Today, we continue our reflections on the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary by looking at the Fourth Joyful Mystery: the Presentation.
One of the distinguishing features of the Christmas season is lights. As December rolls along, more and more homes light up inside and out with Christmas lights, which serve to dispel the darkness of winter. As each Sunday of Advent reaches us, an additional candle is lit on our Advent wreaths, increasing the light just as the light around us is reaching its lowest point of the year. And then, of course, there are the lights on our Christmas trees! Sometimes they are white, sometimes they are multi-colored, sometimes they blink, and sometimes they remain steady. Whatever the case may be, no Christmas tree is complete without lights.
And why is that? Well, if we look closely at a traditional Christmas tree, we will notice the following:
- A star or an angel on top of the tree—This symbolizes heaven or the divine.
- Ornaments and lights—These represent the stars and planets.
- A nativity scene under the tree—This, of course, represents the Incarnation, the Word made flesh.
Thus, the Christmas tree, as a whole, tells the story of the divine reaching down and connecting to earth. The lights play an important part in this story, since the light increases as the tree widens at the base. This represents the Light of the World that has come to dispel the darkness of sin.
As we reflect on the Fourth Joyful Mystery, the Presentation, we recognize instantly the significance of light in reference to Jesus, who would later refer to himself as the “light of the world.” In particular, the words of Simeon emphasize this notion of light as he proclaims with joy that his eyes have seen the One who will be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:32) It is no coincidence, then, that the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (also known as Candlemas) has traditionally been the day on which we bless candles that bring light into our homes.
Of course, the point of all of this is that we are to carry the light of Christ to a world that is mired in darkness. As we reflect on the Fourth Joyful Mystery, let us each ponder the ways we can bring this light to those we encounter: in our homes, at our places of work, in our communities, and in our world. And let us each pray for the light of Christ to dispel the darkness and despair that too often threaten our spiritual wellbeing.
Now, if you decide to leave your Christmas lights up until February 2, you have a good explanation for doing so, since, in many ways, the Feast of the Presentation is the real end of the Christmas season!
Image: Detail from “The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary” by Netherlandish Painter (possibly Goswijn van der Weyden, active by 1491, died after 1538), ca. 1515–20, public domain via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
With the hands-on Praying the Rosary kit, children use manipulatives to learn to pray the Rosary.