Sunday, February 2, 2014

Candlemas Day!


Today celebrates Our Blessed Mother's obedience to the ancient Jewish law requiring mothers to come to the temple forty days after the birth of a child for a ritual purification and the customary presentation of the infant to the temple leaders. As you might imagine, Mary, perfect in body and soul didn't actually require any purification, but she teaches us humility, obedience, and respect for tradition by submitting to this mosaic law.

The parallel custom in the Catholic church today is the Churching ceremony, which is not required of mothers as Mary's purification was in her day, but is a wonderful blessing for mothers to receive after the birth of children. Isn't it wonderful the care that the Church has always taken of us wives and mothers? One of the chief prayers of the marriage blessing is meant especially for our benefit as wives and future mothers, and we can receive the benefit of the mother's blessing from our priest during our pregnancies (Ask him!), as well as the special ritual of thanksgiving and petition at the Churching ceremony, after our children are born. God knows our job is not an easy one, and provides for us with many prayers and helps!

This day also commemorates the fourth Joyful Mystery, the Presentation of the Infant Jesus at the Temple, and is the day upon which one of the chief blessings of the Church takes place. We have the blessing of the palms on Palm Sunday, the blessing of the ashes on Ash Wednesday, the holy water is blessed on Holy Saturday, and the blessing of candles, today, on Candlemas Day (aka: the Feast of the Purification).

It was on this day that Mary and Joseph met both the holy widow, Anna and the prophet, Simeon at the temple. Simeon prophesied the coming sorrows of the Blessed Mother, saying, "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."
This quote is familiar to most of us, but, upon first seeing the Infant Savior, he also spoke the following words, which prompted the Church's choice of this day for the blessing of candles:

"Now dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, In peace, according to Thyword: For mine own eyes hath seen Thy salvation, Which Thou hast prepared inthe sight of all the peoples, A light to reveal Thee to the nations And theglory of Thy people Israel."

So, we remember today at the blessing of candles that Christ is this light that Simeon is talking about.

It's on this day that we bring to the church our beeswax candles (at least 51%) to be blessed for home use. Every home should have blessed candles. They can be used at the home altar or for Advent candles, for instance, but are usually reserved for the most special occasions, due to the expense of the beesewax variety. They are generally used in the home for Extreme Unction, at dusk on all Saint's Day (according to this custom) and in the case of severe storms or other trouble or danger.

Other interesting tidbits about Candlemas Day:

* In Mexico, the person who got the hidden ring in the traditional Three Kings Cake on the Epiphany is responsible for throwing a party on this day. Tamales and hot chocolate are the traditional fare! (So that means my husband should be throwing us a part tonight, since he got the coveted ring. &:o) Are you reading this, dear?)

*But in many European countries, crepes are the order of the day, either sweet or savory. Catholic Cuisine has a great crepe recipe for today, as well as some wonderful ideas for cakes shaped like candles to celebrate the feast.
*Aussie Annie has some wonderful craft ideas for today, all involving candles, and Kimberly, at Catholic Family Vignettes has posted a wealth of ideas and links today!

*We've always got to have at least one coloring page, so here is one with St. Simeon and the Holy Family.

*Tomorrow, on the Feast of St. Blaise, two of the blessed candles from today will be used by priests to bless throats in parishes around the world.

*It's Groundhog Day in the saecular world today, while Catholic tradition places the custom of determining (guessing!) the weather of the last three winter months on the Ember Days of Winter.  You can backtrack at the National Weather Center Archives to locate what the weather was in your area on the Ember Days and see if it holds true for you where you live.

* The German Catholic custom, from which Punxatawny Phil derives is best described by this little poem:

If Candlemas is mild and pure,
Winter will be long for sure.

When it storms and snows on Candlemas Day,
Spring is not far away;

If it's bright and clear,
Spring is not yet near.

* The symbol for this day, other than candles, is snowdrops, the earliest of the flowering bulbs. According to my favorite source, Fisheaters, snowdrops "are known as "Candlemas Bells" because, being the usual earliest blooming flower of all, they often bloom before Candlemas (some varieties bloom all winter long in some places). Legend says that they sprang up by the hand of an angel, who then pointed them out as a sign of hope to Eve, who was weeping in repentance and in despair over the cold and death that entered into the world after she and her husband sinned. Because our Hope is Christ, the Light of the World as Simeon says in his canticle today, it is providential that the snowdrop should bloom by this Feast! If possible, gather some Candlemas Bells to bring inside (folk belief is that bringing them indoors before this date is bad luck, and bringing them indoors today "purifies" one's house.) These flowers, along with carnations, are also the "birth flower" for those born in January."

* This is the last day of Christmas ~ officially! If you haven't taken your tree and house decorations down by now, you can't defend yourself if you're called a slacker. For a little homemaking inspiration, here is an old poem that ties together our liturgical year with home decorating, gardening and an appreciation for the rightful passing of the seasons:

CEREMONIES FOR CANDLEMAS EVE
by Robert Herrick

DOWN with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the misletoe ;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box (for show).
The holly hitherto did sway ;
Let box now domineer
Until the dancing Easter day,
Or Easter's eve appear.
Then youthful box which now hath grace
Your houses to renew ;
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.
When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside ;
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin
To honour Whitsuntide.
Green rushes, then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments
To re-adorn the house.

Thus times do shift ; each thing his turn does hold ;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.

Happy Candlemas Day, Friends!

BTW: This is another re-post, this time from 2009.  

3 comments:

GrandmaK said...

Now that I have electricity back I guess it's okay that our friendly groundhog saw his shadow...It just means it'll take longer to get the yard cleared away. Have a good evening and how do enjoy the luxury of electricity and appreciate it. Cathy

Kim H. said...

Great post Lisa! Thanks for sharing all that information - so much I never know.

And my hubby shares his birthday with the Groundhog, so it's even a bit more fun.

Bia said...

Wow! I'm printing out this post to share with everyone this weekend during family night.

So much great information...THANK YOU FOR SHARING IT WITH US!!!