Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Candlemas



It's the Feast of the Presentation!
Also known as Candlemas.
(Known as Candlemas because at this Mass the candles for the year would be blessed…I love the tiny details, you know).
You may now, officially, take down all your Christmas decor, and the tree.
Yup, if you're old school, this is when you take down the tree. Imagine!
Kinda cool though, really.  If you think that they must have had different ways of doing Christmas trees, or else all those homes would have gone up in flames by now.  But again, my mind wanders…

This feast takes place forty days after the birth of Christ; it's the feast of his presentation in the temple.
I think about this event often, not only when I pray the fourth decade of the joyous mysteries of the rosary, but lately..well, all the time.  It's that presenting your son to God thing.  Lots to think about there.
Mary, doing the dutiful Jewish mother thing of the era, brought her sweet swaddled baby to the temple, as required, in order to present him to the temple elders.  We all know the story: the old woman, Anna, was hanging out there and she came up to see Mary and the baby.  How often has this happened to us mom's today, an old lady wants to come up close to see your little one?  All the time!

Rembrandt, "The Prophetess Anna"

'But this old woman was a prophetess, and she told of the Messiah after seeing the babe Jesus:  
"There was a prophetess too, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher... she never left the temple serving God day . night with fasting and prayer. She came up just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.'       Luke 2:36-38
 Also in the temple, Simeon, too, got a look at the baby, and he broke into a prayer that the Church still prays every night:
Rembrandt. Simeon with the Christ Child in the Temple. c. 1666-69.
"Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; 
your word has been fulfilled.
My own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel."
Simeon went on to tell Mary that her heart would be "pierced by a sword" after looking at the baby Jesus.
I'm pretty sure Mary's heart ran cold right then and there and she held him tight to her chest.  I'm sure she was ready to grab Joseph and head out, maybe not, being without sin and filled with the Holy Spirit and all.  But I'm thinking her  mama-bear instinct would have still been roaring and she was ready to be done with this obligation. Or maybe that would just be me. Anyhow, all of a sudden, this regulation visit became a mini epiphany, again….and it leads us from Christmas and points us right down the barrel to Easter.  Which, if you think about it, must'a been how Mary had to live her life with this sweet son.  And it's really how we are supposed to live ours.  Not that it's so easy.

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) wrote beautifully about this feast.
The Christian mysteries are an indivisible whole. If we become immersed in one, we are led to all the others. Thus the way from Bethlehem leads inevitably to Golgotha, from the crib to the cross. When the blessed virgin brought the child to the temple, Simeon prophesied that her soul would be pierced by a sword, that this child was set for the fall and the resurrection of many, for a sign that would be contradicted. His prophecy announced the passion, the fight between light and darkness that already showed itself before the crib.


Happy Candlemas.  Lots to think about.

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