After the aged Simeon has blessed the infant Jesus and proclaimed his greatness as a light to enlighten the world and bring glory to the people of Israel, he turns to the Blessed Virgin and prophesies that her Son will be a sign of contradiction and that a sword will pierce her soul (Lk 2:34-35).
This expression foresees the struggle, the contradictions, the pains, that is, the way in which the work of redemption sung about in Simeon’s song of thanksgiving will be accomplished.
Here the holy old man clearly announces the suffering of our Saviour and the compassion of the Blessed Mother. He predicts that some will be for Jesus, others against him. He will deliver many from sin and lead them to Heaven.
But he will also be a cause of fall for many who will refuse to hear his message and will shut themselves up in their sin, thus earning eternal Hell. “The light has come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light, because their works were evil” (John 3:19).
The Blessed Virgin will suffer terribly from the ingratitude of men and she will suffer even more to see her Son cruelly mistreated and killed. The sword which the holy old man announces is therefore the sword of Mary’s compassion.
Thus the mystery of the 2nd of February is a magnificent revelation of the time-honoured saying: per crucem ad lucem – Only through the cross does one reach the light.
Simeon’s song is full of light, peace and gentleness. When he goes to congratulate the parents, one can imagine the joyful face of the old holy man, full of gratitude and holy amazement. Immediately afterwards, however, his prophetic eyes must have darkened, and his words came out sharp and piercing like the sword announced to Mary.
Simeon’s joy and his prophetic words, which proclaimed the great reality of this divine redemptive sacrifice and the law of her maternal pain connected with it, had already been known to Mary from the moment of the angel’s announcement. Yes, she had already experienced these joys and pains on a daily basis from the journey to Bethlehem until this moment.
Simeon’s amazed exultation was but a pale comparison with Mary’s ardent and loving joy, and the sufferings he prophesied corresponded in her heart to the painful experience already begun.
With a very deep knowledge, her mind gathered, as usual, to reflect on the words she had heard: “And his father and his mother marvelled at what was said about him.” (Lk 2:33).
The Gospel reports this immediately after the song of Simeon’s joy, but Mary remained in this frame of mind, even though the words of abysmal sadness immediately followed. And she responded generously with the inner renewal of her heroic and loving “fiat”.
“I feel with you, O sorrowful Mother, the pain caused by the sword piercing you when Simeon prophesied to you in the temple of the torments which men would inflict on your beloved Jesus, up to the moment when he died before your eyes on the wood of the cross, covered with blood and abandoned by all, without being able to receive protection or help from you. Therefore, my Queen, through this bitter memory which has weighed down your heart for so many years, I ask you to obtain for me the grace to keep the sufferings of Jesus Christ and yourself always, from life to death, engraved in my heart. Amen.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori)
from Liturgia Latina:
2nd February, The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(also called Candlemas)
With the feast of the Purification ends the Sanctoral Cycle of the Season after Epiphany. It is one of the oldest feasts of our Lady and in Rome in the seventh century it ranked after the Assumption. The feast is kept on February 2, because Mary, wishing to obey the Mosaic law, had to go to Jerusalem forty days after the birth of Jesus (December 25th, February 2nd) to offer the prescribed sacrifices. Mothers were to offer a lamb, or if their means did not allow, “two doves or two young pigeons”. The blessed Virgin took with her to Jerusalem the infant Jesus, and the Candlemas procession recalls the journey of Mary and Joseph ascending to the temple to present “the Angel of the Covenant” had prophesied.
“The wax of the candles signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant,” says St. Anselm, “the wick figures His soul and the flame His divinity.”
The Purification to which the mother of the Saviour was not obliged to conform, as her motherhood was beyond ordinary laws, is not placed in the foreground by the liturgy and the Presentation of Jesus is the principal object of this feast.