Candlemas: Feast of the Presentation of the Lord. 2nd February.

On this beautiful Feast of the Presentation of the Lord I extend to the Religious and those living a vocation to the Consecrated Life my blessing and thanks.

 This day brings us Light, as Jesus is recognised by the old man Simeon,

‘ . . . the Light to enlighten the Gentiles, and give glory to Your people, Israel!’

The delicate light of our candles captures a spirit of personal prayer and delight far more effectively than comes from the electric bulbs, even when dimmers are used. There is something alive in the candle flame, just as there is something alive to the Lord in the vocation to the Religious Life and the Consecrated Life.

Mary and Joseph present the first-born child of their family to God. This moves us to be generous in our service to the Lord because He has been generous to us. No second-best will do here. The words from the Christmas Carol come to mind,

‘What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man I would do my part – yet what I can I give him, give my heart.’

Then comes the prophetess, Anna, who never left the Temple. She recognised the child as the focus of her praise and the motivation for her fasting. She had been saving herself for this moment, even though she had not known when this moment would come. What a beautiful thing it is to find elderly people joyful, full of hope and enthusiasm for life. There is an obvious youthfulness in these characters as Mary and Joseph almost become spectators to the action!

A temptation of our times is to put people to rest before their time, to retire them whilst they still have an important work to do. This Gospel story from St.Luke’s second chapter reveals the vocation of life up to the last stage, up to its completion. May you be given the gift of perseverance because you have found the Messiah, and you are full of a joy that this world cannot give or inspire.

With my blessing on you as individuals and as members of Religious Congregations, Institutes and Movements of Consecrated Apostolic Life,

+Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster