Saturday, February 2, 2013

Presentation of the Lord and Candlemas: Fr. Andersen

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, St. Louis Church in Gervais, OR

Feb 2, 2013 The Presentation of the Lord/The Purification of our Lady
AKA. Candlemas

St. Alphonsus de Liguori reminds us that “Under the Old Law there were two precepts concerning the birth of firstborn sons. One was that the mother was regarded as unclean and was to remain in her house for forty days and then purify herself in the Temple. The other was that the parents of the firstborn son should take him to the Temple and offer him there to God” (The Glories of Mary. 246).

The offering of a firstborn son to God was normally done as a sign of redemption. The parents offer the boy but they exchange the sacrifice of a lamb and a turtledove, or two turtledoves in his place. Thus they have redeemed their children by means of symbolically sacrificing this firstborn. With Mary and Joseph this offering of Jesus in the Temple was different because He would truly be sacrificed as a redemption for all, but not yet; not now. This offering would consummated and perfected at the Sacrifice of the Cross, and the Sacrifice of the Altar, but for this day, the sacrifice was merely being signified by the offering of two turtledoves.

The Word of the Lord had come to the prophet Malachi in days of old, saying: “Suddenly there will come to the Temple the Lord whom you seek.” And the Word of the Lord had come to the prophet Haggai who had spoken: “. . . the Desired of all nations shall come; and I will fill this House with glory. Great shall be the glory of this House, more than of the first; and in this place I will give Peace, says the Lord of hosts.” (2:5,7,8,19). Haggai spoke to the people who had returned from exile in Babylon. The original Temple of Solomon had been destroyed. Now, a new Temple had arisen in its place but the people were disappointed because the Second Temple did not reach the magnificence of King Solomon’s Temple. But the Lord promised through His prophets that He would fill this Second Temple with His glory.

At the time when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to be Presented, the Ark of the Covenant had been lost. It was hidden away and never found again. Meanwhile, in the time of the Maccabees, the Temple had been desecrated by the Greeks and the apostate Jews who cooperated with them. The Romans had later conquered and placed an apostate ruler over the Jews.

Now, on this day, forty days after the birth of the true Bread from Heaven, the Ark of the Covenant is climbing the steps of the Temple holding in her arms the Glory of the Lord, the Desired of all nations, who is about to fill the temple with His glory. The words of the prophet Malachi are fulfilled: “Suddenly there will come to the Temple the Lord whom you seek.” “The blood of oxen and goats will, for a few years more, flow on its altar; but the Infant, who holds in His veins the Blood that is to redeem the world, is at this moment (being held) near that very altar.” (Gueranger vol 3, pg 467). But today is not the time for a blood sacrifice. He shed a drop of His blood at His Circumcision on January 1st. That is enough until His hour shall have come.
Mary and Joseph were in a procession carrying the light of the world. It was the smallest procession with the smallest child. So the procession we make today is an expansion on that first procession. We are the like Mary and Joseph, but also like the Wise Virgins, carrying in our hands the lamps burning with the flame of charity. The blessing of candles is one of three major blessings during the year: The candles, then the ashes, then the palms. Why is it that we associate the candle with Jesus. We have these candles today. We also have the Easter Candle. What is the connection?

St. Anselm of Canterbury considered it this way: We have the wax, the wick and the flame. The wax, 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.

It is believed that this feast is of apostolic origin. It is the final close of the Christmas season, Feb 2nd. Tonight, after Compline the Marian Antiphon has changed to the Ave Regina Coelorum which will now be sung through Lent until the Triduum.

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