Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Candlemas Day

"Presentation of Jesus in the Temple" by Bellini

Today is Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin.  The Mosaic law required the exclusion of a new mother from the temple until she had been cleansed.  Before a mother could be cleansed it was necessary for a certain period of time to elapse after the birth of her child.  For a mother who had given birth to a male child, this period was 40 days.  For a female child the period was double.   Once the necessary time was over, the mother was to "bring to the temple a lamb for a holocaust and a young pigeon or turtle dove for sin"; if she was not able to offer a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons; the priest prayed for her and so she was cleansed. (Leviticus 12:2-8) 

Forty days after the birth of Christ, Mary kept this precept of the law by offering two turtle doves, and was purified by the prayer of Simeon the just, in the presence of Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:22 sqq.). 

Simeon's prayer would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus:

    Now you are releasing your servant, Master, according to your word, in peace; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared before the face of all peoples; a light for revelation to the nations, and the glory of your people Israel.

Simeon then prophesied to Mary: "Behold, this child is set for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which is spoken against. Yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35)

According to the Roman Missal, this feast is the occasion for the blessing of candles, accompanied by solemn procession.

See Catholic Encyclopedia for full article on feast.

No comments:

Post a Comment