“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.”