Forty days out from Christmas we reach the final marker of the Advent to Epiphany cycle. In the traditional calendar, February 2 is the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, the Presentation of the Lord in the newer reckoning.
In the cycle of Our Saviour’s earthly life, Mary went to the Temple according to the law for ritual purification after childbirth. The elderly Simeon recognised Jesus as the Messiah, who would bring new light to the world’s darkness.
At the traditional celebration of this feast, the Holy Church blesses and gives us light-bearing candles, and so we nickname this day Candlemas. Following their blessing, we hold lighted candles in procession, and during both the Gospel and the Canon. We can take these sacramentals home, our final Christmas gifts. Candlemas candles should remind us of our own baptismal or christening candles, ignited and held after that life-brightening moment. “Receive this lighted candle,” we are told in the Traditional Rite, “and keep your baptism above reproach.” The only moment we will be more intimately bound with the Lord will be when we are admitted to the light of the Beatific Vision.
Speaking of darkness, our fleshly eyes eventually adjust to lack of light. We get used to it. Even so, we can become inured to the dark corrupting influences of the world, the flesh and the Devil. It can even seem that the immorality, the falsity which engulfs us, is the new normal. When a light is suddenly struck in our shadows it can cause us to blink, turn away, hide. However, soon thereafter we look about to rediscover with wonder – and sorrow – partially forgotten details. One of the blessings for the candles says: “O almighty and everlasting God, … vouchsafe to pour forth the grace of Thy blessing + upon these candles: that they may so afford us light outwardly that by Thy gift, the gift of Thy Spirit may never be wanting inwardly to our minds.”
A grace-spark in our minds and hearts can rekindle light in our souls and allow us to see again the details we have lost sight of in habitual obscurity. Under the light of grace and the guidance of authority we can examine our consciences and seek – and produce – ever greater light as enkindled Christians.
Never let a day pass without an examination of conscience. Strike that inner flint.
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