From the Pastor: Candlemas Day is Here Again!
That’s right. February 2, Groundhog Day in the secular world, is, in the “real world” the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a feast traditionally called, “Candlemas Day”. On this day we bless candles. What kind of candles can be blessed? Just about any kind, as long as it will not be used for pagan or otherwise immoral reasons. (I put in the “non-pagan” proviso because pagans on the web have made a mockery of Candlemas. They claim that the origin is from pagan times and is a “Christianization” of a pagan festival and, of course, they don’t capitalize the “C” in “Christianization”. Then they outline ways of making our festival pagan once again. Satan apes good and holy things on a regular basis and this is another way he leads ignorant souls away from the beauty of Truth. Don’t fall for it.) You may bring in candles for this special blessing and use them around the house for the rest of the year. We will bless some of the church’s candles which will be used for Mass and other liturgical functions. Mass candles must be of beeswax (at least 51%) but non-liturgical candles may be of other types of wax. We will have a procession if possible, though, as you will see below, it has been truncated quite a bit from what it was 500 years ago! Because of the candle blessing, Mass will end later than normal that day (Friday), so plan accordingly. The following is from the Old 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) Forty days after the birth of Christ Mary complied with this precept of the law, she redeemed her first-born from the temple (Numbers 18:15), and was purified by the prayer of Simeon the just, in the presence of Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:22 sqq.). No doubt this event, the first solemn introduction of Christ into the house of God, was in the earliest times celebrated in the Church of Jerusalem...
Blessing of candles and procession
According to the Roman Missal the celebrant after Terce (I interrupt this quote to point out that this is an interesting note, since Terce is a mid-morning prayer. This means that the procession with candles on this feast was never a procession in darkness, but always in the daylight hours!), in stole and cope of purple colour, standing at the epistle side of the altar, blesses the candles (which must be of beeswax). Having sung or recited the five orations prescribed, he sprinkles and incenses the candles. Then he distributes them to the clergy and laity, whilst the choir sings the canticle of Simeon, "Nunc dimittis". The antiphon "Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel" is repeated after every verse, according to the medieval custom of singing the antiphons. During the procession which now follows, and at which all the partakers carry lighted candles in their hands, the choir sings the antiphon "Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion", composed by St. John of Damascus, one of the few pieces which, text and music, have been borrowed by the Roman Church from the Greeks. The other antiphons are of Roman origin. The solemn procession represents the entry of Christ, who is the Light of the World, into the Temple of Jerusalem. It forms an essential part of the liturgical services of the day, and must be held in every parochial church where the required ministers can be had. The procession is always kept on 2 February even when the office and Mass of the feast is transferred to 3 February. Before the reform of the Latin liturgy by St. Pius V (1568), in the churches north and west of the Alps this ceremony was more solemn. After the fifth oration a preface was sung. The "Adorna" was preceded by the antiphon "Ave Maria". While now the procession is held inside the church, during the Middle Ages the clergy left the church and visited the cemetery surrounding it. Upon the return of the procession a priest, carrying an image of the Holy Child, met it at the door and entered the church with the clergy, who sang the canticle of Zachary, "Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel". At the conclusion, entering the sanctuary, the choir sang the responsory, "Gaude Maria Virgo" or the prose, "Inviolata" or some other antiphon in honour of the Blessed Virgin.
There you have it. A short explanation of Candlemas. Come experience it!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka