The Cloisters. Basilica Of Saint Paul-Without-The-Walls, Rome. Author: Dnalor 01. Licence (CC-BY-SA 3.0). Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, 2 February 2018

The Blessing Of The Candles On The Feast Of The Purification Of Mary. 2 February.

This Article was initiated by reading the excellent Blog,

Text is from "The Liturgical Year",
by Abbot Guéranger, O.S.B.,
unless stated otherwise.

English: The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple.
Français: La présentation de Jésus au Temple.
Artist: James Tissot (1836–1902).
Date: Between 1886 and 1894.
Current location: Brooklyn Museum,
New York, United States of America.
Credit line: Purchased by public subscription.
Source/Photographer: Online Collection of Brooklyn Museum;
Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2006, 00.159.27_PS1.jpg.
(Wikimedia Commons)

"We Must Hold As A Principle Of Our Spiritual Life,
That The Mysteries Brought Before Us, Feast After Feast,
Are Intended To Work In Us The Destruction Of The Old,
And The Creation Of The New Man."
- Dom Guéranger — "The Liturgical Year".


The Blessing before The Mass: “That as these candles, by their visible light, dispel the 
darkness of the night, so our hearts, burning with invisible fire, and enlightened by the 
Grace of The Holy Ghost, may be delivered from all blindness of sin; that the eye of our Soul being purified, we may discern those things that are pleasing to Thee, and beneficial to our Souls.”
Illustration and Caption from TRANSALPINE REDEMPTORISTS

After Terce, follows The Blessing of the Candles, which is one of the three principal Blessings observed by the Church during the year; the other two are those of the Ashes and of the Palms. The signification of this ceremony bears so essential a connection with the Mystery of Our Lady's Purification, that, if Septuagesima, Sexagesima, or Quinquagesima Sunday fall on 2 February, the Feast is deferred to 3 February; but the Blessing of the Candles, and the Procession which follows it, always takes place on this precise day.

In order to give uniformity to the three great Blessings of the year, the Church prescribes, for that of the Candles, the same colour for the Vestments of the Sacred Ministers as is used in the two other Blessings, of the Ashes and of the Palms — namely, Purple.

Thus, this Solemn function, which is inseparable from the day on which Our Lady's Purification took place, may be gone through every year on 2 February, without changing the colour prescribed for the three Sundays just mentioned.

English: Three Red Candles at Christmas-tide.
Deutsch: Drei brennende rote Kerzen in der Weihnachtszeit.
Photo: 25 December 2010.
Source: Own work.
Author: 4028mdk09.
(Wikimedia Commons)

It is exceedingly difficult to say what was the origin of this ceremony. Baronius, Thomassin, and others, are of the opinion that it was instituted towards the close of the 5th-Century, by Pope Saint Gelasius, in order to give a Christian meaning to certain vestiges still retained by the Romans of the old Lupercalia.

Saint Gelasius certainly did abolish the last vestiges of the feast of the Lupercalia, which, in earlier times, the pagans used to celebrate in the month of February. Pope Innocent III, in one of his Sermons for the Feast of the Purification, attributes the institution of this ceremony of Candlemas to the wisdom of the Roman Pontiffs, who turned, into the present religious rite, the remnants of an ancient pagan custom, which had not quite died out among the Christians.

The old pagans, he says, used to carry lighted torches in memory of those which the fable gives to Ceres, when she went to the top of Mount Etna in search of her daughter, Proserpine. But, against this, we have to object that, on the pagan Calendar of the Romans, there is no mention of any feast in honour of Ceres for the month of February.

We, therefore, prefer adopting the opinion of Dom Hugh Menard, Rocca, Henschenius, and Pope Benedict XIV: That an ancient feast, which was kept in February, and was called the Amburbalia, during which the pagans used to go through the City with lighted torches in their hands, gave occasion to the Sovereign Pontiffs to substitute, in its place, a Christian ceremony, which they attached to the Feast of that Sacred Mystery, in which Jesus, the Light of the World, was presented in the Temple by His Virgin-Mother.

The Mystery of today's ceremony has frequently been explained by Liturgists, dating from the 7th-Century. According to Saint Ivo of Chartres [in his Second Sermon on the Purification], the was, which is formed from the juice of the 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. Saint Anselm [Commentary on Saint Luke], Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same Mystery, bids us consider the three things in the Blest Candle: The wax; the wick; and the flame. The was, 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.

[Editor: The following paragraph, written by Abbot Guéranger in the Late-19th-Century, can readily be applied to today's situation, whereby many Catholic practices, Rites and Traditions are under attack from several quarters.]

There has been such a systematic effort 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 on 2 February, 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.

As soon as all is prepared, the Priest goes up to the Altar, and thus begins The Blessing of The Candles. The Prayers having been said, the Celebrant sprinkles the Candles with Holy Water, saying The Asperges in secret, and then Incenses them; after which, he distributes them to both Clergy and Laity [in receiving the Candle, The Faithful should kiss first the Candle and then the Priest's hand].

During the distribution, The Church, filled with emotion at the sight of these Sacred Symbols, which remind her of Jesus, shares in the joyous transports of the aged Simeon, who, whilst holding The Child in his arms, confessed Him to be The Light of the Gentiles. She chants his sweet Canticle, separating each verse by an Antiphon, which is formed out of the last words of Simeon.


Lumen ad revelationem gentium,
et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.
A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles,
and the glory of Thy people Israel.

Canticle of Simeon.

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine: *
secundum verbum tuum in pace . . .


Filled with Holy Joy, radiant with the mystic light, excited, like the venerable Simeon, by the impulse of the Holy Spirit, the Church goes forth to meet her Emmanuel. It is this meeting which the Greek Church calls the Hypapante, under which name she also designates The Feast on 2 February. The Church would imitate that wondrous Procession, which was formed in the Temple of Jerusalem on The Day of Mary's Purification. Let us listen to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

"On this day, The Virgin-Mother brings The Lord of the Temple into the Temple of The Lord; Saint Joseph presents to The Lord a Son, Who is not his own, but The Beloved Son of that Lord, Himself, and in Whom He is well pleased; Simeon, The Just Man, confesses Him for Whom he had been so long waiting; Anna, too, the widow, confesses Him.

"The Procession of this Solemnity was first made by these four persons [Editor: Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Anna], which afterwards was to be made, to the joy of the whole Earth, in every place and by every Nation. Let us not be surprised at its then being so little; for He they carried was little ! Besides, all who were in it were Just, and Saints, and perfect — there was not a single sinner." [First Sermon On The Purification.]

And yet let us join The Holy Procession. Let us go to meet Jesus, The Spouse of our Souls, as did The Wise Virgins, carrying in our hands lamps burning with the flame of Charity. Let us remember the command given us by Our Lord: "Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands: And you yourselves like to men who wait for their Lord [Saint Luke xii 35, 36]. Guided by Faith, and enlightened by Charity, we shall meet and know Him, and He will give Himself to us.

The Holy Church opens her Chants in this Procession with the following Antiphon, which is found, word for word, in The Greek Liturgy of this same Feast.


Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion, 
et suscipe Regem Christum . . .

Adorn thy bride-chamber, O Sion,
and receive Christ, thy King . . .

After the Procession, the Celebrant and his Ministers put off their Purple Vestments, and vest in White for the Mass of the Purification. But if it be any of the three Sundays, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, or Quinquagesima, the Mass of the Feast is Deferred till the morrow, as has already been explained.


In the Introit, The Church sings the glory of Jerusalem's Temple, that was this day
visited by Emmanuel. Great is The Lord in The City of David, great is He on His Mount of Sion. Simeon, the representative of the whole human race, receives into his arms Him that is The Mercy sent us by God.

In the Collect, The Church Prays that her children may be presented, as Jesus was, to The Eternal Father; but, in order that they may meet with a favourable reception, she asks Him to give them purity of heart.

All The Mysteries of The Man-God have for their object, the purifying of our hearts. He sends
His Angel, that is, His Precursor, before His Face, that he may prepare His way; and we
have heard this Holy Prophet crying out to us, in the wilderness: Be humbled, O ye hills !
and ye valleys, be ye filled up ! At length, He that is The Angel of The Testament comes in person
to seal the alliance with us.

He comes to His Temple, and this temple is our heart. But He is like a refining fire, that takes away the dross of metals. He wishes to renew us, by purifying us; that thus we may be worthy to be offered to Him, and with Him, by a perfect Sacrifice. We must, therefore, take care, and not be satisfied with admiring these sublime Mysteries.


We have been spending Christmas; we ought to have been born together with Jesus; this new Birth is now at its fortieth day. On 2 February, we must be offered by Mary, who is also our Mother, to The Divine Majesty, as Jesus was. The moment is come for our offering, for it is the hour of The Great Sacrifice; let us redouble the fervour of our preparation.

The following Text is taken from The Saint Andrew Daily Missal.

The Purification Of The Blessed Virgin Mary.
   Feast Day 2 February.

Double of The Second-Class.

Violet Vestments for The Blessing of The Candles.

White Vestments for The Mass of The Purification of The Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple.
Artist: Hans Holbein the Elder (1465–1524).
Date: 1500-1501.
Current location: Kunsthalle Hamburg, Germany.
Source/Photographer: The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002.
ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH.
Permission: [1]
(Wikimedia Commons)

With The Feast of The Purification, ends The Sanctoral Cycle of The Season After Epiphany. It is
one of the oldest Feasts of Our Lady and, in Rome in the 7th-Century A.D., it ranked after
The Assumption.

The Feast is kept on 2 February, because Mary, wishing to obey the Mosaic Law, had to go to Jerusalem forty days after The Birth of Jesus (25 December-2 February) to offer the prescribed sacrifice [Editor: The Church has instituted for Christian Mothers the fine Ceremony of "Churching"], Mothers were to offer a lamb, or, if their means did not allow, "two doves or two young pigeons".

The Blessed Virgin took with her to Jerusalem the Infant Jesus, and The Candlemas (Candlemass) Procession recalls the journey of Mary and Joseph ascending to the Temple to present "The Angel of The Covenant" (Epistle, Introit) as Malachy had prophesied.

"The wax of the Candles signifies the Virginal Flesh of The Divine Infant," says Saint Anselm, "the wick figures His Soul and the flame His Divinity."

The Purification to which the Mother of The Saviour was not obliged to conform, as her Motherhood was beyond ordinary laws, is not placed in the foreground by The Liturgy, and The Presentation of Jesus is the principal object of this Feast.

If this Solemnity is considered as belonging to the Season of Christmas, Jesus will be seen manifested by Simeon as The God Who "shall illumine the Gentiles with His Light and shall be The Glory of the people of Israel" (Gospel); and if, as belonging to the Season of Epiphany, we shall adore Jesus in the accomplishment of this prophecy, either at the Marriage Feast at Cana, where He commences to "manifest His Glory" (Gospel of Second Sunday), or in the midst of the multitude, when He spreads the Light of His Doctrine (Gospel of the Fifth and Sixth Sundays).

We may read the Fourth Prayer of The Blessing of Candles in order to understand the symbolism of the Lamp of the Sanctuary and the Candles Blessed on this day, and to know the right use to be made of them by the bed of the dying, during storms and in the perils to which may be exposed "our bodies and Souls on land and on the waters" (First Prayer of The Blessing of Candles).

If The Feast of The Purification falls on a Privileged Sunday, it is Transferred to the following day; nevertheless, The Blessing of The Candles takes place before The Sunday Mass.

Every Parish Priest Celebrates Mass for the people of his Parish.

Mass: Suscépimus, Deus.

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