Thursday, February 2, 2012

Feast of The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today is the Feast of The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Candlemas.  To those who say the Rosary on a regular basis, they know this as the Fourth Joyful Mystery, the Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple.  In fact, the Novus Ordo calendar now calls this day Presentation of the Lord.  It is also called Candlemas because of Christ our Lord, who is the " light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:32).  Christ is the light of the nations, hence the blessing and procession of candles on this day. The reason it is called The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary is because this was traditionally the time when Israelite women went through a purification process after giving birth.  Leviticus 12:1-8:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.  And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised [this is what the Church traditionally celebrated on January 1, but is now only celebrated in the Traditional Calendar]And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.  But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.
And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest: who shall offer it before the Lord, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female.  And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.
Joseph and Mary were very poor, so they offered two young turtle doves to redeem the child, the Creator of the universe.  In actual fact, Christ, the Lamb of God, was the perfect offering.

The account of the purification of Mary can be found in Luke 2:22-32:
[22] And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: [23] As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: [24] And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons: [25] And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him.
[26] And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. [27] And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, [28] He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: [29] Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; [30] Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, [31] Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: [32] A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by St. Augustine the Bishop:
Concerning that time it was written : And of Sion it shall be reported that he was born in her, and the Most High shall stablish her.  O how blessed is the omnipotence of him that was born!  Yea, how blessed is the glory of him that came down from heaven to earth!  Whilst he was yet in his Mother's womb, he was saluted by St. John the Baptist.  And when he was presented in the temple, he was recognized by the old man Simeon, a worthy who was full of years, proved and crowned.  This ancient one, as soon as he knew him, worshipped and said : Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. 
He had lingered in the world to see the birth of him who made the world.  The old man knew the Child, and in that Child became a child himself, for in the love wherewith he regarded the Father of all, he felt his own years to be but as yesterday.  The ancient Simeon bare in his arms the new-born Christ, and all the while, Christ ruled and upheld the old man.  Simeon had been told by the Lord that he should not taste of death before he had seen the birth of the Lord's Christ.  Now that Christ was born , all the old man's wishes on earth were fulfilled. He that was come into a decrepit world now also came to an old man.
Simeon wished not to remain long in the world, but with great desire he had desired to see Christ in the world, for he had sung with the Prophet : Shew us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation.  And now at last, that ye might know how that, to his joy, his prayer was granted, he said : Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.  The Prophets have sung that the Maker of heaven and earth would converse on earth with men.  An Angel hath declared that the Creator of flesh and spirit would come in the flesh.  The unborn John, yet in the womb, hath saluted the unborn Saviour yet in the womb.  The old man Simeon hath seen God as little Child.
This account leaves out the following verses from Luke 2:34-35, which are prophecies made by Simeon:

And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: 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. 
The Douay Rheims verison defines "for the fall":  "Christ came for the salvation of all men; but here Simeon prophesies what would come to pass, that many through their own wilful blindness and obstinacy would not believe in Christ, nor receive his doctrine, which therefore would be ruin to them: but to others a resurrection, by their believing in him, and obeying his commandments." With Christ's appearance in the world as a man, we no longer have an excuse.  If we refuse to believe in Him, we condemn ourselves.  Belief in Christ will lead to the resurrection and life.  It is now our choice.

Simeon also prophesied to Mary that "thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed." Go here for an excellent explanation of what this means.  Here are a few excerpts:

Commenting on this, St Bernard says: The time will come when Jesus will not be offered in the temple nor in the arms of Simeon, but outside the city walls on the arms of a cross. The time will come when he will not be ransomed with money but will himself redeem others with his own blood, for God the Father has sent him as a ransom for his people. The suffering of his Mother, the sword that will pierce her soul, will have as their only cause the agony of her Son, his persecution and death, the uncertainty about when these things will happen, and the resistance to the grace of the Redemption, which will be the ruin of many. Mary’s destiny is bound up with that of Jesus, in its operation, and without any other possible reason.

The joy of the Redemption and the pain of the Cross are inseparable in the lives of Jesus and Mary, as if God, through his most beloved creatures in the world, wished to show us that happiness is to be found close to the Cross.

Right from the start then, the lives of Our Lord and of his Mother are stamped with the sign of the Cross. To the joy of the first Christmas is soon added privation and anxiety. From these first moments Mary already knows the pain that awaits her. And when her hour comes she will contemplate the Passion and Death of her Son with neither reproach nor complaint. Suffering as no mother could ever suffer, Mary will accept her pain in peace of mind, for she knows its redemptive significance.

Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, endured with her only-begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim which was born of her.

Mary’s suffering has an especially suitable meaning and is related to the sins of mankind. It is a co­redemptive suffering and that is why the Church gives to the Blessed Virgin the title of Co-redemptrix.

We ourselves learn the value and meaning of the sufferings and troubles which are part of every human life, when we meditate on Mary. With her we learn to sanctify pain, uniting it to that of her Son and offering it to the Father. The Holy Mass is the most suitable moment for offering all that is most painful in our lives. And there we will encounter Our Lady.

Luke 2:19: But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.

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