Saint Bernadette Church
The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Candlemas Day by Steve Taylor
Father, thank you for the blessing gift of this holy night. Thank you for guiding your people to rediscover this place of pure Latin liturgy in our time. Thank you for this renaissance in our midst, of our Church’s holy culture and life, which is at the service of Jesus, who comes to us through His Church, in word and sacrament.
Thank you for your servant Monsignor Smith and for words from the Holy Spirit. Lord, help me to summarize these words here that they may bless, nourish and elevate whoever would receive them. Thank you that the nourishment of the Eucharist does not stop, ever manifold is it in movements and ways.
Homily and ajoining thoughts
Monsignor began by saying calmly and emphatically: “It is such a little thing…”. How Mary and Joseph, fulfilling the obligations of the law, came to the temple to give to God, formally and completely, the firstborn Son they already knew was special - by the Annunciation and by His birth - who already belonged to the Lord. He shared that for people who love God and live in the life of God, essence is the simple, little things we do.
“In this deep winter night”, he said, “we are all here to honor this humble thing they did.” And pondering, also said: “Why do we walk about this church in candled procession?” In the Catholic Church, through the centuries, honoring tradition and the covenant: this is what we do. We are connected in lineage to the Holy Family as they are connected to the ancient fathers of Israel.
Monsignor affirmed that the feast of the Purification has no particular glory attached to it, because we are acknowledging a simple act. The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple is akin to His baptism. Christ did not require baptism, for He had no original sin for removal; but that those same waters would be consecrated for sinners who would follow Him. The Presentation parallels this; Christ already belongs to God, but Joseph and Mary simply did what is done, in accord with mosaic law. Jesus is no special exception, He is openly tendered. He is with us (already...and always), ordinary, like His own, in every way, save one. She submits that her Jesus, by this presentation, will too, know and be with all His kindred Israel.
With His people and with us today, Christ joins in solidarity, in simplicity.
Monsignor noted that a further confusion might seem to arise when pondering the need for a purification of the Blessed Virgin, who is the Immaculate Conception. But she humbles herself, submitting to what all of God's temple are to do after birthing. Of her Jewish ancestors, she is not exception either.
A mercy was pointed out; that we may worry about whether or not we are fulfilling God’s law, with our many religious observances and scrupulous activities, motivated sometimes anxiously, by the goal of holiness - by whether we measure up. But this is not God’s want for us; we are only to live out faithfully the simple things, tending the small stuff; not the fevers or heights or compulsions [of a heroic piety]. St Augustine speaks on this: “We are striving for great things; let us lay hold of little things, and we shall be great” We need look only to Joseph and Mary, our model parents.
Thank you Father for your servants in the Chantry choir, for giving them these loving labors of singing, learning and rehearsing. Thank you that all the music spoke in the most transparent way, lightly but exquisitely assisting your glory and mercy. Thank you for letting the beauty of polyphony bless us, heal us, nourish us and consecrate us.
Thank you Father for opening a little window of eternity, to the place where You are rightly worshipped. We are immersed in this rite, firmly on earth but glimpsing heaven. Father we are recovering that precious sense of space, beyond technological entanglements, worries and distractions. Beyond the secular world’s limited sense of time, beyond modernity’s bitter fruit of grossly shrunken human expectations, beyond our self-inflicted incapacity to breath the divine. Father You are the only Grandeur and we are starving for You because of our own wayward ignorance and blind illiteracy, a people who have wandered so far from You that it struggles awfully to perceive what is transcendent.. This must be what You mean by fitting praise and worship; to enter where You dwell, to get outside the strictly and comparatively human. Be still we must, to know that you alone are God.
We praise You dear God, in the candles blessed and solemnly distributed like alms to the poor; and in the lighting of these torches of faith brought from the altar by your very youngest of stewards. Light given to us by children! Thank you for saturating us in incense, granting us herein the faintest whiff of Paradise in prayer.
Thank you that The Procession takes place, all bearing lighted candles, as your twenty robed servants, traced the perimeters of the cruciform (church) while William Byrd praised in Antiphon, the while:
Adorna thalamum tuum Sion
Prepare thy bridal chamber, O Sion,
Et suscipe regem Christum.
And receive Christ the King
Amplectere Marian quae est caelestis porta
Embrace Mary who is the gate of heaven
Ipsa enim portat Regem gloriae novi luminis
for she beareth the King of the new light of glory.
Subsisti Virgo adducens manibus
She remaineth a virgin, leading by her hand
Filium ante luciferum genitum
a son born before the morning star
Quem accipiens Simeon in ulnas suas
Taking him up in his arms, Simeon
Praedicavit populis Dominum eum
proclaimed him to the people
Dominum eum esse vitae et mortis
to be the Lord of life and death
Et Salvatorem mundi
and the Savior of the world.
Here now is the chamber lit and it is we who welcome Him as if today first greeted that moment. And we do, as Beauty is always beginning and forever young. Today is always an acceptable time to welcome Him, to prepare ourselves for Him, to make of ourselves a worthy temple for Him to come. Have mercy on us O God, lowly we are, “I am what I am”. Let us too be purified that our hearts are given and open to Him in faith this night of Purification. Let us preserve this lit flame of faith and bear it within us, remembering our baptism, and every blessing and gift and grace bestowed on us in Christ. For the candles we received this day, let us kiss them and in the morning begin anew to hold them up ever high before others.
Father you overwhelm us and subsume us in a sea of beauty, of sacred voices delicately hovering nearer, altar tending, excellence rising, just to be present at this feast. Yet nothing excels the beauty of perfect obedience. Help us that we would be beautiful as the Holy Family have shown us models of truest Beauty. Help us that we may partake of carrying out what is most pleasing, help us to empty ourselves that we may be filled only with Christ and do what He loves. As sayeth Mother Theresa: “Not great things, but small things with great love.” We pray in our Lord’s name, Your Son who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.