Skip to comments.Feast of the Purification (Candlemas)
Posted on 02/01/2008 11:21:02 PM PST by Salvation
Mary, of course, didn't need this purification -- which Catholic women imitate, in a sense, with the rite of the Churching of Women -- but she submitted out of obedience to the Law. Also, as the Lukan verses revealed, Our Lady and St. Joseph presented Jesus to the Temple for His "redemption," also per the Law:
Exodus 13:2, 12-13:
This "redeeming of the firstborn," known as pidyon ha-ben in Hebrew, is why this day is also known as "Feast of the Presentation." Now, there are two things here to carefully note:
Also commemorated on this "Feast of Light" ("Lichtmess" in German) or "Feast of the Candles" ("Candelaria" in Spanish, and "La Fête de la Chandeleur" in French) is the prophecy of Holy Simeon -- the "just and devout" man of Jerusalem who was inspired by the Holy Ghost to know that he would live to see the "consolation of Jerusalem" -- and the encounter with the aged widow, Anna the Prophetess, who lived in the Temple and confessed Christ upon meeting Him. These two are described by St. Methodius (b. 826) in symbolic terms. He wrote that by
the old man was represented the people of lsrael, and the law now waxing old; whilst the widow represents the Church of the Gentiles, which had been up to this point a widow --the old man, indeed, as personating the law, seeks dismissal; but the widow, as personating the Church, brought her joyous confession of faith and spake of Him to all that looked for redemption in Jerusalem...
It was Simeon to whom Mary presented Jesus, and in his prophecy to her, he told Mary her heart would be pierced with a sword, a prophecy found in the second chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke 2:34-35:
And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: 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.
This prophecy and the sorrows that befell the Virgin during her time on earth are why depictions of the Immaculate Heart almost always show her or her heart itself being pierced by a sword. Depictions of Our Queen as the Mother of Sorrows (Mater Dolorosa) often show her being pierced by seven swords, one for each of her Seven Sorrows.
The mystery of today's ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to Ivo of Chartres, the wax, which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee, always considered as the emblem of virginity, signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by His conception or His birth, the spotless purity of His Blessed Mother. The same holy bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus who came to enlighten our darkness. St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us consider three things in the blessed Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, he says, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on top, is His divinity.
The Golden Legend, by Jacobus de Voragine, A.D. 1275, gives us another level of symbolism -- one that illustrates the error of Protestantism's idea of "sola fide," or that we are saved by "faith alone":
...if we will appear in this feast tofore the face of God, pure and clean and acceptable, we ought to have in us three things which be signified by the candle burning: that is good deeds, true faith, with good works. And like as the candle without burning is dead, right so faith is dead without works as Saint James saith, for to believe in God without obeying his commandments profiteth nothing. And therefore saith Saint Gregory: The good work ought to show withoutforth that thy intention abide good withinforth the heart, without seeking within any vain glory to be allowed and praised. And by the fire is understood charity, of which God saith: I am come to put fire in the earth, and whom I will, I will burn.
The candle blessing -- one of the three principle blessings of the liturgical year, the others being the blessing of palms and ashes -- will be given by the priest wearing a purple cope. He will pray 5 prayers over the candles placed near the Altar. The candles are sprinkled three times while the Aspérges me is sung, and then they are incensed and distributed. When we take a blessed candle from the priest's hand, we kiss the candle and then the priest's hand, just as we do on Palm Sunday when we kiss the palm and then the priest's hand when receiving the blessed palms.
Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord,
This done, each man his candle lights,
From the Pieta prayer book comes this prayer to pray while burning a blessed candle (or pieces of blessed palm) during those storms:
Jesus Christ a King of Glory has come in Peace.+ God became man, + and the Word was made flesh.+ Christ was born of a Virgin.+ Christ suffered.+ Christ was crucified.+ Christ died.+ Christ rose from the dead.+ Christ ascended into Heaven.+ Christ conquers.+ Christ reigns.+ Christ commands.+
In Poland, the candles brought from home to be blessed are decorated with symbols and ribbons. There, the custom is to let a blessed candle burn all night tonight before an icon of Our Lady who, when the world still had forests, was relied upon to keep the wolves away during these cold nights. Now, our "wolves" tend to be of a different sort, but the pious burning of a blessed candle tonight, with prayers offered to Our Lady, still might help keep them at bay. This tradition gives Candlemas its Polish name -- "Matka Boska Gromniczna," or "Mother of God of the Blessed Thunder Candle."
Symbols, Customs, and Foods
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are known as "Candlemas Bells" because, being the usual earliest blooming flower of all, they often bloom before Candlemas (some varieties bloom all winter long in some places). Legend says that they sprang up by the hand of an angel, who then pointed them out as a sign of hope to Eve, who was weeping in repentance and in despair over the cold and death that entered into the world after she and her husband sinned. Because our Hope is Christ, the Light of the World as Simeon says in his canticle today, it is providential that the snowdrop should bloom by this Feast! If possible, gather some Candlemas Bells to bring inside (folk belief is that bringing them indoors before this date is bad luck, and bringing them indoors today "purifies" one's house.) These flowers, along with carnations, are also the "birth flower" for those born in January.
Serve whatever Candlemas foods you eat today with candles burning everywhere!
Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve
This very ancient carol also speaks of the departure of Christmas on this day. It is called "I Am Christmas," and was written by James Ryman, a Franciscan Friar, ca. 1492. Note that the reference to Hallowtide (the days of the dead centering around All Saints Day) here refers to the fact that it was during Hallowtide that monarchs used to announce where they would be spending Christmas.
German immigrants to the United States brought their Candlemas traditions with them when they settled in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Each year, a great to-do is made over the town's official groundhog, "Punxsutawney Phil," emerging from his den to predict the weather, said prediction being broadcast by all the major media in the U.S.A. The movie "Groundhog Day," starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, centers around an endless Groundhog's Day in Punxsutawney, a town located at the intersection of Rt.36 and Rt.119 in western Pennsylvania.
Excerpt from "Homily on Our Lord"
48. Now Simeon the priest, when he took Him up in his arms to present Him before God, understood as he saw Him that He was not presenting Him, but was being himself presented. For the Son was not presented by the servant to His Father, hut the servant was presented by the Son to his Lord. For it is not possible that He, by Whom every offering is presented, should be presented by another. For the offering does not present him that offers it; but by them that offer are offerings presented. So then He Who receives offerings gave Himself to be offered by another, that those who presented Him, while offering Him, might themselves be presented by Him. For as He gave His body to be eaten, that when eaten It might quicken to life them that ate Him; so He gave Himself to be offered, that by His Cross the hands of them that offered Him might be sanctified.
We read an example of a noble lady which had great devotion in the blessed Virgin Mary, and she had a chapel in which she did do say mass of our Lady daily by her chaplain. It happed that the day of the purification of our Lady, her chaplain was out, so that this lady might that day have no mass, and she durst not go to another church because she had given her mantle unto a poor man for the love of our Lady. She was much sorrowful because she might hear no mass and for to make her devotions she went into the chapel, and tofore the altar she kneeled down for to make her prayers to our Lady.
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A most interesting post, Salvation!
I learn so much about the traditions and history of the Church by reading these. As you know, I am a convert, so posts like this are fascinating to me. Thanks!
This is also Groundhogs Day and my older sister’s birthday. Just sent her e-birthday greetings. Thanks Salvation!
What a wonderful article.
Neat stuff! Today’s our pastor’s 45th anniversary of his ordination; big party at church tonight.
We’ll be singing “O Purisima!” at the Spanish Mass tomorrow in honor of the Presentation (”Candelario”), which is a major holiday in some Spanish-speaking countries.
What a shame that this has been abandoned in the Novus Ordo. This is why so many modern Catholics have been disenchanted and uninterested in Catholic tradition and our rich spirituality!!
Thanks for your kind words.
Glad you liked it, Miss Marple.
We are having a big party and buffet tomorrow to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of our parish.
The Arbhbishop will be saying one of our Masses. The extra chairs are already put out!
Not abandoned by our Novus Ordo priest.
Can’t really speak in genralities like that, can we?
He loves Candlemas and has the right kind of candles for everyone.
Also any feast, solemnity, memorial — he is right there on top of it — unless he wants to do a votive Mass for the Blessed Virgin Mary or for the cause of life on plain days (no special commerations).
Congratulations! My parish had its 20th anniversary last fall, but we didn’t get an Archbishop :-).
Thank you for the information. I attended the Candlemas service at my church and got my candles, which the priest said that every Catholic home should have but did not explain WHY we should have them. Perhaps I was the only one in the congregation that didn’t know (I just was baptized and accepted into the fold in September).
I have printed out the information you posted regarding Candlemas and when we should burn them and will keep it for reference.
I'm glad you enjoyed the Candlemas service. Congratulations on becoming part of a faith community!
We can all be thankful for Salvation's faithful posting of information on threads like this and also the Catholic Daily Caucus threads. Here's wishing you a good week.
Presentation at the Temple Nunc Dimmitis
by Giovanni Bellini - 1460-64 - Tempera on wood
Galleria Querini Stampalia, Venice
"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word;
for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."
Presentation at the Temple
The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord - From the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy
120. Until 1969, the ancient feast of the presentation of Our Lord, which is of Oriental origin, was known in the West as the feast of the Purification of Our Lady, and closed the Christmas season, forty days after the Lord's birth. This feast has for long been associated with many popular devotional exercises. The faithful:
121. Popular piety is sensitive to the providential and mysterious event that is the Conception and birth of new life. Christian mothers can easily identify with the maternity of Our Lady, the most pure Mother of the Head of the mystical Body - notwithstanding the notable differences in the Virgin's unique Conception and birth. These too are mothers in God's plan and are about to give birth to future members of the Church. From this intuition and a certain mimesis of the purification of Our Lady, the rite of purification after birth was developed, some of whose elements reflect negatively on birth.
The revised Rituale Romanum provides for the blessing of women both before and after birth, this latter only in cases where the mother could not participate at the baptism of her child.
It is a highly desirable thing for mothers and married couples to ask for these blessings which should be given in accord with the Church's prayer: in a communion of faith and charity in prayer so that pregnancy can be brought to term without difficulty (blessing before birth), and to give thanks to God for the gift of a child (blessing after birth).
122. In some local Churches, certain elements taken from the Gospel account of the Presentation of the Lord (Lk 2, 22-40), such as the obedience of Joseph and Mary to the Law of the Lord, the poverty of the holy spouses, the virginity of Our Lady, mark out the February 2 as a special feast for those at the service of the brethren in the various forms of consecrated life.
123. The feast of February 2 still retains a popular character. It is necessary, however, that such should reflect the true Christian significance of the feast. It would not be proper for popular piety in its celebration of this feast to overlook its Christological significance and concentrate exclusively on its Marian aspects. The fact that this feast should be "considered [...] a joint memorial of Son and Mother" would not support such an inversion. The candles kept by the faithful in their homes should be seen as a sign of Christ "the light of the world" and an expression of faith.
Christ Your Son became man for us
and was presented in the temple.
May he free our hearts from sin
and bring us into your presence.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. +Amen
First Reading: Malachi 3:1-4
"Behold, I send My messenger to prepare the way before Me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of His coming, and who can stand when He appears?
"For He is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.
Second Reading: Hebrews 2:14-18
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage. For surely it is not with angels that He is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brethren in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted.
Gospel Reading: Luke 2:22-40 [or Short form 2:22-32 - omit brackets]
And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord") and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons."
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And inspired by the Spirit he came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel."
[And His father and His mother marveled at what was said about Him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, "Behold, this Child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."
And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanu-el, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of Him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.
And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon Him.]
Children know how to play "bread on the water". Crumbs of bread tossed on the corner of small lake attracts fish. If the fish are fed repeatedly, the crumbs might eventually attract a big fish, suitable for the fly rod. From the point of view of the large fish that are eventually caught, the game of "bread on the water" turns out to be a terrible trick, not a game of charity. After all, they end up in the frying pan.
Sometimes "sacrificial giving" is not always what it appears to be. Occasionally, self-interest motivates external acts of charity. Hence, corporate sponsorship of civic events and the donation of sums of money to charities may only be "bread on the water," that is, forms of advertising or means to secure the goodwill of the community. "Bread on the water" donations may not be wrong at all or even offensive. The donations are often praiseworthy as a mutually beneficial business transaction. But strictly speaking, they are not acts of Christian charity.
The motives of giving and generosity are often mixed and difficult to untangle. A teacher may treat his students with candy, for example. But are the treats primarily acts of kindness or means of manipulating the affection of the children? Motivations are usually clarified and purified when an act of charity is put to the test. When the gift is accepted without an apparent payback, how does the benefactor respond?
Symbolic of their charity, Mary and Joseph present the child Jesus to the Lord in the Temple. As it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord." A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons are sacrificed to express Mary and Joseph's obedience to the law. The prophet Simeon, by the grace of God, recognizes the child as the Messiah. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he prophesies that the child will be the instrument of Israel's salvation. He adds that the child will be a "sign of contradiction" and promises, ominously, that "a sword [of sorrow] will pierce" the heart of Mary.
When Mary ritually presented her newborn Son in the Temple in Jerusalem, she did so in accordance with the Mosaic law. Aside from the turtle doves, there was no real cost to this symbolic act of obedience and charity. But the presentation of the Lord, certainly prefigured her sacrificial gift at the foot of the Cross. At the foot of the Cross, the sorrowful Mother reveals at once the quiet dignity of her love and the true sacrificial character of her charity. Her ritual offering of her child was accepted by God on Calvary. For Mary, the presentation of the Lord, offered in obedience to the Father, did not have a payback. It was an expression of love, a love that was tested and confirmed by the Cross.
The Cross was Mary's test of charity symbolically expressed during the Presentation of the Lord when Jesus was a child. She passed the test because her love was pure, not "bread on the water." Christian charity is disinterested love, love for the sake of God. Motivated by the love of God and following the example of Mary and her divine Son, Christians must learn to give of themselves without counting the cost or measuring the benefits.