Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Stained glass window of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, at Mary Queen of Peace Church, in Webster Groves, Missouri. Photo taken in October, 2007.
According to ancient Jewish Law, any contact with blood requires ritual purification, and so a woman giving birth thus needs to be so purified. A woman who gave birth to a son would be ritually purified on the 40th day from his birth, and if this was the firstborn son, he would be presented to the priests at the Temple.
As a part of this purification, a yearling lamb, or two turtledoves or pigeons would be given as a burnt offering. That Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary offered two birds instead of a lamb shows their poverty.
This feast marks the end of the greater Epiphany and Christmas seasons, and so some people don't remove their Christmas decorations until this day.
In some times and places, this feast day is the fortieth day from Epiphany, which reflects the ancient Eastern practice of recognizing Epiphany as the date of Jesus' birth.
In the English Church, this day became known as Candlemas, because beeswax candles used in the liturgy are blessed on this day.
Click here for the text of the old liturgy of today's Mass.
P.S. After I wrote this, it occurred to me that observance of the ritual purity law was not strictly required of Our Lady: perhaps this is why when we pray this mystery of the Rosary, we pray for the gift of obedience. For extensive commentary on this from the Church Fathers, read the relevant section of the Cantena Aurea here, starting at verse 22.