HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD .
THEME: CANDLE MASS VS CHILD DEDICATION!
BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr).
HOMILY FOR FEBRUARY 2ND.
* Mal 3: 1 – 4, Heb 2: 14 – 18, Lk 2: 22 – 40.
Today’s feast has multifaceted perspectives. Should we talk about the purification of the mother after birth, the thanksgiving /offering for the gift of a new child or the dedication of the child to God? Purification (nnucha), Offering (onyinye) and Dedication (nrunye) are the 3 essential arms of Religion. The purification of the mother after child birth was a strong Jewish practice going by the belief that every woman that passes through the odious process of childbearing has been contaminated with impurities. But incidentally, this ancient practice has no parallel in the Christian faith today. The Catholic Church firmly holds that no taint whatsoever calling for purification of any kind is incured by a mother at childbirth.
The feast of the presentation of the Lord was introduced into the whole of Eastern Church by Justinian 1 in the year 526 AD and celebrated 40 days after Christmas. It came to be called ‘Candlemas’ when, in the 8th century, Pope Sergius introduced the Solemn procession of clergy and laity carrying blessed lighted candles into the Church as a tacit reminder that Christ came as a light to the Gentiles. I am interested in the dimension of child dedication that this feast connotes today.
Of all the gifts of God, there is none that we can be so answerable to God as the gift of a child. The lietmotif of today’s gospel is that ‘The child grew to maturity and was filled with wisdom and God’s favour was upon him’. Our ‘Uka nwa’ or Churching ceremony is first a thanksgiving to God for saving the woman from the Labour sufferings. Genesis 3 :16 placed a curse on every woman: ‘I shall give you an intense pain in child bearing’, therefore every Christian mother celebrates her redemption from this curse after every maternity. The second point is thanksgiving for the gift of salvation to a child after infant baptism. Then the third is the prayer for divine wisdom and favour on the new born child.
The 3 revelations in today’s gospel therefore are about salvation, suffering and growth. Today, whether we do it as a candle mass or Churching /child dedication, we should never lose sight of the pedagogical import of this all important celebration. It is for me the best day for infant baptism, thanksgiving and prayer of dedication. May God bless you today!
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