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The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple
Presentation of Christ at the Temple by Hans Holbein the Elder, 1500-1501 (Kunsthalle, Hamburg)
Observed by Anglicans
Eastern Catholics
Eastern Orthodox
Lutherans
Oriental Orthodox
Roman Catholics
Methodists
Type Christian
Date 2 February (Western Christianity)
2 February/15 February (Eastern Christianity)

The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple celebrates an early episode in the life of Jesus, and falls on or around 2 February. In the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, the Presentation is the fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is one of the twelve Great Feasts, and is sometimes called Hypapante (lit., 'Meeting' in Greek). Other traditional names include Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord. In many Western liturgical churches, Vespers (or Compline) on the Feast of the Presentation marks the end of the Epiphany season. In the Church of England, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple is a Principal Feast celebrated either on 2 February or on the Sunday between 28 January and 3 February.

Contents

Scripture

Meeting of the Lord, Russian Orthodox icon, 15th century.

The event is described in the Gospel of Luke 2:22–40. According to the gospel, Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to complete Mary's ritual purification after childbirth, and to perform the redemption of the firstborn, in obedience to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15, etc.). Luke explicitly says that Joseph and Mary take the option provided for poor people (those who could not afford a lamb) in Leviticus 12:8, sacrificing "a pair of doves or two young pigeons."

Upon bringing Jesus into the temple, they encountered Simeon the Righteous. The Gospel records that Simeon had been promised that "he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord." (Luke 2:26) Simeon prayed the prayer that would become known as the Nunc Dimittis, or Canticle of Simeon, which prophesied the redemption of the world by Jesus:

"Lord, now you are letting your servant go in peace, just as you said. 30 I have seen with my own eyes the one you have sent to save people. 31 You have made this way for all peoples to be saved. 32 He is a light which will shine for those who do not know God. He is the one who will bring praise to your people Israel." (Luke 2:29-32).

Simeon then prophesied to Mary: "34 . . . 'He will be a sign that people do not believe in. He will make many people in Israel fall and rise. 35 (Yes, a long knife will cut your heart too.) What people think will be made known." (Luke 2:34-35).

The elderly prophetess Anna was also in the Temple, and offered prayers and praise to God for Jesus, and spoke to everyone there about Jesus and his role in the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:36-38).

In art

The event forms a usual component of extensive cycles of the Life of Christ and also of the Life of the Virgin, although there is often a choice made to show only one of this and the visually similar Circumcision of Jesus. Early images concentrated on the moment of meeting with Simeon, typically shown at the entrance to the Temple, and this is continued in Byzantine art and Eastern Orthodox icons to the present day. In the West, beginning in the 8th or 9th century, a different depiction at an altar emerged, where Simeon eventually by the Late Middle Ages came to be shown wearing the elaborate vestments attributed to a Jewish high priest, and conducting a liturgical ceremony surrounded by the family and Anna. In the West Simeon is more often already holding the infant, or the moment of handover is shown; in Eastern images the Virgin is more likely still to hold Jesus.[1]

Name of the celebration

In addition to being known as the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, other traditional names include Candlemas, the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin, and the Meeting of the Lord.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Greek-Catholic Churches (Eastern Catholic Churches which use the Byzantine rite), it is known as the "Feast of the Presentation of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ in the Temple" or as "The Meeting of Our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ". In the Roman Catholic Church, it is known as the "Presentation of the Lord" in the liturgical books first issued by Paul VI[2], and as the "Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary" in earlier editions.

In the churches of the Anglican Communion, it is known by various names, including: The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in The Temple (Candlemas) (Episcopal Church), The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Anglican Church of Canada), The Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Candlemas) (Church of England), and The Presentation of Christ in the Temple (Anglican Church of Australia).

It is known as the Presentation of Our Lord in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In some Protestant churches, the feast is known as the Naming of Jesus (though historically he would have been named on the eighth day after the Nativity, when he was circumcised).

Liturgical celebration

Presentation in the Temple by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, 1342 (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence).

Traditionally, Candlemas had been the last feast day in the Christian year that was dated by reference to Christmas. Subsequent moveable feasts are calculated with reference to Easter.

Western Christianity

Candlemas occurs 40 days after Christmas.

Traditionally the Western term "Candlemas" (or Candle Mass) referred to the practice whereby a priest on 2 February blessed beeswax candles for use throughout the year, some of which were distributed to the faithful for use in the home. In Poland the feast is called Matka Boska Gromniczna (Matka Boska, "Mother of God" + Gromnica, "Thunder"). This name refers to the candles that are blessed on this day and called gromnicy, since these candles are lit during (thunder) storms and placed in windows to ward off the storm.

Within the Roman Catholic Church, since the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council, this feast has been referred to as the Feast of Presentation of the Lord, with references to candles and the purification of Mary de-emphasised in favor of the Prophecy of Simeon the Righteous. Pope John Paul II connected the feast day with the renewal of religious vows.

Eastern Christianity

In the Byzantine tradition (Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic), the Meeting of the Lord is unique in that it combines elements of both a Great Feast of the Lord and a Great Feast of the Theotokos (Mother of God). It has a forefeast of one day, and an afterfeast of seven days. However, if the feast falls during Cheesefare Week or Great Lent, the afterfeast is either shortened or eliminated altogether.

The holy day is celebrated with an All-Night Vigil on the eve of the feast, and a celebration of the Divine Liturgy the next morning, at which beeswax candles are blessed. This blessing traditionally takes place after the Little Hours and before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy (though in some places it is done after). The priest reads four prayers, and then a fifth one during which all present bow their heads before God. He then censes the candles and blesses them with holy water. The candles are then distributed to the people and the Liturgy begins.

The services for the Meeting of the Lord contain hymns composed by many of the great Church hymnographers: St. Andrew, Bishop of Crete (7th cent.); St. Cosmas, Bishop of Maiuma; St. John Damascene; St. Germanus, Patriarch of Constantinople (8th cent.); and St. Joseph the Hymnographer, Archbishop of Thessalonica (9th cent.)

On the same day, Orthodox Christians also commemorate a wonder-working icon of the Theotokos known as "the Softening of Evil Hearts" or "Simeon's Prophecy." It depicts the Virgin Mary with her hands upraised in prayer, and seven swords piercing her heart. This is one of the few Orthodox icons of the Theotokos which do not depict the infant Jesus.

It is because of the biblical events recounted in the second chapter of Luke that the Churching of Women came to be practiced in both Eastern and Western Christianity. Though the usage has mostly died out in the West, the rite is still practiced in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Some Christians observe the practice of leaving Christmas decorations up until Candlemas.

Date

Meeting of the Lord, Orthodox icon from Belarus (1731).

In the Eastern and Western liturgical calendars the Presentation of the Lord falls on 2 February, forty days after Christmas. In the Church of England it may be celebrated on this day, or on the Sunday between 28 January and 3 February.

The date of Candlemas is established by the date set for the Nativity of Jesus, for it comes forty days afterwards. Under Mosaic law as found in the Torah, a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain for three and thirty days "in the blood of her purification." Candlemas therefore corresponds to the day on which Mary, according to Jewish law, should have attended a ceremony of ritual purification (Leviticus 12:2-8). The Gospel of Luke 2:22–39 relates that Mary was purified according to the religious law, followed by Jesus' presentation in the Jerusalem temple, and this explains the formal names given to the festival, as well as its falling 40 days after the Nativity.

In the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Feast, called "The Coming of the Son of God into the Temple" (Tiarn’ndaraj, from Tyarn-, "the Lord", and -undarach "going forward"), is celebrated on 14 February. The Armenians do not celebrate the Nativity on December 25, but on January 6, and thus their date of the feast is 40 days after that: 14 February. The night before the feast, Armenians traditionally light candles during an evening church service, carrying the flame out into the darkness (symbolically bringing light into the void) and either take it home to light lamps or light a bonfire in the church courtyard.

History

The Feast of the Presentation is among the most ancient feasts of the Christian Church. There are sermons on the Feast by the bishops Methodius of Patara († 312), Cyril of Jerusalem († 360), Gregory the Theologian († 389), Amphilochius of Iconium († 394), Gregory of Nyssa († 400), and John Chrysostom († 407).

The earliest reference to specific liturgical rites surrounding the feast are by the intrepid nun Egeria, during her pilgrimage to the Holy Land (381–384). She reported that 14 February was a day solemnly kept in Jerusalem with a procession to Constantine I's Basilica of the Resurrection, with a homily preached on Luke 2:22 (which makes the occasion perfectly clear), and a Divine Liturgy. This so-called Itinerarium Peregrinatio ("Pilgrimage Itinerary") of Egeria does not, however, offer a specific name for the Feast. The date of 14 February indicates that in Jerusalem at that time, Christ's birth was celebrated on 6 January, Epiphany. Egeria writes for her beloved fellow nuns at home:

XXVI. "The fortieth day after the Epiphany is undoubtedly celebrated here with the very highest honor, for on that day there is a procession, in which all take part, in the Anastasis, and all things are done in their order with the greatest joy, just as at Easter. All the priests, and after them the bishop, preach, always taking for their subject that part of the Gospel where Joseph and Mary brought the Lord into the Temple on the fortieth day, and Symeon and Anna the prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, saw him, treating of the words which they spake when they saw the Lord, and of that offering which his parents made. And when everything that is customary has been done in order, the sacrament is celebrated, and the dismissal takes place."

An Armenian miniature illustrating the subject (Mugni Gospels, ca. 1060).

Originally, the feast was a minor celebration. But then in 542 the feast was established throughout the Eastern Empire by Justinian I. In 541 a terrible plague broke out in Constantinople, killing thousands. The Emperor, in consultation with the Patriarch of Constantinople, ordered a period of fasting and prayer throughout the entire Empire. And, on the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord, arranged great processions throughout the towns and villages and a solemn prayer service (Litia) to ask for deliverance from evils, and the plague ceased. In thanksgiving, the feast was elevated to a more solemn celebration.

In Rome, the feast appears in the Gelasian Sacramentary, a manuscript collection of the seventh and eighth centuries associated with Pope Gelasius I, but with many interpolations and some forgeries. There it carries for the first time the new title of the feast of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Late in time though it may be, Candlemas is still the most ancient of all the festivals in honor of the Virgin Mary. The date of the feast in Rome was moved forward to 2 February, since during the late fourth century the Roman feast of Christ's nativity been introduced as December 25.

Though modern laymen picture Candlemas as an important feast throughout the Middle Ages in Europe, in fact it spread slowly in the West; it is not found in the Lectionary of Silos (650) nor in the Calendar (731–741) of Sainte-Geneviève of Paris.

The tenth century Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, bishop of Winchester, has a formula used for blessing the candles. Candlemas did become important enough to find its way into the secular calendar. It was the traditional day to remove the cattle from the hay meadows, and from the field that was to be ploughed and sown that spring. References to it are common in later medieval and early Modern literature; Shakespeare's Twelfth Night is recorded as having its first performance on Candlemas Day, 1602. It remains one of the Scottish quarter days, at which debts are paid and law courts are in session.

The Presentation is chiefly observed today in the Eastern Orthodox and Anglican traditions. In the Orthodox traditions it is the day on which believers bring beeswax candles to their local church to be blessed for use in the church or in the home.

Relation to other celebrations

The Feast of the Presentation depends on the date for Christmas: As per the passage from the Gospel of Luke (Lk 2:22-40) describing the event in the life of Jesus, the celebration of the Presentation of the Lord follows 40 days after. The blessing of candles on this day recalls Simeon's reference to the infant Jesus as the "light for revelation to the Gentiles" (Lk 2:32). From a Christian perspective, therefore, there is no independent meaningfulness to the date of the Feast of the Presentation or to the blessing of candles on that day from which the name "Candlemas" derives. However, it is probable that some features of Pagan observances were incorporated into Christian rites of Candlemas when the celebration of Candlemas spread to the north and west of Europe, where 2 February was sacred to the goddess Brigid.

Modern Pagans believe that Candlemas is a Christianization[3][4][5] of the Gaelic festival of Imbolc, which was celebrated in pre-Christian Europe (and especially the Celtic Nations) at about the same time of year.[6][7] Imbolc is called "St. Brigid's Day" or "Brigid" in Ireland.[8] Both Brigids are associated with sacred flames, holy wells and springs, healing and smithcraft. Brigid is a virgin, yet also the patron of midwives. However, a connection with Roman (rather than Celtic or Germanic) polytheism is more plausible, since the feast was celebrated before any serious attempt to expand Christianity into non-Roman countries.

In Irish homes, there were many rituals centered around welcoming Brigid into the home. Some of Brigid's rituals and legends later became attached to the Christian Saint Brigid, who was the Abbess of Kildare and seen by Celtic Christians as the midwife of Christ and "Mary of the Gael". In Ireland and Scotland she is the "foster mother of Jesus." The exact date of the Imbolc festival may have varied from place to place based on local tradition and regional climate. Imbolc is celebrated by modern Pagans[citation needed] on the eve of 2 February, at the astronomical midpoint, or on the full moon closest to the first spring thaw.

Some have argued that the Roman church introduced Candlemas celebrations in opposition to the Roman Pagan feast of Lupercalia.[citation needed] The Catholic Encyclopædia is definite in its rejection of this argument: "The feast was certainly not introduced by Pope Gelasius to suppress the excesses of the Lupercalia," (referencing J.P. Migne, Missale Gothicum, 691). The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica agrees: the association with Gelasius "has led some to suppose that it was ordained by Pope Gelasius I in 492 as a counter-attraction to the pagan Lupercalia; but for this there is no warrant." Since the two festivals are both concerned with the ritual purification of women, not all historians are convinced that the connection is purely coincidental. Gelasius' certainly did write a treatise against Lupercalia, and this still exists; see Lupercalia.

Pope Innocent XII believed Candlemas was created as an alternative to Roman Paganism, as stated in a sermon on the subject:

Why do we in this feast carry candles? Because the Gentiles dedicated the month of February to the infernal gods, and as at the beginning of it Pluto stole Proserpine, and her mother Ceres sought her in the night with lighted candles, so they, at the beginning of the month, walked about the city with lighted candles. Because the holy fathers could not extirpate the custom, they ordained that Christians should carry about candles in honor of the Blessed Virgin; and thus what was done before in the honor of Ceres is now done in honor of the Blessed Virgin.[9]

In Armenia celebrations at the Presentation have been influenced by pre-Christian customs, such as: the spreading of ashes by farmers in their fields each year to ensure a better harvest, keeping ashes on the roof of a house to keep evil spirits away, and the belief that newlywed women needed to jump over fire to purify themselves before getting pregnant. Young men will also leap over a bonfire.

The tradition of lighting a candle in each window is not the origin of the name "Candlemas", which instead refers to a blessing of candles.

Traditions and superstitions

"Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and mistletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall"
Robert Herrick (1591–1674), "Ceremony upon Candlemas Eve"

As the poem by Robert Herrick records, the eve of Candlemas was the day on which Christmas decorations of greenery were removed from people's homes; for traces of berries, holly and so forth will bring death among the congregation before another year is out.[citation needed] Another tradition holds that anyone who hears funeral bells tolling on Candlemas will soon hear of the death of a close friend or relative; each toll of the bell represents a day that will pass before the unfortunate news is learned.[citation needed]

In Scotland, until a change in the law in 1991, and in much of northern England until the 18th century, Candlemas was one of the traditional quarter days when quarterly rents were due for payment, as well as the day or term for various other business transactions, including the hiring of servants.

In the United Kingdom, good weather at Candlemas is taken to indicate severe winter weather later: "If Candlemas Day is clear and bright, / winter will have another bite. / If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain, / winter is gone and will not come again."[10]. It is also alleged to be the date that bears emerge from hibernation to inspect the weather as well as wolves, who if they choose to return to their lairs on this day is interpreted as meaning severe weather will continue for another forty days at least.[citation needed] The same is true in Italy, where it is called Candelora.

The Carmina Gadelica, a seminal collection of Scottish folklore, refers to a serpent coming out of the mound on Latha Fheill Bride, as the Scots call Candlemas. This rhyme is still used in the West Highlands and Hebrides.

Moch maduinn Bhride, Thig an nimhir as an toll; Cha bhoin mise ris an nimhir, Cha bhoin an nimhir rium.
(Early on Bride's morn, the serpent will come from the hollow I will not molest the serpent, nor will the serpent molest me)
Thig an nathair as an toll, la donn Bride Ged robh tri traighean dh' an t-sneachd air leachd an lair.
(The serpent will come from the hollow on the brown day of Bride Though there should be three feet of snow on the flat surface of the ground)

The earliest American reference to Groundhog Day can be found at the Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center at Franklin and Marshall College:

4 February 1841 — from Morgantown, Berks County (Pennsylvania) storekeeper James Morris' diary …"Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate." [1]

In France, Candlemas (French: La Chandeleur) is celebrated with crêpes, which must be eaten only after eight p.m. If the cook can flip a crêpe while holding a coin in the other hand, the family is assured of prosperity throughout the coming year.

Tenerife (Spain), Is the day of the Virgin of Candelaria (Saint Patron of the Canary Islands). February 2.

In Southern and Central Mexico, and Guatemala City, Candlemas (Spanish: Día de La Candelaria) is celebrated with Tamales. Tradition indicates that on January 5, the night before Three Kings Day (the Epiphany), whoever gets one or more of the few plastic or metal dolls (originally coins) buried within the Rosca de Reyes must throw a party on Candlemas.[citation needed] In certain regions of Mexico, this is the day in which the baby Jesus of each household is taken up from the nativity scene and dressed up in various colorful, whimsical outfits.[citation needed]

Sailors are often reluctant to set sail on Candlemas Day, believing that any voyage begun then will end in disaster — given the frequency of severe storms in February, this is not entirely without sense.[citation needed]

Other celebrations

In June 1992, the General Assembly of SYNDESMOS (the World Fellowship of Orthodox Youth, a federation of Orthodox youth movements and theological schools around the world) proposed a World Day of Orthodox Youth to be celebrated annually on 2 February, to coincide with the Feast of the Meeting of the Lord. Members were urged to implement the celebration in their local parish churches "through concrete and appropriate activities that celebrate youth as an essential part of the Church’s present and not just its future." This proposal has received the blessing of the primates of all the local Orthodox Churches.

See also

References

Notes

  1. ^ Schiller, 90-94
  2. ^ Liturgy of the Hours, February 2.
  3. ^ witchology.com Retrieved February 7, 2008
  4. ^ NOS GWYL FAIR (Candlemas) PageRetrieved February 7, 2008
  5. ^ Imbolc Customs and Lore Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary, 1996. Retrieved February 7, 2008
  6. ^ Milk Symbolism in the 'Bethu Brigte' by Thomas Torma University of Ulster Center for Irish and Celtic Studies, eDIL Project. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  7. ^ Brighid: What Do We Really Know? by Francince Nicholson, Celtic Well E-Journal, 1999. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  8. ^ On St. Brigit and Pagan Goddesses in the Kingdom of God by Sherry Rowley, Canadian Woman Studies Vol 17,No.3 1998. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  9. ^ Curiosities of Popular Customs and of rites, ceremonies, observances, and miscellaneous antiquities, by William Shepard Walsh, 1898. Pg. 168. Retrieved February 7, 2008.
  10. ^ Old sailors sayings

Sources

  • Schiller, Gertud, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I, 1971 (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, ISBN 853312702

Further reading

External links

Infant Jesus at the Temple
Life of Jesus: The Nativity
Preceded by
Adoration of the Shepherds
  New Testament 
Events
Followed by
Star of Bethlehem

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CANDLEMAS (Lat. festum candelarum sive luminum), the name for the ancient church festival, celebrated annually on the 2nd of February, in commemoration of the presentation of Christ in the Temple. In the Greek Church it is known as "T7ra7rav-rfl rou Kvplov (" the meeting of the Lord," i.e. with Simeon and Anna), in the West as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. It is the most ancient of all the festivals in honour of the Virgin Mary. A description is given of its celebration at Jerusalem in the Peregrinatio of Etheria (Silvia), in the second half of the 4th century. It was then kept on the 14th of February, forty days after Epiphany, the celebration of the Nativity (Christmas) not having been as yet introduced; the Armenians still keep it on this day, as " the Coming of the Son of God into the Temple." The celebration gradually spread to other parts of the church, being moved to the 2nd of February, forty days after the newly established feast of Christmas. In 542 it was established throughout the entire East Roman empire by Justinian. Its introduction in the West is somewhat obscure. The 8 th-century Gelasian Sacramentary, which embodies a much older tradition, mentions it under the title of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which has led some to suppose that it was ordained by Pope Gelasius I. in 492 1 as a counter-attraction to the heathen Lupercalia; but for this there is no warrant. The procession on this day was introduced by Pope Sergius I. (687-701). The custom of blessing the candles for the whole year on this day, whence the name Candlemas is derived, did not come into common use until the i 1 th century.

In the Quadragesimae de Epiphania as described by Etheria there is, as Monsignor Duchesne points out (Christian Worship, p. 272), no indication of a special association with the Blessed Virgin; and the distinction between the festival as celebrated in the East and West is that in the former it is a festival of Christ, in the latter a festival pre-eminently of the Virgin Mother.

See L. Duchesne, Christian Worship (Eng. trans., London, 1904); art. s.v. by F. G. Holweck in the Catholic Encyclopaedia.


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Etymology

from candle + -mas, following the tradition that the candles to be used in church during the following year are blessed on this day

Pronunciation

Noun

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Wikipedia

Candlemas

  1. The festival in the Christian year that commemorates the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple
    February 2nd in the western Christian church and February 15th in the Orthodox church.
  2. A quarter day in Scotland.

Translations

Anagrams


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Also called: Purification of the Blessed Virgin (Greek Hypapante), Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. Observed 2 February in the Latin Rite.

According to the Mosaic law a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain three and thirty days "in the blood of her purification"; for a maid-child the time which excluded the mother from sanctuary was even doubled. When the time (forty or eighty days) was over the mother was to "bring to the temple a lamb for a holocaust and a young pigeon or turtle dove for sin"; if she was not able to offer a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons; the priest prayed for her and so she was cleansed. (Leviticus 12:2-8)

Forty days after the birth of Christ Mary complied with this precept of the law, she redeemed her first-born from the temple (Numbers 18:15), and was purified by the prayer of Simeon the just, in the presence of Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:22 sqq.). No doubt this event, the first solemn introduction of Christ into the house of God, was in the earliest times celebrated in the Church of Jerusalem. We find it attested for the first half of the fourth century by the pilgrim of Bordeaux, Egeria or Silvia. The day (14 February) was solemnly kept by a procession to the Constantinian basilica of the Resurrection, a homily on Luke 2:22 sqq., and the Holy Sacrifice. But the feast then had no proper name; it was simply called the fortieth day after Epiphany. This latter circumstance proves that in Jerusalem Epiphany was then the feast of Christ's birth.

From Jerusalem the feast of the fortieth day spread over the entire Church, and later on was kept on the 2nd of February, since within the last twenty-five years of the fourth century the Roman feast of Christ's nativity (25 December) was introduced. In Antioch it is attested in 526 (Cedrenue); in the entire Eastern Empire it was introduced by the Emperor Justinian I (542) in thanksgiving for the cessation of the great pestilence which had depopulated the city of Constantinople. In the Greek Church it was called Hypapante tou Kyriou, the meeting (occursus) of the Lord and His mother with Simeon and Anna. The Armenians call it: "The Coming of the Son of God into the Temple" and still keep it on the 14th of February (Tondini di Quaracchi, Calendrier de la Nation Arménienne, 1906, 48); the Copts term it "presentation of the Lord in the Temple" (Nilles, Kal. man., II 571, 643). Perhaps the decree of Justinian gave occasion also to the Roman Church (to Gregory I?) to introduce this feast, but definite information is wanting on this point. The feast appears in the Gelasianum (manuscript tradition of the seventh century) under the new title of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The precession is not mentioned. Pope Sergius I (687-701) introduced a procession for this day. The Gregorianum (tradition of the eighth century) does not speak of this procession, which fact proves that the procession of Sergius was the ordinary "station", not the liturgical act of today. The feast was certainly not introduced by Pope Gelasius to suppress the excesses of the Lupercalia (Migne, Missale Gothicum, 691), and it spread slowly in the West; it is not found in the "Lectionary" of Silos (650) nor in the "Calendar" (731-741) of Sainte-Genevieve of Paris. In the East it was celebrated as a feast of the Lord; in the West as a feast of Mary; although the "Invitatorium" (Gaude et lætare, Jerusalem, occurrens Deo tuo), the antiphons and responsories remind us of its original conception as a feast of the Lord. The blessing of the candles did not enter into common use before the eleventh century; it has nothing in common with the procession of the Pupercalia. In the Latin Church this feast (Purificatio B.M.V.) is a double of the second class. In the Middle Ages it had an octave in the larger number of dioceses; also today the religious orders whose special object is the veneration of the Mother of God (Carmelites, Servites) and many dioceses (Loreto, the Province of Siena, etc.) celebrate the octave.

Blessing of Candles and Procession

According to the Roman Missal the celebrant after Terce, in stole and cope of purple colour, standing at the epistle side of the altar, blesses the candles (which must be of beeswax). Having sung or recited the five orations prescribed, he sprinkles and incenses the candles. Then he distributes them to the clergy and laity, whilst the choir sings the canticle of Simeon, "Nunc dimittis". The antiphon "Lumen ad revelationem gentium et gloriam plebis tuæ Israel" is repeated after every verse, according to the medieval custom of singing the antiphons. During the procession which now follows, and at which all the partakers carry lighted candles in their hands, the choir sings the antiphon "Adorna thalamum tuum, Sion", composed by St. John of Damascus, one of the few pieces which, text and music, have been borrowed by the Roman Church from the Greeks. The other antiphons are of Roman origin. The solemn procession represents the entry of Christ, who is the Light of the World, into the Temple of Jerusalem. It forms an essential part of the liturgical services of the day, and must be held in every parochial church where the required ministers can be had. The procession is always kept on 2 February even when the office and Mass of the feast is transferred to 3 February. Before the reform of the Latin liturgy by St. Pius V (1568), in the churches north and west of the Alps this ceremony was more solemn. After the fifth oration a preface was sung. The "Adorna" was preceded by the antiphon "Ave Maria". While now the procession in held inside the church, during the Middle Ages the clergy left the church and visited the cemetery surrounding it. Upon the return of the procession a priest, carrying an image of the Holy Child, met it at the door and entered the church with the clergy, who sang the canticle of Zachary, "Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel". At the conclusion, entering the sanctuary, the choir sang the responsory, "Gaude Maria Virgo" or the prose, "Inviolata" or some other antiphon in honour of the Blessed Virgin.

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.
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