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Ink drawing by Gloria Tuccio

Pastor's Corner Very Rev. Aaron M. Williams

CANDLEMAS

The Feast of the Presentation (February 2) also has the traditional name “Candlemas”, owing to the fact that we usually bless candles on this day. There used to be a custom in the church, after a child had been baptized, for the mother to receive a special blessing while holding her child’s baptismal candle. This was sometimes called the “Churching of Women” and was meant to be a spiritualization of the Jewish custom of the “purification of women” after childbirth. Under the old law, a woman was ritually unclean after childbirth and had to present herself in the temple and make an offering in order to be purified. Because of the link between this old covenant and the traditional Catholic practice, medieval imaginations began to converge these two celebrations so that we began to associate the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary as her “churching” ceremony. Even in art, Mary is often depicted holding a candle at her purification.

The liturgical celebration of Mary’s purification coincides with the presentation of Christ in the temple forty days after his birth (February 2). All of these connections led to the custom that on this feast day the church blesses all the candles which will be used in sacred worship for the following year, as well as any candles which the faithful may bring with them for the feast. Incidentally, this is also the reason why the traditional blessing of throats on St. Blaise day (February 3) is done with candles, since the candles were newly-blessed from the day before.

This year, by special permission of the Bishop, we will celebrate the Feast of the Presentation as the final evening of our mission on Rekindling Eucharistic Amazement. On February 1 at 6:00 PM, Fr. Wehner will offer Mass for us in celebration of this feast and bless all our candles for use in the upcoming year. Everyone who comes will also receive a candle, but you are also invited to bring your own to blessed if you wish. These blessed candles may be used for prayer in the home, or they could also be saved for emergencies when the power is out.

–Fr. Aaron Williams

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St. Mary Basilica Coat of Arms