Last night, 1 February, The Church celebrated the Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of The Presentation of Our Lord, also known as Candlemas. The priests bless the candles used during the year at the altar and The Pascal Candle used during Eastertide.
Candles are associated with light and so it is appropriate that the Mass begins around dusk, as the light of the sun wanes. The Presentation of the Infant Jesus at The Temple in Jerusalem is recounted in The Gospel of St Luke. Simeon, a pious old man, sees the Christ Child and states that he can now die (depart) in peace, since he has just seen The Messiah. “A Light to enlighten the gentiles”. This is the ancient Song of Saint Simeon. (St Luke 2: 29-32). Hence the attention on light.
Outside, the congregation lights individual candles as night falls, then follows the priest into the Church, with only the altar candles burning and the candles the people hold. Jesus is the Light of The World.
We sat behind a family of eight, Mom, Dad, a daughter and five sons. The daughter, around eight, was the eldest of the children. She was the Substitute Mom, admonishing her brothers to be quiet while Mom was out changing the youngest, still in diapers. It was one of those scenes that convey the simple love behind family life.
The Presentation marks the end of the Christmas season and the last time the Precipio is on view. It is a large depiction of The Nativity Story, taking up the entire St Mary Altar and its chapel.
This is also the last time during The Liturgical Year that Alma Redemptoris Mater is the Marian Antiphon, chanted as the Recessional at the end of The Mass. The Marian Antiphons are a series of beautiful chants,honoring Mary, Mother of God, largely ignored in the Church these days, due to a misinterpretation of the rules around the Novus Ordo Mass. The Church and the culture at large are poorer places because of their neglect.