February 2, 2020
Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word in peace; because my eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.
– Luke 2:29-32
A most blessed and joyful feast of Candlemas, also called the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary! Today the Church rejoices with Simeon at the sight of the Christ Child, the Light that has come into the world. This feast provides us a beautiful example of humility and obedience, as the Holy Family goes to the Temple in obedience to the Mosaic law, which required the ritual purification of the mother of a male child 40 days after his birth and his dedication (if he is the firstborn) to the Lord. Christ coming into His own Temple to be dedicated to His Father is particularly striking, in that it emphasizes Our Lord’s total obedience to His Father from the very outset of His life and the self-sacrificing nature of His mission. He reiterates this point throughout the Gospels, saying in John 6:38: “For I have come down from Heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me…”
The feast of the Purification originated in the east in the early centuries of Christianity, but gradually spread throughout the world. The special role of candles on this day developed during the Middle Ages, and remains in today’s liturgy with the blessing of candles before Mass for use throughout the year. The priest blesses not only candles for liturgical use, but also those presented by the faithful that they may use for personal devotion. Dom Guéranger specifically mentions that “these blest candles ought also to be lit near the bed of the dying Christian, as a symbol of the immortality merited for us by Christ, and of the protection of our Blessed Lady” (The Liturgical Year, Vol. II, p. 475). After the blessing of the candles, they are lit and carried in procession as the choir sings three beautiful passages commemorating the events of this day. +
Adorn thy bridal-chamber, O Sion, and welcome Christ the King: with loving embrace greet Mary, the very gate of Heaven; for she bringeth to thee the glorious King of new light: ever Virgin she remaineth, yet in her arms doth bear the Son begotten before the day-star: that Child Whom Simeon did take into his arms and proclaim to the nations as Lord of life and Savior of the world.
– the First Antiphon of the procession