Candlemas – History and Meaning
In the Roman Rite, Candlemas is another name the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The principal Mass for this great feast is preceded by the blessing of candles, hence the name, from Candle Mass.
According to the Mosaic law of the Old Testament, a woman who has given birth to a son was considered unclean for 7 days (double this time if she had a daughter) and she was to remain for 33 days “in the blood of her purification” which meant the time she was excluded from the temple. When the time of waiting was over, forty days, she was to bring a sacrifice to the temple. After offering her sacrifice, and having a priest pray over her, she was considered clean.
In the Roman Rite, the blessing of the candles takes place before the Mass. The celebrant is dressed in purple vestments, stands on the epistle side of the holy altar, and blesses the candles. Five prescribed orations are sung or recited as the candles, of pure beeswax, are sprinkled and incensed. The candles are then distributed to the congregants and the Canticle of Simeon, the Nunc dimitus, is sung. Between each verse of the Canticle, “Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuae Israel” is sung. Following this a procession takes place, with the candles lighted and carried in hand, while all sing “Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion” – composed by St. John of Damascus, an early Father of the Church. The solemn procession represents the entry of Our Lord, who is the Light of the World, into the holy Temple of Jerusalem.
The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Candlemas, was celebrated in the earliest times in the Church at Jerusalem and from there the observance of the feast spread throughout the Christian world.
This article brought to you by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. Written by Mike Davis.
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He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.
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