Bulletin – February 2017
“So the faith was planted: so must it be restored”
Eight Pond Place – Oyster Bay, NY 11771
The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Taken from a sermon by The Most Rev. Clarence Kelly
Copyright © 2003 The Most Rev. Clarence Kelly
…..February 2 is the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Candlemas Day. It is – as it were – a feast of light. At this time of year there is a significant and noticeable increase in the amount of daylight with each passing day. These events in nature, therefore, symbolize the coming of Christ into the world, for Christ is – as He Himself said – the Light of the World. Thus, He was born on December 25 just after the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year.
…..February 2 is the midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox, so the amount of daylight will continue to increase each day until March 21 which marks the vernal equinox. At that point day and night will be of equal length. Day then begins to overcome night, and there is increasingly more daylight than darkness.
…..Thus, Our Lord rose from the dead in the spring just after the vernal equinox, for He who is the Light of the World overcame the darkness of the devil by His death and Resurrection. Hence, after the Resurrection there is more day than night – more light than darkness. The amount of light will continue to increase until the summer solstice which occurs on June 21. The process will then begin again. These events of nature thus mirror the events of our Redemption. As they occur over and over – year after year – so, too, do we relive the life of Christ and the great mystery of Redemption each year.
…..It is not hard to see why Our Lord called Himself the Light of the World. The natural light of the world is the sun. The supernatural light of the world is Christ, for He is to us spiritually what the sun in the sky is to the world materially. The sun gives light and warmth and life to the earth. Christ gives light and warmth and life to our souls. He is the light of our lives. He is the warmth of our hearts. And He is the life of our souls. He is our light, our love, and our life. When we walk in procession with lighted candles, we think of these great truths. We do this on the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary so that we might be reminded to see Our Savior with the eyes of His Mother and to love Him with her Heart.
In the Old Testament there were two precepts related to the birth of the first-born son. The first was that the mother would remain unseen for forty days, for she was considered ritually unclean. The second was that the child – after that time – would be taken to the temple and offered to God – the Creator of life. Thus we read in the Gospel: “And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.” (Luke 2:22)
…..However, between the Purification of the Blessed Virgin and the Presentation of her Divine Son and the rituals of all the other mothers and sons of the Old Testament, there are two great differences. The first was that Mary was not bound by the law of purification, for she was immaculately pure already. Yet, she would submit to the law anyway, just as her Son would later submit to the baptism of John. The second great difference is that she did not offer her Son to the Father the way other mothers did. For the other mothers the presentation of their first-born son was just a legal ceremony. It was associated with sentiments of joy that were not mingled with sorrow. It was a joyous occasion without any fear. The millions of mothers who offered their first-born sons did it by way of type or figure. But with the Blessed Virgin Mary it was different. She was not simply going through a ritual offering. She was actually offering up the life of her Son, and she knew that her offering was real. Her Son was destined for a sign of contradiction, and her own soul a sword would pierce.
…..St. Alphonsus says: “Mary really offered her Son to death, and knew for certain that the sacrifice of the life of Jesus which she then made was one day to be actually consummated on the altar of the cross; so that Mary, by offering the life of her Son, came, in consequence of the love she bore this Son, really to sacrifice her own entire self to God.” (St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, p.393.) He goes on: “Behold Mary is actually on her road to Jerusalem to offer her Son; she hastens her steps towards the place of sacrifice, and she herself bears the beloved victim in her arms. She enters the Temple, approaches the altar, and there, beaming with modesty, devotion, and humility, presents her Son to the Most High.” (Ibid., p. 394.)
…..St. Alphonsus explains: “Already the most blessed Virgin, as St. Jerome says, was enlightened by the Sacred Scriptures, and knew the sufferings that the Redeemer was to endure in his life, and still more at the time of His death. She fully understood [this] from the prophets . . . . [Yet,] she consented to all with a constancy which filled even the angels with astonishment; she pronounced the sentence that her Son should die, and die by so ignominious and painful a death . . . . Hence it was that Mary was silent during the Passion of Jesus . . . . And all this she did to complete the offering which she had made of Him to God in the Temple. . . . Mary, then, having by the merit of her sorrows, and by sacrificing her Son, become the Mother of all the redeemed, it is right to believe that through her hands, divine graces, and the means to obtain eternal life, which are the fruits of the merits of Jesus Christ, are given to men.” (Ibid., p. 395-402.)
…..So let us pray to Our Lady with St. Alphonsus:
O Holy Mother of God, and my Mother Mary, thou wast so deeply interested in my salvation as to offer to death the dearest object of they heart, thy beloved Jesus! Since, then, thou didst so much desire to see me saved, it is right that, after God, I should place all my hopes in thee. O yes, most Blessed Virgin, I do indeed entirely confide in thee. Ah, by the merit of the great sacrifice which thou didst offer this day to God, the sacrifice of the life of thy Son, entreat Him to have pity on my poor soul, for which this Immaculate Lamb did not refuse to die on the cross. I could desire, O my Queen, to offer my poor heart to God on this day, in imitation of thee; but I fear that, seeing it so loathsome, He may refuse it. He is always pleased with and accepts the offerings presented to him by your most pure hands. To thee, then, O Mary, do I this day present myself, miserable as I am; to thee do I give myself without reserve. Do thou offer me as thy servant, together with Jesus, to the Eternal Father; and beseech Him, by the merits of thy Son and for thy sake, to accept me and take me as His own. Ah, my sweetest Mother, for the love of thy sacrificed Son, help me always and at all times, and abandon me not. Never permit me to lose by my sins this most amiable Redeemer, whom on this day thou didst offer with so bitter grief to the cruel death of the cross. Remind Him that I am thy servant, that in thee I have placed all my hope; say, in fine, that thou willest my salvation, and He will certainly graciously hear thee. (Ibid., p. 405-406.)