Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Candlemas Day


Adorn thy bridal chamber, O Sion, and receive Christ the King. Salute Mary, the gate of Heaven; for she beareth the King of Glory, Who is the new Light....

Antiphon for feast of the Presentation of the Lord

On the fortieth day after Christmas we celebrate the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, where He is offered by His Mother and St Joseph to the Eternal Father for the sins of the world. Many prophecies were fulfilled that day, unknown at the time except to Mary and Joseph, Simeon and Anna, all persons of prayer and of special consecration to God. In a time of great darkness there was suddenly and quite publicly a great light, to be received only by those whose hearts were open. A small Child is the ultimate sacrifice for the redemption of humanity, but He is not alone; He is with His family. The Holy Family stand between us and utter chaos and despair. Like the Child Jesus, we do not make our offering alone, we make it with Mary and Joseph, we make it in the context of our own families.

Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; and thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. --St. Luke 2:34-35
The "Purification of Our Lady" as the feast is traditionally called, is a feast of the Virgin as well as the Virgin's Son. We marvel at the humility of Immaculate Mary who submits to the ritual of purification for all Jewish mothers, although she herself had no need to be purified. It is also known as Candlemas Day because since early times, candles have been blessed and carried in procession in honor of Christ, the Light of the World.

At Christmas, we adored Him with the shepherds at dawn; at Epiphany, we rejoiced in the brightness of His manifestations to the nations; at Candlemas, with the aged Simeon, we take Him into our arms. With the prophetic words of Simeon, the day also becomes a preparation for Lent and the Passion of Our Lord. We must offer ourselves with Jesus to the Father; we must embrace our own purification.

This feast day links Christmas with Lent, the joyful mysteries with the sorrowful mysteries. Mary's Heart is pierced as Simeon's prophecy is uttered, for a mother suffers for her child, especially when that Child is God. Fr Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. wrote so magnificently of this feast in his book Divine Intimacy:
O Jesus, through the hands of Mary, I wish to offer myself today with You to the eternal Father. But You are a pure, holy, and Immaculate Host, while I am defiled with misery, and sin....O Virgin Most pure, lead me along the way of a serious and thorough purification; accompany me yourself, so that my weakness will not make me faint because of the roughness of the road.
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