“Now, Lord, you may dismiss your servant
in peace, according to your word;
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have set before all the nations,
As a light of revelation for the Gentiles
and the glory of your people Israel.”
– Canticle of Simeon, Lk. 2:29-32
Dear Friends of Carmel,
The weeks since the cherished Christmas season have passed swiftly, and soon enough, Lent will be upon us. But Holy Mother Church, never failing to honor God, ever intent upon renewing and re-living the glorious mysteries of Christ, and always encouraging and consoling her children, celebrates one more day of Christmas “comfort and joy”.
The Feast of the Purification (Feb 2nd), forty days after Christmas, marks the day of Our Lord’s Presentation in the Temple. The two-fold Jewish rites to which the Holy Family submitted on this occasion were the legal purifying of the mother after childbirth and the offering of the first-born male child to the Lord. The day marks the official end of the “Christmas season,” and serves as something as a fulcrum between the first part of the liturgical year, Christmas and Epiphany, and the second part, Lent, Passiontide, and Easter. For while the joy and charm of Christmas and the Birth of the Christ Child are renewed with prayers that proclaim Him “the Light of the World,” this event in Our Lord’s life was His “Offertory” – the prelude to His sufferings and redemptive work. This simple ceremony is the link between the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption; here the Infant Savior begins, in a liturgical way, within the holy temple of God, and through the hands of the temple priest, the oblation of Himself. It was a preface of what was to be completed on Calvary where He would be sole Priest and Victim.
“Sacrifice and oblation Thou wouldst not; but a body Thou hast fitted to me.
Then, I said: “Behold, I come: in the head of the book it is written of Me
that I should do Thy will, O God.”
– Psalm 39(40):6
Jesus really begins His Passion in this mystery of the Presentation, and so, too, Mary begins her Dolors. It is by the Blessed Mother’s hands that Jesus makes the oblation which is the prelude to His Sacrifice. We recall the Presentation among the Joyful Mysteries of the holy Rosary, but it is also the first among Mary’s Sorrows. This feast reminds us how intimately Mary is associated with her Son in the work of Redemption.
Simeon, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, understood the mystery of the Mother and Child. After his first transports of joy at seeing the Messiah, he blessed them and said to His Mother: “Behold this Child is destined for the fall and the rise of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed (Lk. 2: 34-35).” This prophecy tells us that Mary is always to be associated with the destiny and the work of Jesus for the salvation of souls, suffering with Him, co-redeeming, and sharing in His glorious victory over sin and death.
Besides commemorating the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, this day has another meaning, for it is called Candlemas Day. The candle is one of the most widely used sacramentals in the Church, and this day is designated by the Church for the official blessing of candles. We have spoken at length about candles in the past, their history in Liturgical worship, their use by the Church, and their perfect symbolism as a sacramental sign of Christ Himself. We invite you to read more details about this especially in our past newsletter, Trust in Divine Providence. Knowing more about candles as a sacramental will help you to use them more efficaciously, since as a blessed sacramental, they are meant to be conveyors of God’s grace to us.
Abbot Gueranger gives a wonderful summary of this sacramental in his commentary on this Feast. While instructing the faithful, he also laments the errant tendency of the secular world to make Christians forget their holy Faith and the treasures they have inherited as children of Holy Mother Church. Though written over one hundred and fifty years ago, these words are still poignant today:
“St. Anselm […] bids us to consider three things in the blessed Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, 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 honor 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. There has been such a systematic effort made to destroy, or at least 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 for today, 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 blessed 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 you know, we have been offering candles on our site for some time now, and we are always happy to have them blessed upon request. But the blessing on the Feast of Purification is a very special blessing performed in the context of the Liturgy. The past few weeks customers have asked us to hold on to their candles in order to have them blessed on the Feast Day. We would be happy to offer this to others as well. As long as current stock and time allows it, we will be happy to have any of the candles ordered over the next few days blessed at our Purification Mass; just mention it in the comment section of your order. We know that it is not possible for everyone to attend a Purification Mass, and we want to make this powerful and important Sacramental available to as many as possible.
We must bring this brief newsletter to a close, as we have many large projects occupying our days! We hope to share some of them with you the next time we write. But in the meantime, please know of our prayers, especially as we begin to turn our thoughts towards Septuagesima and the holy season of Lent.
May God bless you, and Our Lady be with you!
Your Carmelite Sisters
The young artisan who crafts the candles we offer has developed a number of new scented versions, using essential oils and fragrances. The favorite among the Sisters was the Frankincense and Myrrh candle, which has the fragrance of incense. Very similar, but with its own distinct scent is the Myrrh and Amber candle. These beautiful scents augment the sacrificial aspect of burning blessed candles, especially used for the time of prayer. Frankincense, as well as myrrh and amber, have been used in Liturgical worship since Christ’s time. There is also a floral scent in honor of the Blessed Mother.
My Prayer Book: Happiness in Goodness and Blessed Be God, are now both back in stock! These beautiful old books are hardly out of fashion! In fact, they are in demand, and we have been asked more than once when they would be available again. Providentially, we finally received them just in time for a prayerful Lent. Treasury of the Sacred Heart is another beautiful hardbound collection of prayers, novenas, litanies and devotions that we are pleased to add to our selection of prayer books. Yet another treasure from the not-too-distant past back in print!
Good spiritual reading is an important practice for Lent, as we have so often encouraged in our newsletters year after year. Since we will not have the opportunity to remind you of this once again before Lent starts, be sure you have good titles lined up! Being more informed in our Faith and devotions provides a greater assurance of being able better to “fight the good fight” and make a fruitful Lent. We welcome a few new titles to the Lenten section on our site, including The Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ by Archbishop Goodier and Aquinas’s Lenten Meditations. Union with God, by Abbot Marmion is another spiritual classic we are so happy to see being re-printed. Abbot Marmion, known for his practical, profound spiritual knowledge and direction, is a perfect author for who desire to live seriously the spiritual life. All who read his works will benefit. And, of course, there is no better time for starting or deepening our spiritual life than the holy season of Lent.
Let Our Lady accompany your Lenten preparations. Two superb books can be of help: Mary Help of Christians (another excellent prayer book)and Bossuet’s Meditations on Mary. We urge you to peruse our Marian titles to discover what books draw your interest and devotion. No one is a better companion, teacher, director and converter of souls than Our Blessed Mother!