the Mosaic Law in going to Jersualem forty days after the birth of her Child and making the accustomed offerings, but also the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, and the meeting of the Infant Jesus with the old man Simeon -- the Occursus Domini, as the Feast was originally termed. This is the principal theme of the liturgy on this day: Jesus is taken into the Temple "to present Him to the Lord." So the Lord comes to His own Temple, and is met by the aged Simeon with joy and recognition.
The procession on this day is one of the most picturesque features of the Western liturgy. The blessing and distribution of candles, to be carried lighted in procession, preceded the Mass today -- a symbolic presentation of the truth proclaimed in the Canticle of Simeon: Our Lord is the "Light for the revelation of the Gentiles." The anthems sung during this procession, eastern in origin, well express the joy and gladness of this happy festival, and the honor and praise we give to our Blessed Lady and her Divine Son by this devout observance.