January is winding down, and we’re heading into the shortest month — and perhaps the month that’s least appreciated.
February doesn't get the attention it deserves. It falls between Christmas exhaustion and Lenten aversion, and it seems — to many Catholics — to be a month without a particular religious character.
In popular culture, February is all about Valentine’s Day — which would be fine if we celebrated love as part of our commemoration of the martyr, St. Valentine. But we don’t. The good saint has been eclipsed by Cupid and candy.
I’m making a plea for the recovery of February as a time of light. It begins, after all, with the great feast of the Presentation — formerly known as Candlemas — on Feb. 2.
At the Presentation, old Simeon sang a new song to his people. Simeon straddled the Testaments. Through the last years of the Old, he knew with a prophet’s certainty that he would see the fulfillment of God’s promises. He looked at the baby Jesus and saw that here was the “light to enlighten the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32). Here was the glory of his people, Israel. Here, in the arms of a young Jewish mother, was the New Testament.
Simeon had lived to see the baby, and that was enough. His eyes had seen salvation, and he could depart in peace and happily rest in the revelation.
The big deal about February should be that kind of rest. After the blare of Christmas, but before the demands of Lent, we can rest for a moment in what we know to be true. We can anticipate the rest we hope to know in heaven.
For we — even more than Simeon — are privileged to see salvation with our very eyes. We see the same Jesus whenever we go to Mass, and we know ourselves to be in heaven. For heaven is the presence of Jesus among his saints.
The Mass anticipates heaven, but in a real way. Jesus will not be more present for us in heaven than he is in the Mass. When we present ourselves for holy Communion, we receive the fullness of the Savior’s grace and glory. The only difference in heaven is that then we shall see him as he is. The difference will be in us, not him.
In February it will be good for us to see the Mass by the light of Candlemas. But maybe we can take a step further. Sometime this month we can make a small effort — a simple commitment — to immerse ourselves in eucharistic doctrine when Lent begins in the first days of March.
Read chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel. Kick back with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and read points 1322-1355. Go to Angelus News online and re-read Mike Aquilina’s series on the Eucharistic Prayer.
Here’s a chance for us to be like Simeon, and to acknowledge the salvation that God has prepared — the glory of his people.