Origin of this Feast:
The fortieth day after Christmas-Epiphany was celebrated in Jerusalem as Egeria attests around 386 AD. The procession with candles was added around 450 AD. In the 6th century the feast made its way to Syria and was then accepted at Constantinople under the name ‘Meeting’ (Gk - Hypapante ): Meeting of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ with Simeon. Rome accepted this feast in the second half of the 7th century. The French liturgies of the 18th century replaced it with the title ‘Presentation of the Lord’ which the Roman calendar adopted in 1969. At the end of 7th century, during the time of Pope Sergius I the procession took place at the dawn of 2nd February. Everyone in the procession carried a candle, but the ceremony had a penitential character. The pope and deacons wore black vestements and the emperor walked barefoot. The blessing of candles made its appearance only in the 10th century in the Germanic world.
How is this feast celebrated today?
The celebration of the Presentation is marked by a procession with candles and a preceding blessing. The service begins with an exhortation calling to mind the meeting of Jesus and Simeon and leads to the meeting of the Christian assembly with the Lord in the breaking of the bread, which in turn is an anticipation of the definitive meeting in glory. The procession takes place with the singing of the Nunc Dimittis.
Extract from the Sermon of St. Sophronius of Jerusalem – “Let us all run to meet Him, we who honour and venerate the mystery of the Lord with pious devotion. Let us all go to meet Him with eager minds. Let there be no one who does not share in this meeting, let no one refuse to carry a light. We add to this the bright shining of candles. In this way we show forth the divine splendor of the coming of Him who makes all things bright, in the abundance of whose eternal light all things are bathed in light….. That true light which enlightens every man coming into this world, has come. Brethren, let us all be enlightened, let us all be filled with light……”