From the Pastor: Candlemas!
This Tuesday, February 2, we celebrate the Mass of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a feast commonly called, “Candlemas”. This is the first year in which I will be able to offer not only the Mass of the Purification but also the blessing of the candles and the procession which precedes the Mass, in the venerable usus antiquior. This blessing, according to Dom Gueranger’s masterpiece, “The Liturgical Year”, is “one of the three principal Blessings observed by the Church during the year; the other two are those of the Ashes and of the Palms” yet it is almost completely neglected nowadays. For your edification and education, I will quote two explanatory paragraphs from the same work which I found useful.
“The mystery of today’s ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to St. Ivo of Chartres, the wax, which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee, always considered as the emblem of virginity, signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by his conception or his birth, the spotless purity of his Blessed Mother. The same holy Bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus, who came to enlighten our darkness. St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us consider three things in the blest Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, he says, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is his Soul; the flame, which burns on the top, is his Divinity.
Formerly, the faithful looked upon it as an honour to be permitted to bring their wax tapers to the Church, on this Feast of the Purification, that they might be blessed together with those which were to be borne in the procession by the Priests and sacred Ministers; and the same custom is still observed in some congregations. It would be well if Pastors were to encourage this practice, retaining it where it exists, or establishing it where it is not known. There has been such a systematic effort made to destroy, or at least to impoverish, the exterior rites and practices of religion, that we find, throughout the world, thousands of Christians who have been insensibly made strangers to those admirable sentiments of faith, which the Church alone, in her Liturgy, can give to the body of the faithful. Thus, we shall be telling many what they have never heard before, when we inform them that the Church blesses the Candles, not only to be carried in the Procession, which forms part of the Ceremony today, but also for the use of the faithful, inasmuch as they draw, upon such as use them with respect, whether on sea or on land, as the Church says in the Prayer, special blessings from heaven. These blest Candles ought also to be lit near the bed of the dying Christian, as a symbol of the immortality merited for us by Christ, and of the protection of our Blessed Lady.”
There is also a paragraph from the Angleus Press missal which explains, “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 honor and praise we give to our blessed Lady and her Divine Son by its devout observance.”
After reading the above lessons, is not your heart stirred to participate in the ceremony? The blessing and procession will begin at the normal time for the TLM to begin, 9:00 a.m., and the Mass will follow immediately after the blessing. This will mean that we will not be “done” with Mass at the typical 9:45 a.m. so please plan accordingly. One of our parishioners graciously made 100 small, 100% beeswax candles to be blessed and sent home with those who participate in the celebration but if you wish to have a candle to carry in the procession, please bring your own candle, beeswax if possible, for the symbolic reasons you read above. Where the procession begins and ends will depend on the weather but the plan is to begin in the chapel (or outside of it if the congregation is too large) and process to the main church for Mass. If we encounter adverse conditions we will have the entire ceremony in the church.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka