February 2 – The Purification of the Blessed Virgin

The Forty Days of Mary’s Purification are now completed, and she must go up to the Temple, there to offer to God her Child Jesus. Before following the Son and his Mother in this their mysterious journey, let us spend our last few moments at Bethlehem, in lovingly pondering over the mysteries at which we are going to assist.

The Law commanded that a woman who had given birth to a son should not approach the Tabernacle for the term of forty days, after which time she was to offer up a lamb as a holocaust, and a turtle or dove as a sin offering. But if she were poor, and could not provide a lamb, she was to offer, in its stead, a second turtle or dove.

By another ordinance of the Law, every first-born son was to be considered as belonging to God, and was to be redeemed by five sicles, each sicle weighing, according to the standard of the Temple, twenty obols.

Mary was a Daughter of Israel — she had given Birth to Jesus — he was her First-born Son. Could such a Mother, and such a Son, be included in the Laws we have just quoted? Was it becoming that Mary should observe them?

If she considered the spirit of these legal enactments, and why God required the ceremony of Purification, it was evident that she was not bound to them. They, for whom these Laws had been made, were espoused to men; — Mary was the chaste Spouse of the Holy Ghost, a Virgin in conceiving, and a Virgin in giving Birth to, her Son; her purity had ever been spotless as that of the Angels — but it received an incalculable increase by her carrying the God of all sanctity in her womb, and bringing him into this world. Moreover, when she reflected upon her Child being the Creator and sovereign Lord of all things — how could she suppose that he was to be submitted to the humiliation of being ransomed as a slave, whose life and person are not his own?

And yet, the Holy Spirit revealed to Mary, that she must comply with both these Laws. She, the holy Mother of God, must go to the Temple like other Hebrew mothers, as though she had lost a something which needed restoring by a legal sacrifice. He, that is the Son of God and Son of Man, must be treated in all thing’s as though, he were a Servant, and be ransomed in common with the poorest Jewish boy. Mary adores the will of God, and embraces it with her whole heart.

The Son of God was not to be made known to the world but by gradual revelations. For thirty years, he leads a hidden life in the insignificant village of Nazareth; and during all that time, men took him to be the son of Joseph. It was only in his thirtieth year that John the Baptist announced him, and then only in mysterious words, to the Jews, who flocked to the Jordan, there to receive from the Prophet the baptism of penance. Our Lord himself gave the next revelation—the testimony of his wonderful works and miracles. Then came the humiliations of his Passion and Death, followed by his glorious Resurrection, which testified to the truth of his prophecies, proved the infinite merits of his Sacrifice, and, in a word, proclaimed his Divinity. The earth has possessed its God and its Savior for three-and-thirty years, and men, with a few exceptions, knew it not. The Shepherds of Bethlehem knew it; but they were not told, as were afterwards the Fishermen of Genesareth, to go and preach the Word to the furthermost parts of the world. The Magi, too, knew it; they came to Jerusalem and spoke of it, and the City was in a commotion; but all was soon forgotten, and the Three Kings went back quietly to the East. These two events (which would, at a future day, be celebrated by the Church as events of most important interest to mankind), were lost upon the world, and the only ones that appreciated them were a few true Israelites who had been living in expectation of a Messias, who was to be poor and humble, and was to save the world. The majority of the Jews would not even listen to the Messias’ having been born; for Jesus was born at Bethlehem, and the Prophets had distinctly foretold that the Messias was to be called a Nazarene.

The same Divine plan — which had required that Mary should be espoused to Joseph, in order that her fruitful Virginity might not seem strange in the eyes of the people — now obliged her to come, like other Israelite mothers, to offer the sacrifice of Purification, for the Birth of the Son, whom she had conceived by the operation of the power of the Holy Ghost, but who was to be presented in the Temple as the Son of Mary, the Spouse of Joseph. Thus it is, that Infinite Wisdom delights in showing that his thoughts are not our thoughts, and in disconcerting our notions; he claims the submissiveness of our confidence, until the time come that he has fixed for withdrawing the veil, and showing himself to our astonished view.

The Divine Will was dear to Mary in this as in every circumstance of her life. The Holy Virgin knew, that by seeking this external rite of Purification, she was in no wise risking the honour of her Child, or failing in the respect due to her own Virginity. She was in the Temple of Jerusalem what she was in the house of Nazareth, when she received the Archangel’s visit — she was the Handmaid of the Lord. (Luke 1:38) She obeyed the Law, because she seemed to come under the Law. Her God and her Son submitted to the ransom as humbly as the poorest Hebrew would have to do; he had already obeyed the edict of the emperor Augustus, in the general census; he was to be obedient even unto death, even to the death of the Cross. The Mother and the Child, both humbled themselves in the Purification, and man’s pride received, on that day, one of the greatest lessons ever given it. 

What a journey was this of Mary and Joseph, from Bethlehem to Jerusalem! The Divine Babe is in his Mother’s arms — she had him on her heart the whole way. Heaven, and earth, and all nature, are sanctified by the gracious presence of their merciful Creator. Men look at this Mother as she passes along the road with her sweet Jesus; some are struck with her appearance, others pass her by as not worth a look; but of the whole crowd, there was not one that knew he had been so close to the God, who had come to save him.

Joseph is carrying the humble offering, which the Mother is to give to the Priest. They are too poor to buy a lamb — besides, their Jesus is the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world. The Law required that a Turtle, or Dove, should be offered in the place of a lamb, when the Mother was poor. Innocent birds! emblems of purity, fidelity, and simplicity. Joseph has also provided the five Sides, the ransom to be given for the First-born Son — Mary’s only Son, who has vouchsafed to make us his Brethren, and, by adopting our nature, to render us partakers of his.

At length, the Holy Family enters Jerusalem. The name of this holy City signifies Vision of Peace; and Jesus comes to bring her Peace. Let us consider the names of the three places in which our Redeemer began, continued, and ended his life on earth. He is conceived at Nazareth, which signifies a Flower; and Jesus is, as he tells us in the Canticle, the Flower of the field and the Lily of the valley, by whose fragrance we are refreshed. He is born at Bethlehem, the House of Bread; for he is the nourishment of our souls. He dies on the Cross in Jerusalem, and by his Blood he restores peace between heaven and earth, peace between men, peace within our own souls; and on this day of his Mother’s Purification, we shall find him giving us the pledge of this peace.

Whilst Mary, the Living Ark of the Covenant, is ascending the steps, which lead up to the Temple, carrying Jesus in her arms, let us be attentive to the mystery — one of the most celebrated of the prophecies is about to be accomplished, one of the principal characters of the Messias is about to be shown as belonging to this Infant. We have already had the other predictions fulfilled, of his being conceived of a Virgin, and born in Bethlehem ; to-day, he shows us a further title to our adoration — he enters the Temple.

This edifice is not the magnificent Temple of Solomon, which was destroyed by fire during the Jewish captivity. It is the Second Temple, which was built after the return from Babylon, and is not comparable to the First in beauty. Before the century is out, it also is to be destroyed; and our Savior will soon tell the Jews that not a stone shall remain on stone that shall not be thrown down. Now, the Prophet Aggeus—in order to console the Jews, who had returned from banishment, and were grieving because they were unable to raise a House to the Lord equal in splendor to that built by Solomon—addressed these words to them, which mark the time of the coming of the Messias: “Take courage, O Zorobabel, saith the Lord; and take courage, O Jesus, the son of Josedec, the High Priest; and take courage, all ye people of the land;—for this saith the Lord of hosts: Yet one little while, and I will move the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. And I will move all nations, and the Desired of all nations shall come; and I will fill this House with glory.—Great shall be the glory of this House, more than of the first; and in this place I will give Peace, saith the Lord of hosts.”

The hour is come for the fulfillment of this prophecy. The Emmanuel has left Bethlehem ; he has come among the people; he is about to take possession of his Temple, and the mere fact of his entering it, will straightways give it a glory, which is far above that of its predecessor. He will often visit it during his mortal life; but his coming to it to-day, carried as he is in Mary’s arms, is enough for the accomplishment of the promise, and all the shadows and figures of this Temple at once pale before the rays of the Sun of Truth and Justice. The blood of oxen and goats will, for a few years more, flow on its altar; but the Infant, who holds in his veins the Blood that is to redeem the world, is, at this moment, standing near that very Altar. Amidst the Priests who are there, and amidst the crowd of Israelites who are moving to and fro in the sacred building, there are a few faithful ones, who are in expectation of the Deliverer, and they know that the time of his manifestation is at hand; — but there is not one among them all, who knows, that at that very moment, this expected Messias is under the same roof with himself.

But, this great event could not be accomplished, without a prodigy being wrought by the Eternal God, as a welcome to his Son. The Shepherds had been summoned by the Angel, and the Magi had been called by the Star, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem: this time, it is the Holy Ghost himself who sends a witness to the Infant, now in the great Temple.

There was then living in Jerusalem an old man whose life was well nigh spent. He was a Man of desires, and his name was Simeon; his heart had longed unceasingly for the Messias, and at last, his hope was recompensed. The Holy Ghost revealed to him that he should not see death without first seeing the rising of the Divine Light. As Mary and Joseph were ascending the steps of the Temple to take Jesus to the Altar, Simeon felt within himself the strong impulse of the Spirit of God; he leaves his house, and walks towards the Temple; the ardor of his desire makes him forget the feebleness of age. He reaches the porch of God’s House—and there, amidst the many mothers who had come to present their children, his inspired gaze recognizes the Virgin, of whom he had so often read in Isaias, and he presses through the crowd to the Child she is holding in her arms.

Mary, guided by the same Divine Spirit, welcomes the saintly old man, and puts into his trembling arms the dear object of her love, the Salvation of the world. Happy Simeon! figure of the ancient world, grown old in its expectation, and near its end. No sooner has he received the sweet Fruit of Life than his youth is renewed as that of the eagle, and in his person is wrought the transformation which was to be granted to the whole human race. He cannot keep silence—he must sing a Canticle—he must do as the Shepherds and Magi had done, he must give testimony: “Now,” says he, “now, O Lord, thou dost dismiss thy servant in Peace, because my eyes have seen thy Salvation, which thou hast prepared—a Light that is to enlighten the Gentiles and give glory to thy people Israel.”

Immediately, there comes, attracted to the spot by the same Holy Spirit, the holy Anna, Phanuel’s daughter, noted for her piety, and venerated by the people on account of her great age. Simeon and Anna, the representatives of the Old Testament, unite their voices, and celebrate the happy coming of the Child who is to renew the face of the earth; they give praise to the mercy of Jehovah, who, in this place, in this Second Temple, gives Peace to the world, as the Prophet Aggeus (Haggai) had foretold.

This was the Peace so looked forward to by Simeon, and now, in this Peace will he sleep. Now, O Lord, as he says in his Canticle, thou dost dismiss thy servant, according to thy word, in Peace! His soul, quitting is bond of the flesh, will now hasten to the bosom of Abraham, and bear to the elect, who rest there, the tidings that Peace has appeared on the earth, and will soon open heaven. Anne has some years still to pass on earth; as the Evangelist tells us, she has to go and announce the fulfilment of the promises to such of the Jews as were spiritually minded, and looked for the Redemption of Israel. The divine seed is sown; the Shepherds, the Magi, Simeon, and Anne, have all been its sowers; it will spring up in due time; and when our Jesus has spend his thirty years of hidden life in Nazareth, and shall come for the harvest time, he will say to his Disciples: Lift up your eyes, and see the countries, for they are white already for the harvest: pray ye the Lord of the harvest that he send laborers into his harvest.

Simeon gives back to Mary the Child she is going to offer to the Lord. The two Doves are presented to the Priest, who sacrifices them on the Altar; the price for the ransom is paid; the whole law is satisfied; and, after having paid her homage to her Creator in this sacred place, where she spent her early years, Mary, with Jesus fastly pressed to her  bosom, and her faithful Joseph by her side, leaves the Temple.

Such is the mystery of this fortieth day, which closes, by this admirable Feast of the Purification, the holy season of Christmas. Several learned writers, among whom we may mention Henschenius and Pope Benedict the Fourteenth, are of opinion that this Solemnity was instituted by the Apostles themselves. This much is certain, that it was a long-established Feast even in the fifth century.

The Greek Church and the Church of Milan count this Feast among those of our Lord; but the Church of Rome has always considered it as a Feast of the Blessed Virgin. It is true, it is our Saviour who is this day offered in the Temple; but this offering is the consequence of our Lady’s Purification. The most ancient of the Western Martyrologies and Calendars call it The Purification. The honour thus paid by the Church to the Mother, tends, in reality, to the greater glory of her Divine Son, for He is the Author and the End of all those prerogatives which we revere and honour in Mary.

FIRST VESPERS

The holy Church sings, in this Office, the celebrated Antiphons of the Feast of the Circumcision, which speak of the great Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, and of Mary’s fruitful Virginity. “We give the Psalms in the Second Vespers, inasmuch as they are more generally assisted at by the Faithful than the First.

Ant. O admirable Interchange! The Creator of mankind, assuming a living Body, deigned to be born of a Virgin; and becoming Man, without man’s aid, bestowed on us his Divinity.

Psalm, Dixit Dominus

Ant. When thou wast born ineffably of the Virgin, the Scriptures were fulfilled. As dew upon Gedeon’s Fleece, thou earnest down to save mankind. O Lord, our God! we praise thee.

Psalm, Laudate pueri

Ant. In the bush seen by Moses as burning yet unconsumed, we recognize the preservation of thy glorious Virginity. Mother of God, intercede for us.

Psalm, Lætatus sum.

Ant. The Root of Jesse hath budded; the Star hath risen out of Jacob; a Virgin hath brought forth the Saviour. O Lord our God! we praise thee.

Psalm, Nisi Dominus

Ant. Lo! Mary hath brought forth a Saviour unto us, whom John seeing, exclaimed: Behold the Lamb of God! Behold him that taketh away the sins of the world. Alleluia.

Psalm, Lauda Jerusalem

The Capitulum is the prophecy of Mai achy, announcing the coming of the Lord, the Angel of the Testament, into his Temple. The prophecy was fulfilled on the day of Mary’s Purification.

CAPITULUM (Malachi 3)

Behold I send my Angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face.. And presently the Lord, whom ye seek, and the Angel of the testament, whom ye desire, shall come to his holy Temple.

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HYMN (Ave Maris Stella)

 

 

Ave, maris stella,
Dei mater alma,
atque semper virgo,
felix cœli porta. Sumens illud «Ave»
Gabrielis ore,
funda nos in pace,
mutans Evæ nomen. Solve vincla reis,
profer lumen cæcis,
mala nostra pelle,
bona cuncta posce. Monstra te esse matrem,
sumat per te precem
qui pro nobis natus
tulit esse tuus. Virgo singularis,
inter omnes mitis,
nos culpis solutos
mites fac et castos. Vitam præsta puram,
iter para tutum,
ut videntes Jesum
semper collætemur. Sit laus Deo Patri,
summo Christo decus,
Spiritui Sancto
tribus honor unus. Amen
Hail, star of the sea,
Nurturing Mother of God,
And ever Virgin
Happy gate of HeavenReceiving that “Ave” (hail)
From the mouth of Gabriel,
Establish us in peace,
Transforming the name of “Eva” (Eve).Loosen the chains of the guilty,
Send forth light to the blind,
Our evil do thou dispel,
Entreat (for us) all good things.Show thyself to be a Mother:
Through thee may he receive prayer
Who, being born for us,
Undertook to be thine own.O unique Virgin,
Meek above all others,
Make us, set free from (our) sins,
Meek and chaste.Bestow a pure life,
Prepare a safe way:
That seeing Jesus,
We may ever rejoice. Praise be to God the Father,
To the Most High Christ (be) glory,
To the Holy Spirit
(Be) honour, to the Three equally. Amen

℣. Simeon had received an answer from the Holy Ghost,

℟. That he should not see death, before he had seen Christ of the Lord.

ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT

Ant. The old man carried the Child, but the Child guided the old man. A Virgin bore him, and, after childbirth, continued a Virgin : she adored Him, whom she brought forth.

LET US PRAY.

Almighty and Eternal God, we humbly beseech thy divine Majesty, that as thy only Son, in the substance of our flesh, was this day presented in the temple, so our souls, being perfectly cleansed, may become a pure oblation, and presented to thee. Through the same, etc.

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Blessing of the Candles

After Tierce follows the Blessing of the Candles, which is one of the three principal ones observed by the Church during the year; the other two are the Blessing of the Ashes, and the Blessing of the Palms. The signification of this ceremony bears so essential a connection with the mystery of our Lady’s Purification that if Septuagesima, Sexagesima, or Quinquagesima Sunday fall on the 2nd of February, the Feast is deferred to tomorrow; but the Blessing of the Candles, and the Procession which follows it, always take place on this precise day.

In order to give uniformity to the three great Blessings of the year, the Church prescribes for that of the Candles the same color for the vestments of the sacred Ministers, as is used in the two other Blessings of the Ashes and Palms—namely Purple. Thus this solemn function, which is inseparable from the day on which our Lady’s Purification took place, may be gone through every year on the 2nd of February without changing the color prescribed for the three Sundays just mentioned.

It is exceedingly difficult to say what was the origin of this ceremony. Baronius, Thomassin, and others, are of opinion, that it was instituted towards the close of the 5th century, by Pope St. Gelasius, in order to give a christian meaning to certain vestiges, still retained by the Romans, of the old Lupercalia. St. Gelasius certainly did abolish the last vestiges of the feast of the Lupercalia, which, in earlier times, the Pagans used to celebrate in the month of February. — Pope Innocent the Third, in one of his Sermons for the Feast of the Purification, attributes the institution of this ceremony of Candlemas to the wisdom of the Roman Pontiffs, who turned into the present religious rite the remnants of an ancient pagan custom, which had not quite died out among the Christians. The old Pagans, he says, used to carry lighted torches in memory of those which the fable gives to Ceres, when she went to the top of Mount Etna in search of her daughter Proserpine. But against this, we have to object, that on the pagan Calendar of the Romans, there is no mention of any feast in honour of Ceres, for the month of February. — We, therefore, prefer adopting the opinion of Dom Hugh Menard, Rocca, Henschenius, and Pope Benedict the Fourteenth; that an ancient feast, which was kept in February, and was called the Amburbalia, during which the pagans used to go through the city with lighted torches in their hands, gave occasion to the Sovereign Pontiffs to substitute, in its place, a Christian ceremony, which they attached to the Feast of that sacred mystery, in which Jesus, the Light of the world, was presented in the Temple by his Virgin-Mother.

The mystery of today’s ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to St. Ivo of Chartres, the wax—which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee (which has always been considered as the emblem of virginity)—signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by his conception or his birth, the spotless purity of his Blessed Mother. The same holy Bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus, who came to enlighten our darkness. St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us 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 honour to be permited 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, to 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 to-day, not only to be carried in the Procession, which forms part of the ceremony, 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 blest 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 soon as all is prepared, the Priest goes up to the Altar, and thus begins the Blessing of the Candles.

℣. Dominus Vobiscum.

℣. The Lord be with you.

℟. Et cum spiritu tuo.

℟. And with thy spirit.

Oremus. Let us Pray.

Domine sancte, Pater omnipotens, æterne Deus, qui omnia ex nihilo creasti, et jussu tuo per opera spum hunc liquorem ad perfectionem cerei pervenire fecisti; et qui hodierna die petitionem justi Simeonis implesti: te humiliter deprecamur, ut has candelas ad usus hominum, et sanitatem corporum et animarum, sive in terra, sive in aquis, per invocationem tui sancti Nominis, et per intercessionem beatæ Mariæ semper Virginis, cujus hodie festa devote celebrantur, et per preces omnium Sanctorum tuorum, benedicere et sanctificere digneris; et hujus plebis tuæ, quæ illas honorifice in manibus desiderat portare, teque cantando laudare, exaudias voces de cœlo sancto tuo, et de sede Majestatis tuæ; et propitius sis omnibus clamantibus ad te, quos redemisti pretioso sanguine Filii tui, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

Holy Lord, Father Almighty and Eternal God, who didst create all things out of nothing and by the labor of the bees, following thy commands, hast brought this liquor to the perfection of wax; and who, on this day, didst accomplish the desire of the righteous Simeon; we humbly beseech thee, that by the invocation of thy most holy name, and by the intercession of Blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, whose festival we this day devoutly celebrate, and by the prayers of all thy Saints, thou wouldst vouchsafe to bless and sanctify these candles, for the service of men, and for the good of their bodies and souls in all places, whether on sea, or on land; and that thou wouldst please mercifully to hear from thy holy temple, and from the throne of thy majesty, the prayers of this thy people, who desire to carry them in their hands with reverence, and with sacred hymns to praise thy name; and show mercy to all that cry out unto thee, whom thou hast redeemed by the precious blood of thy beloved Son: who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.

℟. Amen.

℟. Amen.

Oremus. Let us Pray.

Omnipotens, sempiterne Deus, qui, hodierna die, Unigenitum tuum, ulnis sancti Simeonis in Templo sancto tuo suscipiendum præsentasti: tuam supplices deprecamur clementiam, ut has candelas, quas nos famuli tui, in tui Nominis magnificentiam suscipientes, gestare cupimus luce accensas, benedicere et sanctificere , atque lumine supernæ benedictionis accendere digneris; quatenus eas tibi Domino nostro offerendo, digni et sancto igne dulcissimæ charitatis tuæ succensi, in Templo sancto gloriæ repræsentari mereamur. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum.

O Almighty and Eternal God, who on this day wast please that thy only Son should be presented in the temple, and be received into the arms of holy Simeon: we humbly beseech thy mercy to bless , sanctify , and give the light of thy heavenly benediction to these candles, which we thy servants desire to carry in honor of thy name: that by offering them to thee, our Lord God, we may be inflamed by the fire of thy sweet love, and made worthy to be presented in the holy temple of thy glory. Through the same Christ our Lord.

℟. Amen.

℟. Amen.

Oremus. Let us Pray.

Domine Jesu Christe, lux vera, quæ illuminas omnem hominem venientem in hunc mundum: effunde benedictionem tuam super hos cereos, et sanctifica eos lumine gratiæ tuæ; et concede propitius, ut sicut hæc luminaria, igne visibili accensa, nocturnas depellunt tenebras, ita corda nostra invisibili igne, id est Sancti Spiritus splendore illustrata, omnium vitiorum cæcitate careant: ut purgato mentis oculo, ea cernere possimus quæ tibi sunt placita, et nostræ saluti utilia; quatenus post hujus sæculi caliginosa discrimina, ad lucem indeficientem pervenire mereamur. Per te, Christe Jesu, Salvator mundi, qui in Trinitate perfecta vicis et regnas Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

Lord Jesus Christ, the true light, that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world: pour forth thy blessing upon these candles, and sanctify them by the light of thy grace; and grant in thy mercy, that as these candles, by their visible light, dispel the darkness of the night, so our hearts burning with invisible fire, and enlightened by the grace of the Holy Ghost, may be delivered from all blindness of sin: that the eye of our soul being purified, we may discern those things that are pleasing to thee, and beneficial to our souls: that after having finished the darksome passage of this life, we may come to never-fading joys, through thee, O Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, who, in perfect Trinity, livest and reignest God, world without end.

℟. Amen.

℟. Amen.

Oremus. Let us Pray.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui per Moysen famulum tuum, purissimum olei liquorem ad luminaria ante conspectum tuum jugiter concinnanda præparari jussisti: benedictionis tuæ gratiam super hos cereos benignus infunde, quatenus sic administrent lumen exterius ut, te donante, lumen Spiritus tui nostris non desit mentibus interius. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate ejusdem Spiritus Sancti, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

O Almighty and Eternal God, who, by thy servant Moses, commandedst the purest oil to be prepared for lamps, continually to burn in thy presence, mercifully pour forth the grace of thy blessing on these candles: that as they supply us with visible light, so, by thy assistance, the light of thy Spirit may never be wanting inwardly in our souls. Through our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, God, world without end.

℟. Amen.

℟. Amen.

Oremus. Let us Pray.

Domine Jesu Christe, qui hodierna die, in nostræ carnis substantia, inter homines apparens, a parentibus in Templo es præsentatus, quem Simeon venerabilis senex, lumine Spiritus tui irradiatus, agnovit, suscepit, et benedixit: præsta propitius, ut ejusdem Spiritus Sancti gratia illuminati, atque edocti, te veraciter, agnoscamus et fideliter diligamus. Qui cum Deo Patre, in unitate ejusdem Spiritus sancti, vivis et regnas, Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

Lord Jesus Christ, who appearing amongst men in the substance of our flesh, wast pleased this day to be presented in the temple by thy parents, and whom the venerable Simeon, enlightened by the Holy Ghost, publicly confessing, received in his arms, and blessed: mercifully grant that, being inspired and taught by the grace of the same Holy Spirit, we may sincerely acknowledge and faithfully love thee. Who with God the Father, in the unity of the same Holy Spirit, livest and reignest God, world without end.

℟. Amen.

℟. Amen.

These five Prayers having been said, the Celebrant sprinkles the Candles with holy water (saying the Asperges in secret), and then incenses them; after which, he distributes them to both clergy and Laity (in receiving the Candle, the Faithful should kiss first the Candle itself, and then the Priest’s hand). During the distribution, the Church—filled with emotion at the sight of these sacred symbols, which remind her of Jesus—shares in the joyous transports of the aged Simeon, who, while holding the Child in his arms, confessed him to be the Light of the Gentiles. She chants his sweet Canticle, separating each verse by an Antiphon, which is formed out of the last words of Simeon.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Canticle of Simeon
(St. Luke, II)

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine: * secundum verbum tuum in pace.

Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Quia viderunt oculi mei: * Salutare tuum.

Because my eyes have seen thy Salvation.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Quod parasti: * ante faciem omnium populorum.

Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Gloria Patri et Filio, * et Spiritui Sancto.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Sicut erat in principio, et nunt et semper, * et in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Ant. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

After the distribution of the Candles, the following Antiphon and verse of the 43rd Psalm are sung.

Exsurge, Domine, adjuva nos, et libera nos propter nomen tuum.

Arise, O Lord, help us, and, for thy name’s sake, deliver us.

Ps. Deus, auribus nostris audivimus: patres nostri annuntiaverunt nobis. ℣. Gloria Patri. Exsurge.

Ps. We have heard, O God, with our ears: our fathers have declared unto us. ℣. Glory. Arise.

If it be in the season of Septuagesima, there is also added by the Deacon, Flectamus genua (Let us kneel down); to which the Subdeacon replies, Levate (Arise).

Oremus. Let us Pray.

Exaudi, quæsumus, Domine, plebem tuam: et quæ extrinsecus annua tribuis devotione venerari, interius asseaui gratiæ tuæ luce concede. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

Give ear, we beseech thee, O Lord, to thy people; that what we outwardly perform by this yearly devotion, we may inwardly obtain the effects of, by the light of thy grace. Through, &c.

THE PROCESSION

Filled with holy joy, radiant with the mystic light, excited, like the venerable Simeon, by the impulse of the Holy Spirit—the Church goes forth to meet her Emmanuel. It is this meeting which the Greek Church calls the Hypapante (or Hypante), under which name she also designates today’s Feast. The Church would imitate that wondrous Procession which was formed in the Temple of Jerusalem on the day of Mary’s Purification. Let us listen to St. Bernard.

“On this day, the Virgin Mother brings the Lord of the Temple into the Temple of the Lord; Joseph presents to the Lord a Son, who is not his own, but the Beloved Son of that Lord himself, and in whom he is well pleased; Simeon, the just man, confesses Him for whom he had been so long waiting; Anna, too, the widow, confesses him. The Procession of this solemnity was first made by these four, which, afterwards, was to be made, to the joy of the whole earth, in every place and by every nation. Let us not be surprised at its then being so little for He that carried was Little! Besides, all who were in it were just, and Saints, and perfect—there was not a single sinner.”

And yet, let us join the holy procession. Let us go to meet Jesus, the Spouse of our souls, as did the Wise Virgins, carrying in our hands lamps burning with the flame of charity. Let us remember the command given us by our Lord: Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands: and you yourselves like to men who wait for their Lord. Guided by faith and enlightened by charity, we shall meet and know him, and he will give himself to us.

The holy Church opens her chants of this Procession with the following Antiphon, which is found, word for word, in the Greek Liturgy of this same Feast.

Ant. Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion, et suscipe Regem Christum: amplectere Mariam, quæ est cœlestis porta; ipsa enim portat Regem gloriæ novi luminis; subsistit Virgo, adducens, manifub Filium ante luciferum genitum; quam accipiens Simeon in ulnas suas, prædicavit populis Dominum eum esse vitæ et mortis et Salvatorem mundi.

Ant. Adorn thy bridechamber, O Sion, and receive Christ, thy King. Salute Mary, the gate of heaven; for she beareth the King of glory, who is the new Light. The Virgin stands, bringing in her hands her Son, the Begotten before the day-star; whom Simeon receiving into his arms, declared him to the people as the Lord of life and death, and the Savior of the world.

Then is added the following Anthem, taken from the Gospel, and in which is related the mysterious meeting between Jesus and Simeon.

Ant. Responsum accepit Simeon a Spiritu Sancto, non visurum se mortem, nisi videret Christum Domini; et cum inducerent Puerum in Templum, accepit eum in ulnas suas, et benedixit Deum, et dixit: Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, in pace.

Ant. Simeon had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord; and when his parents brought the Child into the Temple, he took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: Now, thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, in peace.

℣. Cum inducerent puerum Jesum parentes ejus ut facerent secundum consuetudinem Legis pro eo, ipse accepit eum in ulnas suas.

℣. When his parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, he took him into his arms.

On re-entering the Church, the Choir sings the following Responsory:

℟. Obtulerunt pro eo Domino par turturum, aut duos pullos columbarum: * Sicut scriptum est in Lege Domini.

℟. They offered for him, to the Lord, a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons: * As it is written in the Law of the Lord.

℣. Postquam impleti sunt dies purgationis Mariæ, secundum legem Moysi, tulerunt Jesum in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino. * Sicut scriptum est in Lege Domini. Gloria Patri. * Sicut scriptum est.

℣. After the days of Mary’s purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried Jesus to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord. * As it is written in the law of the Lord. Glory. * As it is written.

After the Procession, the Celebrant and his Ministers put off their purple vestments, and vest in white for the Mass of the Purification. But if it be any of the three Sundays, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, or Quinquagesima, the Mass of the Feast is deferred till the morrow, as we have already explained.

MASS

In the Introit, the Church sings the glory of Jerusalem’s Temple that was this day visited by the Emmanuel. Great, indeed, today, is the Lord in the City of David, great is he on his mount of Sion. Simeon, the representative of the whole human race, receives into his arms Him that is the Mercy sent us by God.

Introit

Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio Templi tui: secundum Nomen tuum, Deus, ita et laus tua in fines terræ: justitia plena est dextera tua.

We have received thy mercy, O God, in the midst of thy temple: according to thy name, O God, so also is thy praise unto the ends of the earth: thy right hand is full of justice.

Ps. Magnus Dominus et laudabilis nimis, in civitate Dei nostri, in monte sancto ejus. ℣. Gloria Patri. Suscepimus.

Ps. Great is the Lord, and exceedingly to be praised: in the City of our God, in his holy Mountain. ℣. Glory, &c. We have.

In the Collect, the Church prays that her children may be presented, as Jesus was, to the Eternal Father; but in order that they may meet with a favorable reception, she asks him to grace them with purity of heart.

Collect

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus Majestatem tuam supplices exoramus ut, sicut unigenitus Filius tuus, hodierna die, cum nostræ carnis substantia in Templo est præsentatus, ita nos facias purificatis tibi mentibus præsentari. Per eumdem.

O Almighty and Eternal God, we humbly beseech thy divine Majesty, that as thy Only Begotten Son, in the substance of our flesh, was this day presented in the temple, so our souls being perfectly cleansed, may become a pure oblation, and presented to thee. Through the same, &c.

Epistle
Lectio Malachiæ Prophetæ. Lesson from the Prophet Malachy.
Cap. iii. Ch. iii.

Hæc dicit Dominus Deus: Ecce ego mittam angelum meum, et præparabit viam ante faciem meam: et statim veniet ad templum suum Dominator quem vos quæritis, et angelus testamenti quem vos vultis. Ecce venit, dicit Dominus exercituum. Et quis poterit cogitare diem adventus ejus, et quis stabit ad videndum eum? ipse enim quasi ignis conflans, et quasi herba fullonum: et sedebit conflans, et emundans argentum: et purgabit filios Levi, et colabit eos quasi aurum et quasi argentum, et erunt Domino offerentes sacrificia in justitia. Et placebit Domino sacrificium Juda et Jerusalem, sicut dies sæculi, et sicut anni antiqui, dicit Dominus omnipotens.

Thus saith the Lord God: Behold I send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to his temple. Behold he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts. And who shall be able to think of the day of his coming? and who shall stand to see him? for he is like a refining fire, and like the fuller’ s herb: And he shall sit refining and cleansing the silver, and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and shall refine them as gold, and as silver, and they shall offer sacrifices to the Lord in justice. And the sacrifice of Juda and of Jerusalem shall please the Lord, as in the days of old, and in the ancient years, saith the Lord Almighty.

All the Mysteries of the Man-God have this for their object—the purifying of our hearts. As today’s Epistle explains, He sends his Angel (that is, his Precursor) before his face, that he may prepare his way; and we have heard this holy Prophet crying out to us, in his wilderness: Be humbled, O ye hills! and ye valleys, be ye filled up!—At length, he that is the Angel, the Sent, by excellence, comes in person to make a Testament, a Covenant, with us. He comes to his Temple, and this Temple is our heart. But he is like a refining fire that takes away the dross of metals. He wishes to renew us by purifying us; that thus we may be worthy to be offered to him, and with him, by a perfect sacrifice. We must, therefore, take care and not be satisfied with admiring these sublime Mysteries. We must hold this as a principle of our spiritual life—that the Mysteries brought before us, feast after feast, are intended to work in us the destruction of the old, and the creation of the new, man. We have been spending Christmas; we ought to have been born together with Jesus; this new Birth is now at its fortieth day. Today, we must be offered by Mary (who is also our Mother) to the Divine Majesty, as Jesus was. The moment is come for our offering, for it is the hour of the Great Sacrifice—let us redouble the fervor of our preparation.

In the Gradual, the Church again celebrates that sweet Mercy, who has appeared in the Temple of Jerusalem, and is about to show himself to us in this more perfect manifestation of the Holy Sacrifice.

Gradual

Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam in medio Templi tui: secundum nomen tuum, Deus, ita et laus tua in fines terræ.

We have received thy Mercy, O God, in the midst of thy Temple: according to thy name, O God, so also is thy praise unto the ends of the earth.

℣. Sicut audivimus, ita et vidimus in civitate Dei nostri, in monte sancto ejus.

℣. As we have heard, so have we seen in the City of our God, on his holy mountain.

Alleluia, alleluia.

Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. Senex Puerum porta bat: Puer autem senem regebat. Alleluia.

℣. The old man carried the Child: but the Child guided the old man. Alleluia.

If the season of Septuagesima be already begun, the Church, instead of the Alleluia-verse, sings the following Tract, which is composed of the words of the venerable Simeon.

Tract

Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine, secundum verbun tuum in pace.

Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace.

℣. Quia viderunt oculi mei Salutare tuum.

℣. Because my eyes have seen thy Salvation.

℣. Quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum.

℣. Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples.

℣. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel.

℣. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Gospel

Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.

Cap.ii Ch. ii.

In illo tempore: Postquam impleti sunt dies purgationis Mariæ, secundum legem Moysi, tulerunt illum in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino, sicut scriptum est in lege Domini: Quia omne masculinum adaperiens vulvam, sanctum Domino vocabitur: et ut darent hostiam secundum quod dictum est in lege Domini, par turturum, aut duos pullos columbarum. Et ecce homo erat in Jerusalem, cui nomen Simeon, et homo iste justus, et timoratus, exspectans consolationem Israel: et Spiritus Sanctus erat in eo. Et responsum acceperat a Spiritu Sancto, non visurum se mortem, nisi prius videret Christum Domini. Et venit in spiritu in templum. Et cum inducerent puerum Jesum parentes ejus, ut facerent secundum consuetudinem legis pro eo, et ipse accepit eum in ulnas suas: et benedixit Deum, et dixit: Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace: quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum, quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum: lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuae Israel.

At that time: After the days of purification of Mary, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons: And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him. And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

The Holy Spirit has led us to the Temple, as he did Simeon. There, we see the Virgin Mother offering at the Altar her Son, who is the Son of God. We are filled with admiration at this fidelity of the Child and his Mother to the Law; and we feel in our hearts a desire to be also presented to our Creator, who will accept our homage, as he accepted that offered him by his Divine Son. Let us at once put ourselves in those same holy dispositions which filled the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The salvation of the world has this day gained ground; let the work of our individual sanctification also advance. From this Feast forward, the Mystery of the Infant-God will no longer be put before us by the Church as the special object of our devotion; the sweet Season of Christmas will, in a few hours, have left us, and we shall have to follow our Jesus in his combats against our enemies. Let us keep close to our dear King. Let us ever keep Simeon’s spirit, and follow our Redeemer, walking in His footsteps, who is our Light. Let us love this Light, and merit, by our fidelity in using it, that it unceasingly shine upon us.

During the Offertory, the Church speaks the praises of the grace put, by our Lord, on Mary’s lips. She celebrates the favors poured out on Her who was called by the Archangel Blessed among women.

Offertory

Diffusa est gratia in labiis tuis; propterea benedixit te Deus in æternum, et in sæculum sæculi.

Grace is spread on thy lips; therefore hath God blessed thee for ever, and for ever.

Secret

Exaudi, Domine, preces nostras: et ut digna sint munera, quæ oculis tuæ Majestatis offerimus, subsidium nobis tuæ pietatis impende. Per Dominum.

Mercifully hear our prayers, O Lord, and grant us the assistance of thy mercy, that what we offer to thy divine Majesty may be worthy to be accepted. Through, &c.

The Preface is that of Christmas.

After having distributed the Bread of Life—the Fruit of Bethlehem—which has been offered on our Altar, and has redeemed us from all our iniquities, the holy Church again reminds her children of the sentiments which filled Simeon’s soul. But in the Mystery of love, we not only, like Simeon, receive into our arms Him who is the Consolation of Israel; he enters into our very breast and soul, and there he takes up his abode.

Communion

Responsum accepit Simeon a Spiritu Sancto, non visurum se mortem, nisi videret Christum Domini.

Simeon received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death till he beheld the Christ of the Lord.

Let us, in the Postcommunion, unite with the Church in praying that the heavenly remedy of our regeneration may not only produce in our souls a passing grace, but may, by our fidelity, fructify in us to life eternal.

Postcommunion

Quæsumus, Domine Deus noster, ut sacrosancta mysteria, quæ pro reparationis nostræ munimine contulisti, intercedente beata Maria semper Virgine, et præsens nobis remedium esse facias et futurum. Per Dominum.

We beseech thee, O Lord our God, that the sacred mysteries we have received to preserve our new life may, by the intercession of Blessed Mary, ever a Virgin, become a remedy to us both now and for the future. Through, &c.

SECOND VESPERS

The Second Vespers of our Solemnity are composed of the Psalms of our Lady’s Office, which are sung to the Antiphons taken from the Gospel. Having elsewhere explained why the Church has applied these five Psalms to our Lady, we give them without any commentary. The Hymn is the same as in First Vespers, — the Ave Maris Stella — which ever brings such sweet consolation to our hearts, and is so pleasing to Mary. When we come to the Magnificat, let us sing it with those sentiments wherewith our Lady herself sang it, when the Holy Spirit inspired her with the Canticle.

Ant. Simeon, a just man, and one that feared God, waited for the redemption of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was in him.

PSALM 109

The Lord said to my Lord, his Son, Sit thou at my right hand, and reign with me.

Until, on the day of thy last coming, I make thy enemies thy footstool.

Christ! the Lord, thy Father, will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: from thence, rule thou in the midst of thy enemies.

With thee is the principality in the day of thy strength, in the brightness of the Saints, for the Father hath said to thee: From the womb, before the day-star, I begot thee.

The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent; he hath said, speaking of thee, the God-Man: Thou art a Priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.

Therefore, O Father! the Lord, thy Son, is at thy right hand: he hath broken kings in the day of his wrath.

He shall, also, judge among nations; he shall fill the ruins of the world: he shall crush the heads in the land of many.

He cometh now in humility; he shall drink, in the way, of the torrent of sufferings: therefore, shall he lift up the head.

Ant. Simeon, a just man, and one that feared God, waited for the redemption of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was in him.

Ant. Simeon received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord.

PSALM 112

Praise the Lord, ye children: praise ye the name of the Lord.

Blessed be the name of the Lord: from henceforth, now, and forever.

From the rising of the sun, to the going down of the same, the Name of the Lord is worthy of praise.

The Lord is high above all nations: and his glory above the heavens.

Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high: and looketh down on the low things in heaven and in earth? Nay, not content with this, he deigns to come down among us.

Raising up, from his divine Crib, the needy, and lifting up the poor out of the dunghill.

That he may place him with princes: with the princes of his people.

Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.

Ant. Simeon received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord.

Ant. Simeon taking the Child in his arms, giving thanks, blessed the Lord.

PSALM 121

I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord.

Our feet were standing in thy courts, Jerusalem! Our heart loves and confides in thee, Mary!

Mary is like to Jerusalem, that is built as a City: which is compact together.

For thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord: the testimony of Israel, to praise the Name of the Lord.

Because seats sat there in judgment : seats upon the house of David ; and Mary is of a kingly race.

Pray ye, through Mary, for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: and may abundance be on them that love thee, Church of our God!

The voice of Mary: Let peace be in thy strength, thou new Sion! and abundance in thy towers.

I, a Daughter of Israel, for the sake of my brethren, and of my neighbours, spoke peace of thee.

Because, of the house of the Lord, our God, I have sought good things for thee.

Ant. Simeon taking the Child in his arms, giving thanks, blessed the Lord.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

PSALM 126

Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.

Unless the Lord keep the city, he watches in vain that keepeth it.

It is vain for you to rise before light: rise after you have sitten, you that eat of the bread of sorrow.

When he shall give sleep to his beloved: behold the inheritance of the Lord are children; the reward, the fruit of the womb.

As arrows in the hands of the mighty, so the children of them that have been shaken.

Blessed is the man that hath filled his desire with them: he shall not be confounded, when he shall speak to his enemies in the gate.

Ant. A Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Ant. They offered for him, to the Lord, a pair of turtles, or two young pigeons.

PSALM 147

Praise the Lord, Mary, thou true Jerusalem: Mary, Sion ever holy, praise thy God.

Because he hath strengthened against sin the bolts of thy gate: he hath blessed thy children within thee.

He hath placed peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the fat of corn, with Jesus, who is the Bread of Life.

Who sendeth forth by thee his Word to the earth: his Word runneth swiftly.

Who giveth snow like wool: scattereth mists like ashes.

He sendeth his crystal like morsels; who shall stand before the face of his cold?

He shall send forth his Word, by Mary, and shall melt them: his spirit shall breathe, and the waters shall run.

Who declareth his Word to Jacob: his justices and his judgments to Israel.

He hath not done in like manner to every nation: and his judgments he hath not made manifest to them.

Ant. They offered for him, to the Lord, a pair of turtles, or two young pigeons.

CAPITULUM (Malachi 3)

Behold I send my Angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the Angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to his Temple.

For the Hymn, Versicle, and Response, see First Vespers of this feast.

ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT

Ant. This day, the Blessed Virgin Mary presented the Child Jesus in the Temple; and Simeon, full of the Holy Ghost, took him in his arms, and blessed God forever.

LET US PRAY

Almighty and Eternal God, we humbly beseech thy divine Majesty, that as thy Only Begotten Son, in the substance of our flesh, was this day presented in the Temple: so our souls, being perfectly cleansed, may become a pure oblation, and presented to thee. Through the same, etc.

Let us now listen to the several Churches, celebrating, in their Liturgies, the Mystery of the Purification. We will begin with the Mozarabic Breviary, where we find the five following prayers, in which the Gothic Church of Spain offers to God the sentiments inspired into her by the example of holy Simeon.

PRAYER

Almighty God, Father, and Lord! grant peace unto thy faithful people; that we may see, in thy Temple, thy Salvation, whom the just Simeon took into his arms; that thus He, who was the Light to the revelation of the Gentiles, may be the pardoner of the sins of them that believe. Amen.

PRAYER

Thou, O Lord, art salvation, and thine is salvation. We rejoice that thou hast given it unto us; we beseech thee that thou wilt grant it unto us, even to the end. Pour out, we beseech thee, thy blessing on thy people; that so, the curse of our punishment may be removed, and we grow rich in the fruits of justice. Amen.

PRAYER

Grant, Lord, that, with Simeon’s devotion, we may ever sing his blessed words. May we, when thou so wiliest, be dismissed in peace, because we .have seen, and believed in, thy Salvation. Dismiss us not from thyself, at the close of life; but, setting us free from our debts, give us, in the end, to possess everlasting Peace. Amen.

PRAYER

We have seen thy glory, O Lord! the glory as of the Only Begotten in Divinity, and the First Born in grace: in heaven, the Only Son of the Father; on earth, the first among many brethren: in heaven, consubstantial with thy Father, and abiding in his bosom; on earth, dwelling with them that thou madest like to thyself. Grant, therefore, that we, to whom thou didst show such mercy on earth, may share with thee in thy kingdom. Thou hast already been our Redeemer; be, in the life to come, our Remunerator. Amen.

PRAYER

God, who didst command, that women, who had given birth to a child, should be purified by offering unto thee a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons: make us become a living victim to thee, who didst make thyself a victim for our sakes: that thus, thou, who earnest, not to destroy, but to fulfill, the law, mayest graciously infuse into us the riches of the grace of the Gospel.

The Ancient Liturgies contain but few Hymns on the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. One of these is the composition of St. Paulinus, the Patriarch of Aquileia, and is not without its merits.

HYMN

As soon as the Maiden’s forty days were accomplished, according to the Law of the Lord, the Virgin Mary took the Holy Child Jesus, the Only Begotten Son of the Eternal Father, into the Temple, carrying him in her saintly arms.

The Blessed Mother carried upon her most chaste bosom her God, who was hid under the veil of our flesh. Sweetly and fondly does she kiss the lips of Him that was true God and Man, and, at whose bidding, all things were made.

The Parents took two tender little milk-white doves, which they offered for their Jesus, and which, by the prescription of the Law, were consumed in a holocaust.

There lived in the City a Priest of God, who was humble, and meek exceedingly: he was just, and, though old, was without a fault: his name was Simeon, the happy, blessed, heavenly-minded Simeon, who, being full of the Holy Ghost, was urged by a divine impulse to enter the holy Temple.

He had, long ago, received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not be loosed, by death, from the bonds of his flesh, until he had seen, in this present life, the Christ of the Lord, whom the Father was to send from his high throne.

Receiving, therefore, the Child into his hands, he gave thanks to the heavenly Father; and, as he held the Babe in his arms, he blessed his Lord. Then, also, with his heart teeming with love, he thus sweetly cried aloud:

“Dismiss thy servant, Lord! dismiss me, I beseech thee, in Peace, for I have now seen, with mine eyes, the Saviour thou hast, in wondrous mercy, prepared before the face of every people.

“He is the Light that is to shine upon the Gentiles, and bring glory to the people of Israel. He is set for the fall and the salvation of the race of Jacob, as shall be seen on the day when the secrets of hearts shall be revealed.

“Behold, O Holy Mother! thy own soul shall be pierced with a sword! Mary heard these high mysterious words, pondering them joyfully in her heart, for she ever took the words of heaven with ready faith.

Glory be to the Father of our Lord Jesus! And to thee, the Only Begotten Son of the Father, to thee, O God! be power and heavenly virtue! And to the Holy Paraclete, be infinite praise, honour, and empire, for endless ages. Amen.

Sequences for the Purification are as rare as Hymns, in the ancient Liturgies. The one we give here, is taken from the old Sequence-Book of the Monastery of St. Gall, and was composed by Blessed Notker.

SEQUENCE.

This people, with one accord, venerates thee, Mary! and honours thee with devout heart.

Thou art the Daughter of the noble Abraham, and of the kingly race of David.

O Virgin of virgins! thou wast pure above all creatures, most spotless in thy life, and of surpassing beauty.

Be glad, Mother and Virgin most glorious! Thou didst believe what Gabriel the Archangel said unto thee — thou didst bring forth a Son, and yet wast a Virgin as before.

In the most precious Blood of this thy Son, the lost human race was cleansed, as God had promised unto Abraham.

The dry Rod of Aaron, that yielded a lovely flower, was a figure of thee, Mary! who wast the Virgin-Mother of the Flower Divine.

Thou wast the ever-closed Gate, O Mary, of which Ezekiel speaks, and which was opened to none save only God.

But, on this day, wishing to give us an example worthy of the Mother of every virtue, thou didst subject thyself to the law which was made not but for the mothers of men.

O spotless Mother! thou didst bring with thee to the Temple, (as though he could be cleansed,) Him, who gave thee the splendour of thy virginity — thou didst bring with thee the God made Man.

Be glad, O Holy Mary! whom He, that searcheth the hearts and reins, found to be the only worthy dwelling of his majesty.

Rejoice, Mary! on whom the Little One, whose look gives joy and being to the world, looked and smiled.

We, therefore, who celebrate the Feast of Jesus, (become an Infant for our sakes,) and of his sweet Mother Mary,

Since we cannot, because we are weak, follow the wondrous humility of a God, let us take Mary as our model.

Praise to the Father of glory, who hath united us all into one, by revealing his Son to both the Gentiles and his people of Israel.

Praise to the Son, who hath given us fellowship with the citizens of heaven, by reconciling us, by his Blood, to the Father.

Praise, too, be forever to the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The admirable Sequence we subjoin to this, is one of the finest written by Adam of Saint- Victor. We are indebted for it to Gautier, who was the first to publish it, in his beautiful edition of the great Lyric’s poetical writings. But, besides the interest it has as being so fresh a treasure, our readers will find in it so much beauty, that we should not be surprised at their giving it the first place among all the Hymns to our Lady, written in the Middle-Ages.

SEQUENCE

Let us adorn the temple of our souls, and, with new hearts, bring back again that old man’s joy, whose long-cherished wish is granted, as his arms press Jesus to his breast.

This Child is the Standard of the people, filling the Temple with light, our choirs with praise, and our hearts with jubilee. This day, is he presented in the Temple, and will, another day, when grown to manhood, be offered on the Cross, the offering for sin.

On one side Jesus, on the other Mary; here the sweet Infant, and there the sweet Mother; — oh! what a glad sight! — But let us devoutly carry within us that work of Light, which our lighted tapers symbolize.

The Father’s Word is the light — his virginal flesh is the wax — our lighted taper is Christ himself, who enlightens our hearts with that wisdom, which rescues the sinner from the error of his way, and sets him on virtue’s path.

He that holds Jesus by love, carries, as our Feast would have him do, the Candle blessed with light. So did Simeon love the Father’s Word, and fondly carry in his arms the Mother’s Babe.

Be glad, O Mother of thy God! simple, pure, unwrinkled, spotless Mother! O Maiden! chosen by the God of thy love, and loved by the God of thy choice.

All beauty is cloudy, deformed, and displeasing, to him that has seen thine. All sweetness seems bitter, or false, or insipid, to the soul that has tasted of thine.

All fragrance, put near thine, grows faint or foul; and love is powerless o’er a heart that feeds on thine.

Beautiful Star of the sea! Thou beautiful honour of all mothers! true Mother of Truth! path of holy living! O remedy of the world’s ills! Source of the fount of that Wine of Life, for which all men should thirst, and whose strength-giving chalice is sweet to the healthy and the sick, and restores the drooping heart!

O fount sealed up in holiness! pour out on us thy streams! — Fount of inner gardens! water, with thy rivulet’s wave our parched and stony hearts!

Overflowing Fount! flow out on us, and wash our hearts’ defilements. O Fount sublime, limpid above our thought! cleanse thy servants’ hearts from an unclean world. Amen.

Now let us give ear to the sweet hymn of the Greek Church. She thus celebrates the Purification in her Mensea.

IN HYPAPANTE DOMINI

This day, Simeon receives into his arms the Lord of glory, whom, heretofore, Moses saw under a cloud, on Mount Sina, when he received the tables of the Law. This is he that speaks in the Prophets, and is the Maker of the Law. This is he whom David foretells: he is the terrible God: his mercy is great and exceeding rich.

O thou the Treasure of all ages, and the Life of all creatures! thou, for my sake, becamest an Infant; thou who, heretofore, didst engrave the Law on the Tables, on Sina, wast made under the Law, so to give all men freedom from the ancient servitude of the Law. Glory, O Jesus! be to thy mercy. Glory be to thy kingdom! Glory be to thy dispensation, thou the only lover of mankind!

Mary, the Virgin-Mother of God, carries in her arms Him that is seated on the chariot of Cherubim, and is hymned in the songs of Seraphim: Him that was made incarnate from her: — Him, the Lawgiver, who now is observing the ordinance of the Law. She gave him into the arms of the aged Priest, who, as he thus held the Life, prayed to be loosed from life, saying: “Now, O Lord, dismiss me, that I may go tell Adam how I have seen the immutable God, who is from all eternity, made a Little Child, and the Saviour of the world.”

The old man prostates, and following, in spirit, the steps of the Virgin-Mother of God, he says: “Thou art carrying Fire, O pure one! Thy trembling arms are bearing the Infant, who is the God of never-setting light, and the Lord of peace.”

“Isaias was cleansed when he took from the Seraph the ” burning coal,’ said the old man to the Mother of God: “but thou inflamest me with the instrument of thy hands, giving me Him thou holdest — the Lord of light, that setteth not, and of peace.”

O ye that are of good-will! let us all run to the Mother of God, to see her Child, whom she now gives to Simeon; which the heavenly Spirits seeing, they say in deepest wonder: “This day, we behold wonderful, incredible, in comprehensible, things. He, that heretofore made Adam, is carried as a Babe! He, whom no space may hold, is held in an old man’s arms! He, that dwells in the bosom of the Father, wills to have, by flesh, the limits Divinity could not have! Who but God, could bear towards man such love as this?”

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We adore and thank thee, O Emmanuel ! on this happy day, which saw thee enter into the Temple of thy Majesty, carried in the arms of thy incomparable Mother. Thou comest into the Temple, that thou mayest offer thyself for our sakes. Thou deignest to be redeemed by the payment of a ransom, for, one day, thou hast to pay an infinite ransom for us. Thou comest, now, to offer a ceremonial sacrifice, because thou art soon to abolish every sacrifice by the one that alone is perfect. Thou enterest, to-day, into that Jerusalem, which is to be the place of thy passion and death. Our salvation urges thee on. Thou wast born for us, but thou art not satisfied; and every gift of this thy fortieth day must needs bespeak the future proofs thou hast yet to give us, of the love thou bearest us.

O thou, the Consolation of Israel ! on whom the Angels love to look! thou enterest into the Temple, and they, who were living in expectation of their Redeemer, redouble their hope. Oh! that we had something of that love, which burned in Simeon’s heart, as he held thee in his arms! All he lived for, was to see thee, O Divine Infant ! and having seen thee, he longs to die. One brief moment’s sight of thee makes him sleep in peace! What must it be to possess thee eternally, when a glance could satisfy the longings of a whole life!

But, O Saviour of our souls! if Simeon was so satiated with this seeing thee presenting thyself for mankind in the Temple — how ought we to love thee, we who have seen the final consummation of thy Sacrifice? The day will come, when, as thy devout servant Bernard expresses it, thou wilt be offered, not in the Temple and on Simeon’s arms, but outside the City-gates and on the arms of the Cross. On that day, man will not offer up the blood of a victim for thee, but thyself wilt offer up thine own Blood for man. Now, it is the “morning; then, it will be the evening, sacrifice. Now, thou art in the age of Infancy; then, thou wilt have attained the fullness of the age of Man; and having loved us from the beginning, thou wilt love us even unto the end.

What return shall we make to thee, O Divine Infant! for thou bearest within thy heart, during this thy first offering, the same infinite love of us wherewith thou wilt consummate thy last? Can we do less than offer ourselves to thee, from this very day, and be wholly thine? Thou givest thyself to us in the Adorable Sacrament, with more perfection than thou didst give thyself to Simeon; and we receive thee not in our arms, but in our very breast. Dismiss us, dear Jesus! break our chains. Give us thy Peace, and may we, like Simeon, enter now on a new life. In order to imitate thy virtues and be united with thee, we have endeavored, during this holy Season, to gain that humility and simplicity which thou wishest to see within us. Assist us to persevere in the spiritual life, that, like thee, we may grow in age and wisdom, before both God and men.

And thou, O Mary! purest of Virgins, and Mother blessed above all mothers!—O Daughter of the Prince! how beautiful are thy steps on this day of thy Purification, when thou enterest the Temple with our Jesus in thy arms! Who could tell the joy and the humility on thy maternal heart, in this offering thou makest to the Eternal Father of his and thy Son? Looking around on the mothers who have come for their own purification on this same day, thou rejoicest at the thought that the babes they are now presenting in the Temple will one day see and now thy Jesus, their Savior. What a privilege, that these Children should be presented to the Lord together with thine! What honor for these mothers, that they should be purified in thy holy company! If the Temple is glad at seeing enter within its walls the God, in whose honor it has been built—part of its joy is to see him throned there in thy arms, who art the holiest of creatures, the one child of Eve that has never known sin, the Virgin Mother of this God.

But, whilst humbly keeping within thyself the secrets of the Eternal Father, and mingled in the throng of these Hebrew mothers — the holy Simeon advances towards thee, Mary! Knowing that the Holy Ghost has revealed the mystery to him, thou affectionately placest in his hands the God of heaven and earth, who has come to be the Consolation of Israel. The holy Anna, too, approaches thee, and thou lovingly receivest her. Perhaps, in thy younger years, thou hadst received from her, in this very Temple, the affection and care of a second mother. Thy heart thrills with delight, at hearing these two venerable Saints extolling God’s faithfulness to his promises, and the glory of thy Child, and the splendour of the Light which is now to be shed forth on all nations. The happiness of thus hearing the praises of the God, who is thy Child, fills thee with joy and thankfulness — but, oh! what a sword of grief pierces thy heart, dear Mother, at the words of Simeon as he gives thee back thy Babe! Henceforth, thou must weep as often as thou lookest on Him! He is to be a sign of contradiction (Luke 2:34) and the wounds men are to give him are to wound thy soul! The blood of victims like these, that are now being offered in the Temple, shall cease to flow, and be changed for the Blood of thy Jesus!

O Mother of Sorrows ! we were the cause of all this. It was our sins, that changed thy joy into mourning. And yet, thou lovest us, because thy Jesus loves us! Love us now and for ever. Intercede for us with thy Son. Pray, that we may never lose the
graces granted us during these forty happy days.

These graces drew us to the Crib of thy Child, and thy affection for us encouraged to stay. We are resolved to maintain our position near this Jesus, following him through all the Mysteries which are now to succeed this of his Infancy. We are resolved to be faithful disciples of this dear Master, and follow him, as thou didst, even to the foot of that Cross,
which was revealed to thee on this day.

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This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)

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