The celebration of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple and its importance for Schoenstatt
On February 2, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple worldwide. Formerly it was called the Candlemas. What is the importance of this feast for Schoenstatt?
2. February 2021
In the Temple, the presentation and prophecy of Simeon
Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the Temple, to consecrate their first born to God, as was the custom at that time. Simeon and Anna, two very old people, who had spent all their life in prayer in the Temple, recognized Jesus as the Son of God and as the Messiah and they praised God for his gift to all people. Simeon prophesied to Mary that her son was destined for the rising and fall of many and that a sword would pierce her own heart, too.
How could Mary continue with her life after such a prophecy? The previous reference to the feast day as Candlemas indicates that she looks towards Jesus, the Light; that she lives from day to day – not in constant fear of what tomorrow may bring, when the sword strikes her. She gratefully contemplates what she has, sees and experiences today. She anchors her life in the heart of God, unperturbed by the storms around her. She has experienced: I am sheltered.
What does this teach us in terms of dealing with the pandemic?
In the concentration camp
Change of scene: Koblenz, 1942. Father Kentenich was imprisoned in September 1941, first for four weeks in a tiny, dark and airless bunker. After that he was moved to a prison. The way he radiated his total lack of anxiety and being sheltered by God impressed his fellow prisoners, as well as the prison guards. Since everything seemed to indicate that he would be transferred to a concentration camp, the Schoenstatt family tried to avoid it. They nearly succeeded. To have a chance of not going to the camp, all he had to do was sign to be examined a second time by a doctor who would declare him unfit for the concentration camp due to his long-standing lung condition.
After a long struggle, on the morning of January 20, 1942 he felt, when he secretly celebrated Holy Mass, that he should not undertake anything of his own accord. “Our priests need to take the Inscription seriously … then I will be free again“, he wrote to Father Menningen. In the weeks that followed, he wavered between hoping to be set free and preparing himself for going to the concentration camp. On February 2, the feast of Candlemas, he sensed that he would be released due to all the sacrifices and prayers made by the Schoenstatt family.
Hence, on this feast day, he composed the Hymn of Thanksgiving, that begins with „The chains have fallen!”. In stanza six it says:
“so that new men and women arise
who are, like Christ,
both free and firm on earth,
in joy and in sorrow,
interweaving with him alone
the striving of their hearts…“
Understanding the message
Although he was not set free, on the same day, a decision was made by the Gestapo, the State Secret Police, to send him to the Dachau concentration camp, rather than Mauthausen. This entire process is called in Schoenstatt the Candlemas vision. Since the end of the 1940s the concept of the Candlemas vision includes the intention for Schoenstatt’s spirituality to be understood by the members of the Movement, as well as the bishops and the Church.
Thanks to this sign, the feast day of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, or Candlemas, becomes significant. Will all the questions regarding the father and founder of the family eventually lead to a better and deeper understanding of Schoenstatt’s spirituality by its members, and thereby become fruitful not only in their own lives but also in the lives of their fellow human beings? Will this facilitate for the bishops and the Church a better insight into Schoenstatt’s spirituality and thereby find new ways of pastoral care? It’s up to us to make this a reality! Mary’s attitude in Temple, as well as Father Kentenich’s total surrender in prison to the will of God, gives us many practical hints for our own personal Candlemas vision!