|Liturgy by TLW|
The Presentation of Our Lord
by The Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
When the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord falls on a Sunday, there is an opportunity to have some fun with an ancient liturgy. The traditional liturgy for the day is called Candlemas, because of its ancient rite of blessing of the candles to be used in the church for the next year -- a practice dating from the middle of the fifth century.
In addition, the liturgy has also generally contained a procession to the church, much as Simeon and Anna came to the temple "to meet the Lord" (cf. chapter 26 of the Diary of Egeria in which the procession on quadragesimae de epiphania in Jerusalem of the fourth century is described).
There are many options with regard to both the procession and the blessing of candles. The candles (don't forget your bottles of liquid beeswax) may be placed in a hall outside the church or at the door of the church in a large narthex where the people may gather and then process into the church. Or the candles may be placed in the sanctuary in a place where everyone can see, with a procession to the chancel done by a representative group. The procession would be led by a crucifer and torches/acolytes.
Most rites call for the people to have hand candles that are lighted after an opening invocation, versicle and response, and during the singing of an appropriate choir antiphon or anthem, such as the Song of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis. Afterwards, the prayer of blessing of the candles is said and then the procession begins. The Prayer of the Day closes the rite, and hand candles are extinguished.
In the following, I have created a variation of the rite that occurs entirely within the church and involves the children in a procession that begins in the chancel and goes around the perimeter of the church, returning to the chancel at the end. A crucifer leads the procession. The children all carry hand candles, although many (if not most) are not lighted for obvious safety reasons. Adults may optionally have hand candles in their pews.
The liturgy below contains notes for the day, which are printed in italics in the bulletin. Candlemas has been popular enough that I have used it annually on the Sunday nearest Feb. 2.
The Exhortation and Opening Prayer are from The Sacramentary, Catholic Book Pub., 1974, p.889, alt. The other material is original.
A FESTIVAL SERVICE ON
THE PRESENTATION OF OUR LORD:
Welcome to our liturgy. This morning we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of our Lord in the temple at Jerusalem. Ancient Jewish law required that, following the birth of a firstborn male child, the mother must come to the temple after 40 days for purification and for presentation of the child to the Lord.
The presentation of Mary's child, however, was different from most. This was the Christ Child, Jesus, the Savior, the Messiah who had been promised. And he was recognized as such by the old prophet Simeon, who knew that this child was "a light for revelation to all nations." Thus the image of light carries an important part in today's liturgy and links itself with the Christmas season and its lights of the Advent wreath, the decorative tree lights, and the many candles of the Nativity celebration.
To mark this particular feast, the ancient tradition calls for 1) the blessing of candles to be used during the year and 2) a procession "to meet the Lord," just as Simeon and Anna went to the Temple and found the Christ there. The liturgy is called Candlemas (the Candle Mass).
At the beginning of today's liturgy, our children will gather in the chancel to hear about the significance of this day. After the blessing of the candles, they will represent the congregation in procession around the church as we all come into God's temple "to meet the Lord," who is the Light of the world.
Prelude & Announcements
Children's Sermon (explain the day, give instructions for the procession, hand out candles, no lighted ones to the youngest, invite them to "assist" with the blessing).
Invocation & Exhortation:
P. In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
P. Forty days ago we celebrated the joyful feast of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Today we recall the holy day on which he was presented in the temple, fulfilling the law of Moses and at the same time going to meet his faithful people. Led by the Spirit, Simeon and Anna came to the temple, recognized Christ as their Lord, and proclaimed him with joy. United by the Spirit, may we now go to the house of God to welcome Christ the Lord. There we shall recognize him in the breaking of bread until he comes again in glory. Let us pray. God our Father, source of all light, today you revealed to Simeon your Light of revelation to the nations. Bless + these candles and make them holy, that we who observe their light in your temple may come with joy to the light of glory. We ask this through Christ our Lord.
P. Let us go forth in peace to meet the Lord.
Processional Hymn "In His Temple Now Behold Him"
(May be sung to "Angels from the Realms of Glory")
After the procession:
P. Christ is the light of the nations:
C. And the glory of Israel his people.
P. The Lord be with you.
C. And also with you.
P. Let us pray. Almighty and ever-living God, your only-begotten Son was presented this day in the temple. May we be presented to you with clean and pure hearts by the same Jesus Christ, our great high priest, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (ELW)
Hand candles are extinguished and children return to their seats.
First Lesson: Malachi 3:1-4
Second Lesson: Hebrews 2:14-18
Gospel: St. Luke 2:22-40
Hymn of the Day "O God of God, O Light of Light"
Prayer of the Church
Offertory: "What Shall I Render"
A. Let us pray. Almighty God,
C. As Joseph and Mary brought gifts to the temple in thanksgiving for the birth of their son, so we offer tokens of our thankfulness for the blessings of that same Son. Accept them for the sake of the Child who was presented this day, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Preface for Christmas
Eucharistic Prayer (ELW III or LBW IV)
Lamb of God
Hymn "Our Father, by Whose Name"
Post-Communion Canticle: "Lord, Now You Let" or hymn version "O Lord, Now Let Your Servant"
A. Let us pray. God our Father, source of all light, you revealed to aged Simeon your light that enlightens all nations and have now filled our hearts with the light of faith through this holy supper. Lighten our path that we may walk in the way of holiness until we come to the Light that shines forever, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Blessing & Dismissal
Opt. Closing Hymn