TODAY’S FEAST KNOWN BY MANY NAMES
The Purification of the Holy Virgin
The Presentation of the Lord
Today is a day of purification, renewal, and hope. On this day,
exactly 40 days after Christmas, we commemorate Mary's obedience to the Mosaic law by submitting herself to the Temple for the ritual purification, as commanded in Leviticus:
Leviticus 12:2-8 Speak to the children of Israel, and thou shalt say to them: If a woman having received seed shall bear a man
child, she shall be unclean seven days, according to the days of separation of her flowers. And on the eighth day the infant shall be circumcised: But she shall remain three and thirty days in the blood of her purification. She shall touch no holy thing: neither shall she enter into the sanctuary, until the days of her purification, be fulfilled. But if she shall bear a maid child, she shall be unclean two weeks, according to the custom of her monthly courses, and she shall remain in the blood of her purification sixty-six days. 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: Who shall offer them before the Lord, and shall pray for her, and so she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that beareth a man child or a maid child. And if her hand find not sufficiency, and she is not able to offer a lamb, she shall take two turtles, or two young pigeons, one for a holocaust, and another for sin: and the priest shall pray for her, and so she shall be cleansed.
Luke 2:22-24 And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him 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 turtledoves, or two young pigeons:
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: Sanctify unto me every firstborn that
openeth the womb among the children of Israel, as well of men as of beasts: for they are all mine...Thou shalt set apart all that openeth the womb for the Lord, and all that is first brought forth
of thy cattle: whatsoever thou shalt have of the male sex, thou shalt consecrate to the Lord. 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 Numbers 18:15-16 Whatsoever is firstborn of all flesh, which they offer to the Lord, whether it be of men, or of beasts, shall
belong to thee: only for the firstborn of man thou shalt take a price, and every beast that is unclean thou shalt cause to be redeemed, And the redemption of it shall be after one month, for five sicles of silver, by the weight of the sanctuary. A sicle hath twenty obols. 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:
Note that "firstborn" means "the the male child that opens the womb," not "the first of a series of children born." Therefore, the
Protestant objections to Mary's eternal virginity based on references to Jesus as "firstborn" are totally without foundation.
Note also that the Holy Family must've been poor as Our Lady offered birds rather than the lamb, as the Leviticus verses above
indicate is the way of the poor. On this day, there will be a Blessing of the Candles and Procession. The symbolism of the candles is described by Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB, in his "Liturgical Year":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 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. During the Distribution, the Nunc Dimittis -- the Canticle of
Simeon (Luke 2:29-32) -- is sung: Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord,
In peace, according to Thy word: For mine own eyes hath seen Thy salvation,
Which Thou hast prepared in the sight of all the peoples, A light to reveal Thee to the nations
And the glory of Thy people Israel.
There follows a procession with the lighted candles and the singing of anthems. Then the Mass begins, and the lighted candles
are held during the reading of the Gospel and from the beginning of the Canon of the Mass to Communion.
It is customary to bring candles from home to be blessed -- at least 51% beeswax candles that one uses for devotional purposes (candles for the family altar, Advent candles, etc.) -- so they can be lit after dusk on All Saints' Day (1 November), during the
Sacrament of Unction, and during storms and times of trouble. A bit of very old poetry summarizes the use of blessed candles to ward off troubles: 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.+ May Christ protect us from all storms and lightning. + Christ
went through their midst in Peace, + and the Word was made Flesh.+ Christ is with us with Mary.+ Flee you enemy spirits because the Lion of the Generation of Juda, the Root David, has
won.+ Holy God! + Holy Powerful God! + Holy Immortal God!
+ Have mercy on s. Amen.