Monday, February 02, 2009

Candlemas

TODAY IS the Feast of The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, also known as Candlemas. From the Catholic Encyclopedia:
According to the Mosaic law a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain three and thirty days "in the blood of her purification"; for a maid-child the time which excluded the mother from sanctuary was even doubled. When the time (forty or eighty days) 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)
This feast is celebrated on February 2nd in the Latin Church. In Jerusalem in ancient times this feast was celebrated 40 days after Epiphany, which then as now is a feast which includes as an aspect the birth of Christ.

On this day, beeswax candles are blessed for liturgical use, whence we get the name 'Candlemas'. According to the Baronius Press version (2004) of the Roman Missal:
The procession on this day is one of the most picturesque features of the Western Liturgy. The blessing and distribution of candles, to be carried lighted in procession, precedes the Mass today—a symbolic presentation of the truth proclaimed in the Canticle of Simeon: Our Lord is the “Light for the revelation of the Gentiles.” The anthems sung during this procession, eastern in origin, will express the joy and gladness of this happy festival, and the honour and praise we give to our blessed Lady and her Divine Son by its devout observance.
The English word ‘candle’ is very ancient and comes from the Latin candela ‘candle’, which derives from the Latin verb candere, meaning ‘to be white or glisten’. The liturgical use of candles and oil lamps has roots going back to the Jewish Temple, and the Church preserves a number of uses. Certainly candles have the utilitarian use of providing illumination, but there are a number of symbolical and mystical reasons for using these even in daytime.

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