“Adorn thy bridal-chamber O Sion, and welcome Christ the King. With loving embrace greet Mary, the very gate of heaven, for she brought to thee the glorious King of new light. Ever Virgin she remaineth, yet in her arms doth bear the Son begotten before the day-star; that Child Whom Simeon did take into his arms and proclaim to the nations as Lord of Life and Savior of the world.”
Today, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary marks the end of the Christmastide cycle of the liturgy. it is perhaps the oldest Marian feast and commemorates our Blessed Mother’s humility and obedience to the Mosaic Law by going to the Temple in Jerusalem and making the prescribed purification offerings forty days after the birth of her Divine Child. Obviously, the Immaculata had no need for purification but nevertheless performed this duty for the sake of obedience, thus continuing to teach us the lessons she has imparted since the “Fiat voluntas tua” of the Annunciation.
Once Jesus had died for our sins and arisen victorious from the dead, the Mosaic law no longer bound us, but until then, it was fitting that Mary obey the Old Law for obedience sake.Thus, Christmastide officially ends with an intimation of the purification to come in Lent.
Additionally, this feast celebrates the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple, which is the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. Traditionally, today’s Mass is preceded by the blessing and distribution of candles and a procession with the lighted candles; thus it is called Candlemas. In the Prayers of Blessing, the Church prays, “O Lord Jesus Christ, the true Light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world, pour forth Thy blessing upon these candles and sanctify them with the light of Thy grace, and mercifully grant that as these lights enkindled with visible fire dispel the darkness of night, so our hearts illumined by invisible fire, that is, by the splendor of the Holy Ghost, may be free from every blindness due to vice, so that with clear sight our minds may discern what is pleasing to Thee and profitable to our salvation, so that after the darksome perils of this life we may deserve to attain to never-fading light.”
During the distribution of candles, the choir sings the Canticle of Simeon: “Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, in peace, according to Thy word. Because mine eyes have seen Thy salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples. A light to enlighten the gentiles and the glory of Thy people Israel.”
The First Antiphon is too beautiful to omit in this brief review:
“Adorn thy bridal-chamber O Sion, and welcome Christ the King. With loving embrace greet Mary, the very gate of heaven, for she brought to thee the glorious King of new light. Ever Virgin she remaineth, yet in her arms doth bear the Son begotten before the day-star; that Child Whom Simeon did take into his arms and proclaim to the nations as Lord of life and Savior of the world.”
The Gospel for the Purification is the Canticle of Simeon from Luke 2. That passage is followed by Simeon’s words to Our Lady, “Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.” This was a forewarning of what was to come for Our Lord and His Mother on Golgotha. As the soldier’s lance pierced Jesus’ side, Our Blessed Mother’s soul was pierced; and from that immense sea of bitter sorrow, comes her motherhood of the Church. Note the wording, here Simeon says “out of many hearts”, which presages Our Saviour’s words at the Consecration, “which shall be shed for you and for many“. Thus, not “all”. She knows her own children, for they have been purchased with His blood. Indeed, their Sacred Hearts are always united!
In his meditation for today, (Divine Intimacy, TAN Books, 1996), Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. tells us, “We see Jesus and Mary submitting themselves to laws by which they are not bound; Jesus does not need to be redeemed, nor Mary to be purified. These are lessons in humility and respect for the law of God. … Whereas Mary had no need to be purified, let us humble ourselves and acknowledge our extreme need of purification.”
Now, more than ever, we do need to be purified. St. Maximilian Kolbe teaches us that by our consecrations to the Immaculate Mother, all that we are becomes her property, our imperfect and flawed actions become purified in her her pure heart, and thus, worthy offerings to Our Lord. That is why we renew our Total Consecrations to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on this her feast day.
O Mary Immaculate, Virgin Most Pure, lead us through this purification and strengthen us so that we may not fail in these dark and troubled times.
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~ posted by evensong for love of the Immaculata ~