Today the Church celebrates Candlemas, otherwise known as the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the Light of the World (Luke 2:22-40). It was in Gaul (modern-day France) that processions with candles began to mark this event, the official end of the celebration of the Nativity.
Jesus, like all Jewish firstborn sons, was consecrated to the Lord. Mary and Joseph took the child to the temple in Jerusalem at the time he was to be circumcised and offered the sacrifice of two pigeons, the offering of a poor couple who could not afford a more expensive animal sacrifice. Only Mary and Joseph, and possibly Simeon and Anna would have known that the ultimate and final sacrifice, the true Lamb of God, was being presented in the temple. And only they would have known that here was the true temple – the Body of Christ (cf. John 2:19-22 ).
The Ark of the Covenant, which used to be housed in the Jerusalem Temple, had been missing since Jeremiah hid it from invading marauders in 586 BC. Yet, the true Ark, the Ark of the New Covenant, Mary, was now entering the temple with her divine Son. She brought the Light of the World into the world. Saint Alphonsus of Liguori, in The Glories of Mary, says, “Saint Simeon received a promise from God that he should not die until he had seen the Messiah born…but he did not receive this grace except by means of Mary, for he did not see the Savior until he saw him in the arms of Mary. Hence, whoever wishes to find Jesus, will not find him except through Mary.”