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Happy Candlemas! The Fortieth Day of Christmas

2 February 2017

2 February 2017

Posted on 2 February 2013 Anno Domini by Fr.John Zuhlsdorf at his blog,
What Does the Prayer Really Say?

Today is the final “peak” arising from the liturgical cycle of Advent/Christmas/Epiphany. Today, called in the traditional way and according to the older Roman calendar the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Church would cease to sing the Marian antiphon associated with Christmas,

It is forty days since Christmas.

In the physical world, we in the Northern hemisphere are beginning to notice more and more the growing of the light of day. The seemingly endless darkness of the short days has finally in a noticeable way been attenuated. I have noticed in the last couple days that the birds have broken their silence and are beginning to sing in a different way, even though winter here as far from over. Today’s feast is also about light, in the broader symbolic sense.

This feast has its name from the Blessed Virgin, because the Law in Leviticus required her to go to the temple for purification after giving birth. The Lord did not need to be baptized by John in the river, for He had nothing to repent. Mary did not need purification, for she was spotless. But they desired to fulfill the Law. This feast also reminds us of the beautiful tradition of the “Churching” of women after childbirth, a special blessing given by the Church, which has alas fallen into desuetude. “Churching” was done in honor also of this moment in the life Christ’s Mother.

This is, however, really a feast in honor of the Lord: He is being offered to the Father in a foreshadowing of His greater Sacrifice for our salvation. The theme of offering, of sacrifice draws our eyes away from looking back at Christmas and Epiphany forward to the Passion and Easter.

You remember the story from the Gospel, in Luke 2. Mary and Joseph come to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the Law. Firstborn males had to be dedicated to the Lord. The old woman Anna and the old man Simeon had the special grace from the Lord to have their dearest desires fulfilled before they died: to see the Messiah. It is in this moment that Simeon makes the prophecy about the sacrificial sufferings Mary will endure and he speaks his great Nunc dimittis, which Holy Church sings in the darkness at the end of the day for Compline.

In the traditional Roman liturgy today in larger churches there would be a special blessing of candles and a procession before Mass would begin. The chants sung for the rite contain many references to light. Also, a lighted candle is to be held during the reading of the Gospel and during the Roman Canon. The candle brings to mind also our baptism.

In a way, the faithful really ought to have candles at all Masses. But now, in High Masses, the “touchbearers” fulfill this role for the congregation. Remember that the next time you see the candles come in: that’s you up there.

Remember: Holy Church gives us candles so that we will use them.

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From the blog, Catholic Harbor of Faith and Morals


Luke ii. 29: “No Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy Word, in peace. Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, . . . a Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people, Israel.”

The angel-lights of Christmas morn,
Which shot across the sky,
Away they pass at Candlemas,
They sparkle and they die.

We wait along the penance-tide
Of solemn fast and prayer,
Whilst song is hushed, and lights grow dim
In the sin-laden air.

Comfort of earth is brief at best,
Although it be divine;
Like funeral lights for Christmas gone,
Old Simeon’s tapers shine.

And while the sword in Mary’s soul
Is driven home, we hide
In our own hearts, and count the wounds
Of passion and of pride.

And then for eight long weeks and more,
We wait in twilight grey,
Till the High Candle sheds a beam
On Holy Saturday.

And still, though Candlemas be spent,
And alleluias o’er,
Mary is music in our need,
And Jesus light in store.

The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This great solemnity, which closes the holy season of Christmas, has been established in commemoration of the two last mysteries of our Saviour’s Birth and Infancy.

The most pure and beautiful Virgin, in obedience to the law, presented the child Jesus in the temple, offering a couple of turtle-doves for her purification, and five sicles as a ransom for her first-born, Jesus. On this day is fulfilled the prophecy of Aggeus concerning the Messiah, Agg. ii. 8: “Yet one little while . . . and I will move all nations: and the Desired of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory.” This day St. Simeon and holy Anna, full of the Holy Ghost, recognise our Lord and welcome Him into the temple, as the Salvation, the Light, and the Peace of the world.

Wax candles are solemnly blessed on this day, in commemoration of our Lord, whom they represent as the Light of the world: “Three things,” says St. Anselm of Canterbury, “may be considered in the blest candle: the wax, 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 the top, is His Divinity.” These blest candles are to be carried in procession, in remembrance of that wondrous procession made in the temple by our Lady, St. Joseph, St. Simeon, and holy Anna. They should also be kept, to be used by the faithful either on land or sea, and especially to be lit near the bed of a dying Christian, as a symbol of the immortality merited for us by Christ, and as a pledge of the protection of our Lady.



A Prayer for Candlemas Day

Lord Jesus Christ,
You are the true Light
enlightening every soul born into this world.
Today we celebrate the feast of Candlemas.
Before Holy Mass,
the priest blesses the candles,
whose wax is the humming summer’s work of countless bees.
The flames of these candles
will shed their light upon the altar at the Holy Sacrifice.
Help us to realize,
this day and every day,
that our own humdrum daily work,
if it is done for love of You,
and in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,
will be a supernatural work,
and will shine brightly before You for all eternity.
Help us realize, too,
each time we see the blessed candles at Holy Mass,
or at the bedside of the sick,
that they are a symbol of Yourself,
the Light shining in the darkness of this world.
Help us to live in that Light,
to make it our own,
and to kindle it in the souls of others,
increasing the area Of light
and lessening the darkness in the World This,
dear Lord, help us do,
through the merits of Your own dear mother, Mary,
who did everything for love of
You, from the moment she brought You into this world
till the day she joined You in the realms of light at her death.
Then we, too, working for You,
shall be light-bearers who will help to spread Your kingdom on earth,
and increase the number of those who dwell in heaven,
the city of eternal light.


Source: Catholic.org

h/t: @RoomDesign3 on Twitter. Thanks.

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