Forty is said to be a Biblical number as many events in the Bible last for 40 days or happen after 40 days. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert or the flood on earth caused by incessant rains in the time of Noah for 40 days and nights.
The number has close connection with the Judaism that follows the Mosaic laws. Jesus Christ being a Jew and founder of Christianity, the Church continues to observe some of those customs.
Thus today February 2, is actually the 40th day after the birth of Jesus — Christmas and according to then existing Jewish custom He is brought for the first time to the Synagogue by his parents, to fulfill the rituals for the first born of the family. The Bible tells us that Mary and Joseph, belonging to the poorer section of society, “present” child Jesus in the temple with “an offering of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons”. That is why February 2, among Christians is known as the “Feast of the Presentation of the Lord”.
Hence in the church where I serve now in Austria, the Christmas decorations will be removed only now, though in some other churches they have been removed after January 6, the Feast of the three wise men of East who visited Child Jesus bringing him gifts of Gold, Myrrh and Incense.
Along with this, an additional reason for the importance of February 2 is related to the then Jewish custom was that Mary, the mother of Jesus too could leave her home and visit the Synagogue only after 40 days after giving birth to Jesus.
One of the important features of the liturgical celebration of today’s feast in churches is a candle light procession.
Among the different names and descriptions given to Jesus, He is also considered as the “Light of the World”. The candle light procession thus signifies that Jesus as Saviour of the World came to overcome the darkness of sin
by being the Light to a sinful world.
Light has significance also in other religions. Diwali being one of the most solemn festivals in India signifies again the victory of good over evil. While the little earthen oil lamps — “diyas” lighten up the whole surroundings, similar lit earthen lamps are also used in homes and temples during worship across the country. As God’s creatures each of us too carries within us His light. Let us then become aware that we too carry a responsibility using the light emanating from the lamps of our life to drive away the darkness of sin from our own life.
In doing so we play an important role to get rid of the evil of sin and darkness around us resulting in making ourselves and others worthy of being “presentable” in the House of God....