From the Pastor: Looking Ahead to February 2
Although February 2 is still a couple of weeks away, I want to bring this celebration to your attention with enough time for you to plan. Yes, it is Groundhog Day on the secular calendar but, more importantly, it is Candlemas Day (aka The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary) on the Liturgical Calendar. Some of you have participated in the Candlemas festivities for the past three years we have been at Epiphany but, since this is the first time it has fallen on a Saturday, I expect that many more of you will be able to attend this time. We will have a Solemn High Mass that morning. Mass usually starts at 8:00 am but on this day, like on Palm Sunday, a blessing and procession precede the Mass. We will begin with a blessing of candles at 8:00 at the rectory chapel. Since the chapel only fits approximately 25 people, we will have to be outside rather than inside. Bring candles with you! (More on that in a moment.) Once the candles are blessed, we will have a daytime candlelight procession to the church where Mass will be celebrated. Since the Mass will be Solemn and the congregation will be large and the blessing of candles and procession will take some time, this will take a bit longer than the normal 45 minute Saturday Low Mass. I want you to know that ahead of time so that you don’t schedule something for 9:00 thinking you have plenty of time to get there after Mass!
Because Candlemas celebrations have been largely done away with in recent decades, many Catholic have never been to one and don’t know why we bless candles, why they bring candles, how many candles they can/should bring, etc. Even in the mid to late 1800’s Dom Gueranger knew that he had to explain it to people, as the tradition was already being maliciously neglected. From his masterpiece, “The Liturgical Year” we read (with bold emphasis mine), “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.”
Even way back then he saw that leaving behind such processions and blessings was a systematic way of destroying the Faith and was being done on purpose. So let’s fight back and regain what we have lost. Bring candles. Lots of candles. Beeswax (as we use at Mass) or paraffin or even oil candles can all be blessed. Bring them in a container with your name on it so that you can pick your “extras” up after Mass, plus one that you can hold during the procession and Mass. The next day, February 3, on the Feast of St. Blase, we use two of those blessed candles to bless throats. At least that last part is still seen in a good number of parishes today, even if the pastor doesn’t bless the candles the day before! Obviously, St. Blase’s feast day falls on a Sunday this year so, while we will celebrate the 4th Sunday after Epiphany that day, I will still, through the intercession of St. Blase, Bishop and martyr, bless throats after the Masses. Be prepared for that to take a long time, too!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka