Candlemas: some spiritual instruction

The Presentation of the Lord - Philippe de Champaigne

The Presentation of the Lord – Philippe de Champaigne

What spiritual lessons do the rites of Candlemas have to offer for our sanctification? Fr. Goffine offers some illumination about the significance of the feast.

From Fr. Leonard Goffine’s The Church’s Year, we provide an instruction on the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, commonly called Candlemas, which occurs on February 2. Many may be surprised to learn that this day is actually considered a II class feast of Our Lord and not of Our Lady, despite its Marian title.

After the usual Sunday Asperges, the rite of blessing candles and a solemn procession with them takes place, followed by the Mass of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is integral to the mystery of the Presentation of Our Saviour in the Temple. A special feature of this Mass is the holding of lighted candles during the Gospel and from the Sanctus until Communion.

What is this festival?
This the festival on which the Church venerates the humility and obedience of Mary who, though not subject to the law of Moses, which required purification and presentation in the temple, yet subjected herself to it. From this comes the name Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. It is also called Candlemas, because before Mass on this day the candles used in divine service are blessed and carried in procession.

Why are the candles blessed on this day and carried in procession?
In remembrance of the presentation of Jesus to His Heavenly Father on this day, when the aged Simeon called Him: “A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of the people of Israel” (Luke 2:32), and to remind us that, like the five wise virgins, we should go to meet Christ with the light of faith and good works.

With what intention are candles blessed?
With the intention of obtaining from God by their pious use and the prayers of those who devoutly carry them, health of body and soul; that our hearts, through the doctrine of Jesus and the grace of the Holy Ghost, may be interiorly enlightened; and that the fire of the love of God may be kindled in our hearts, purify them from all remains of sin, and make us partakers in the joyous light of heaven, which will never be extinguished.

The INTROIT of the Mass is: We have received Thy mercy, O God, in the midst of Thy temple: according to Thy name, O God, so also is Thy praise, unto the ends of the earth: Thy right hand is full of justice. Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised: in the city of our God, in His holy mountain. (Ps. 57) Glory, etc.

COLLECT Almighty, ever-living God, we humbly beseech Thy Majesty, that as Thine only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in the substance of our flesh; so we also may, with purified hearts, be presented unto Thee. Thro’., etc.

EPISTLE (Malach. 3:1-4) Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I send my Angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the Angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to his temple. Behold, he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts, and who shall be able to think of the day of his coming, and who shall stand to see him? For he is like a refining fire, and like the fuller’s herb: and he shall sit refining and cleansing the silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall refine them as gold and as silver: and they shall offer sacrifices to the Lord in justice. And the sacrifice of Juda and of Jerusalem shall please the Lord, as the days of old, and the ancient years: saith the Lord Almighty.

EXPLANATION The angel or messenger who shall prepare the way for the Lord, is John the Baptist, (Matt. 11:10) and the long desired Ruler and Messiah is Christ, who on this day comes into his temple. He is called the Angel of the testament, because He has arranged between God and man a new and far more excellent covenant than God had made with the Jews; inasmuch as He has given to the Christians not merely temporal but eternal good. This Angel of the testament, Christ, came the first time in all the humility of a little child into the temple, but His second coming at the end of the world will be terrible. The prophet likens Him to a fire which purifies the gold, and to that herb with which cloth is whitened in the fuller’s machine; under which figures he alludes to the severity of judgment, with which Christ will judge the just and the unjust. Pure as refined gold, and as the white linen (corporal) on which the Body of Christ is laid in the holy Sacrifice of the Mass, must be the heart of those who receive Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, or seek worthily to offer the holy Sacrifice with the priest.

GOSPEL (Luke 2:22-32) At that time, After the days of Mary’s purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried Jesus to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord. And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons. And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law: he also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: 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.

Why was Jesus brought into the temple of Jerusalem?
That He might be offered to God, who had commanded the Jews to offer their first-born sons to Him in grateful commemoration of the destroying angel having spared their first-born at the departure from Egypt, when all the firstborn of the Egyptians were slain. (Exodus 12:12) These children had to be redeemed afterwards by certain gifts. (Exodus 13:13)

How soon after birth was this offering to be made?
On the fortieth day; for according to the law the mother’s impurity lasted for this length of time after the birth of a boy, after which she went to the temple, and in order to be declared purified, made her offering of purification. (Lev. 12)

Was Mary subject to this law of purification?
No, for she had not, like other mothers, conceived in sin, and, therefore, did not need purification; but she placed herself with her divine Child among sinners and fulfilled the law by which these were bound. “Nothing”, says St. Bernard, “was impure in her conception, nothing impure in her birth; there was nothing to be cleansed, for the Child itself was the origin of all purity, and came into the world to purify it from sin. Truly, O happy Virgin, thou wast not in need of purification, but thou wouldst pass as a woman among women, as thy Son also passed for a child among children.”

Why did Mary comply with the law of purification?
She did this to give us an example of obedience and true humility, for she interiorly thought little of herself and wished externally to be so regarded; to teach us to thank God for the favours He has shown to our ancestors, for the law of the Jews was given to encourage them to gratitude for the preservation of the first-born of their ancestors from the hands of the destroying angel; (Exodus 12:12) and in order not to scandalise, by being regardless of this law, those who did not know that she was not required to observe it.

Learn, O Christian, from Mary’s example to be truly humble and obedient, to be grateful to God for the benefits which your ancestors and parents have received, and to be on your guard never to give scandal, by failing to observe the commandments of God and His Church.

Why did not Mary offer a lamb as did the rich, (Lev. 12:6). but merely, like the poor, a pair of doves?
Because she was poor, and was not ashamed to appear as such before the world. Mary loved humility and the poverty connected with it. Be not ashamed, therefore, if thou art poor, love poverty the more; but if rich, be poor in spirit, and love the poor and distressed.

How did it come to pass that Simeon met the Saviour in the temple?
Because he was a pious and faithful servant of God, it had been promised him that he should not die, until he had seen the Saviour. When Jesus was brought into the temple, Simeon was inspired by God to go there also, and when he found Jesus there, he by divine inspiration knew Him to be the Messiah, and gave testimony of Him.

See how God rewards those who sincerely love and serve Him, giving Himself to them to be known always more and more!

Why was Simeon ready to die when he had held Jesus in his arms?
Because his wish was fulfilled; for since he had not only seen with his own eyes, but had held in his arms the Desired of all nations, for whom the patriarchs had so vainly longed, what more could he wish than to leave this miserable world, and commend his spirit into the hands of his Saviour?

Why did Simeon call Jesus a light for the revelation of the Gentiles?
Because Jesus had come into the world as the true light, (John 1:9) which was to free the Gentiles from the darkness of superstition and idolatry, and from the blindness and slavery of Satan, as well as to conduct the Jews out of the bondage of the Mosaic Law into the liberty of the children of God. (Gal. 4:31)

PRAYER Heavenly Father! look down from Thy throne of mercy upon the face of Thy Anointed in whom Thou art well pleased. Behold, He is this day offered to Thee in the temple for the sins of His brethren. Let this offering please Thee, and move Thee to have compassion on us sinners. In consideration of His humility and obedience, forgive us our pride and disobedience, and grant us, that purified by His blood, we may one day, having like Simeon departed this life in peace, behold Thee as the eternal Light which shall never be extinguished in the temple of Thy glory, be presented to Thee by Mary, our beloved Mother, and love and praise Thee forever. Amen.

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13 Responses to Candlemas: some spiritual instruction

  1. toadspittle says:

    “On the fortieth day; for according to the law the mother’s impurity lasted for this length of time after the birth of a boy, after which she went to the temple, and in order to be declared purified, made her offering of purification. (Lev. 12)”
    Purified from what? Was having a baby somehow “impure”?
    Why just boys? Weren’t girls “impure”?
    …It all sounds insane, doesn’t it?
    I’m sure it’s not though – and it will all be swiftly and satisfactorily explained.

  2. This year, for some reason, I had a lot questions about the significance of this feast. I suppose I’d never really asked those questions before, or, if I had asked them, I’d forgotten the answers. This article explained everything for me. I’m very grateful it’s been published here.

  3. Robert says:

    Of course Our Lady offered a Lamb! That’s the whole point the Lamb of God as a holocaust. The child born to be a holocaust!

    Leviticus 12:6
    And when the days of her purification are expired, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of the testimony, a lamb of a year old for a holocaust, and a young pigeon or a turtle for sin, and shall deliver them to the priest:

  4. toadspittle says:

    “And when the days of her purification are expired, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring to the door of the tabernacle of the testimony, a lamb of a year old for a holocaust, and a young pigeon or a turtle for sin, and shall deliver them to the priest:”
    Nowadays, it would be a turkey. Israelites eat more turkey, per capita, than any other country on Earth. Not many people know that, but Maurice Micklewhite* told me that in Langham’s one day..

    *Michael Caine to you.

  5. Brother Burrito says:

    FYI, I’ve just updated the Papal Prayer Intentions widget for 2016.

    Only a month late, sorry.

  6. kathleen says:

    Toad @ 14:16

    Valid questions, Toad.
    I believe it has something to do with the ancient Israelites considering all natural bodily discharges as “impure”. As you know, a woman bleeds for a few weeks after childbirth; but after forty days, when this was over, she could then go through the ritual of her “purification”. Blood was thought of as the source of life, so a loss of blood was seen as the loss (or at least the lessening) of life, (Lev. 17:14).
    The time a woman would have had to wait after the birth of a daughter was twice as long as that after the birth of a son, i.e. eighty days! (Bit of ancient male chauvinism there, perhaps? 😉 )

    Robert John @ 14:54

    On the part of all of us at CP&S, thank you very much for your kind and appreciative words.

    Roger/Robert @ 16:53

    “Of course Our Lady offered a Lamb! That’s the whole point the Lamb of God as a holocaust. The child born to be a holocaust!”

    But Our Lady and St Joseph did not offer a lamb; St Luke makes this very clear!

    Our Lord is indeed “the Lamb of God” (Who takes away the sins of the world) by His Sacrifice on Calvary…. but I think that is not the context at the Presentation in the temple.
    Our Lord’s parents are fulfilling the Jewish custom by making an offering (of two turtle doves, or pigeons), but in thanksgiving for the safe delivery of their Son… the Son Who is, as we know, the Lamb of God.

  7. Reblogged this on Solutio Problematis Omnes (aka "The Catholic Linker") and commented:
    An excellent explanation of Candlemas.

  8. toadspittle says:

    “(Bit of ancient male chauvinism there, perhaps? 😉 )”
    Wouldn’t be surprised, Kathleen. Lots of religions still appear decidedly chauvinist. Probably because they are. But, since you (rightly, IMAO) consider the above “a valid question,” how about this:

    “…the destroying angel having spared their first-born at the departure from Egypt, when all the firstborn of the Egyptians were slain.”

    God at work – murdering babies wholesale? Only Egyptian ones, to be sure, but it’s the principle of the thing, isn’t it? That’s sounds utterly insane, too. I don’t believe God would do such a frightful thing. Set a very bad example, it seems to me.
    People might get the idea killing babies, under certain circumstances, was all right. And we don’t agree with that, one bit – do we? So, what’s the valid answer here?

  9. Robert says:

    The Purification was also the Presentation Our Lord He is first born of God. The Dove Holy Ghost and of course Our Lady. At the Purification and Presentation is Trinity (lamb firstborn, Dove Holy Ghost) . This proven by Our Lord’s Baptism!

    This wasn’t a Jewish custom it was obeying God. Our Lord fulfilled the Old Law and replaced it with a New Covenant.

    Exodus 13:13
    The firstborn of an ass thou shalt change for a sheep: and if thou do not redeem it, thou shalt kill it. And every firstborn of men thou shalt redeem with a price.

    The Dove HOLY GHOST (also the Fathers say Our Lady)
    Genesis 8:8
    He sent forth also a dove after him, to see if the waters had now ceased upon the face of the earth.
    Canticles (Solomon) 2:10
    Behold my beloved speaketh to me: Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come.
    Canticles (Solomon) 2:14
    My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall, shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.
    Canticles (Solomon) 6:8
    One is my dove, my perfect one is but one, she is the only one of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her. The daughters saw her, and declared her most blessed: the queens and concubines, and they praised her.

    This becomes even more apparent with St John The Baptist when both Lamb and Dove become apparent. The Dove being Holy Ghost!
    John 1:29
    The next day, John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world.
    John 1:36
    And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God.

    Dove and Holy Ghost

    Matthew 3:16
    And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him.
    Mark 1:10
    And forthwith coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit as a dove descending, and remaining on him.
    Luke 3:22
    And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him; and a voice came from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
    John 1:32
    And John gave testimony, saying: I saw the Spirit coming down, as a dove from heaven, and he remained upon him.

  10. kathleen says:

    Dear Roger/Robert (@ 8:41), I really don’t know why you are quoting all these biblical texts to me. They are wonderful verses, but are way off-topic from what I was saying…

    And that is that at the Purification of Our Lady/Presentation of Jesus in the temple (and also known as ‘Candlemas’), Mary and Joseph did not make the offering of a lamb in the temple, but of two turtle doves, for Jesus Himself is the Lamb Who gave Himself up in Sacrifice for our redemption. That’s all.

    [Edit. Come to think of it, by re-reading all the above, I think we are in fact saying the same thing, but simply talking past each other in doing so! 😉 ]

  11. Robert says:

    Toad the Cock is for ever associated to Denial of Christ.
    As with God’s works you can never mediate enough about this or the hidden depths that begin to open up.
    The Creator is the Author of Life and in the lives of the Prophets/Saints he reveals Himself. St John The Baptist for instance.
    Here is the Woman and Child promised to Adam in Eden!! Wonder of wonders. Now we see the Face of God!
    Genesis as always relates to the Gospel. The naming of animals and their characteristics. The Dove(Holy Ghost) and Our Lords Baptism (which directly ties into the Presentation/Purification). The Dove and the Flood/Waters of Jordan .
    Genesis 1:2
    And the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God moved over the waters.

    The Jordan flows down from Galilee to Dead Sea. Sin is death and the Dead Sea is for ever associated with Sodom! Which do we choose? The Dead Sea or Galilee?

    The offering of a lamb? The Lamb was Our Lord. Consider if Heaven had wanted to then like Jacob and Issac and Ram would have been provided.

    Please Please start to realise that these words are pregnant with spirituality. This is not a novel or history book but instead is living with the verities of Eternity.

  12. Robert says:

    Hi Kathleen
    For me these words a living and pregnant in depth and meaning. The Rosary is a simple prayer but the mysteries touch Eternity! Everything starts to come alive and we start to soar above this materialism and modernism. Its about Life not Death.
    Christ was silent before Herod. Herod enjoyed Life and the good things of Life. Sought amusement and entertainment even treated Our Lord as an object of Entertainment! Herod was a realist by todays standards and Our Lord a Dreamer?
    The Reality is Our Lord is Eternity and Herod basically wallowing in pigs slops!

  13. kathleen says:

    Toad @ 6:19 yesterday

    (Sigh). Toad, you have been told dozens of times that you have to read the Old Testament in the light of the context of the times. Our Blessed Lord came to bring the divine law “to fulfillment”.

    Besides, are you still expecting everyone to do your homework for you?

    Canon lawyer Dr. Ed Peters, quoting a theologian friend the other day, stated:

    “Hi. I do not answer questions from people who do not know how to do basic google searches or who can do them, but think that I should do their searches for them anyway.”

    Ditto, I say! 🙂

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