Forty days after Christmas, the Catholic Church holds the blessing of Candles, which is one of the three principal blessings observed by the Church annually; the other two are those of the Ashes and of the Palms, which falls on during the Holy Week. The feast of February 2 has different names in the Church. It has been called the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and, more familiarly, Candlemas or Candelaria. Each name highlights a different aspect of the feast that the Church celebrates, although is refers to the events that happened during Jesus’ fortieth day.
In Leviticus 12:2-8, in accordance to the Mosaic law, a woman who had given birth to a son should not approach the Tabernacle for the term of forty days; after which time she was to offer a sacrifice for her purification. Our Savior was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and His blessed Mother remained an immaculate virgin, which means that she was under no obligation to follow the law of purification. The Virgin Mary, being a humble and a faithful Jew, followed the law and did what was required of her and approached the priest with the proper offering to be declared “clean.” This is the highlight of the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
By another Jewish tradition, every first-born son was to be considered as belonging to God, and was to be redeemed by a small sum of money. The Virgin Mary and St. Joseph took the now 40 day old baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem to present him to God, in accordance with Jewish law. They offered a sacrifice prescribed for the poor: a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Virgin Mary understood that Jesus had to be brought to the Temple, not to be redeemed like other first-born children, but to be offered to God as a true sacrifice. This is where the Feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus came from. We also meditate this event in the fourth joyful mystery of the Holy Rosary.