Yesterday, February 2, was the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, and the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, depending on which Calendar one uses. Either way, it was also know as Candlemas. The reading from the Gospels recounts the prophetic uttering of Simeon, who proclaims that Jesus Christ will be a light unto the nations, a light to the gentiles.
As the Rev. Fr. Leonard Goofine explains in The Church’s Year:
What is this festival?
This the festival on which the Church venerates the humility and obedience of Mary who, though not subject to the law of Moses, which required purification and presentation in the temple, yet subjected herself to it. From this comes the name Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the Presentation of Jesus in the temple. It is also called Candlemas, because before Mass on this day the candles used in divine service are blessed and carried in procession.
Why are the candles blessed on this day and carried in procession?
In remembrance of the presentation of Jesus to His Heavenly Father on this day, when the aged Simeon called Him: A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of the people of Israel, (Luke II. 32.) and to remind us that, like the five wise virgins, we should go to meet Christ with the light of faith and good works.
With what intention are candles blessed?
With the intention of obtaining from God by their pious use and the prayers of those who devoutly carry them, health of body and soul; that our hearts, through the doctrine of Jesus and the grace of the Holy Ghost, may be interiorly enlightened; and that the fire of the love of God may be kindled in our hearts, purify them from all remains of sin, and make us partakers in the joyous light of heaven, which will never be extinguished.
Also, the website Romanitus Press has a handy liturgical guide of their preparations for the Blessing of Candles, Procession, and a Low Mass.
Surprisingly, things went fairly well. I only found myself wondering why we’ve never done this at the Ordinary Form Mass, which also celebrates Candlemas on that day, with a fairly elaborate rite in the Missal.
In the Extraordinary Form Mass, we processed in from the side, said the prayers of blessing at the Epistle Side, with the sprinkling and incensations. The candles were then distributed at the Communion Rail, then the next oration was prayed.
Then we started the procession, which was led by the servers, then the Priest (yours truly,) followed by the congregation. We fell apart a bit here, as the servers did not take the thurible and cross or candles with them. With only three servers, I’m not exactly certain who should have taken what, if anything. Then the Priest, who shall remain nameless of course, got very far ahead of everyone else in the crowd, so that the servers and Priest stopped at the back of the Church before processing up the main aisle to start the Mass.
During the Mass, the servers brought the Priest a lit candle to hold during the Gospel; the congregation lit their candles during the Gospel, then during the Sanctus until the end of the Canon.
With another Mass at 8am, preceded by a Rosary at 7:30am, I was worried about the time. But we were finished by 7:20am, and everything worked out well.
- Plan ahead.
- Wear the biretta during the procession.
- Research the procession guidelines, even if it’s just a simple procession in the Church.
- Plan similarly for the Ordinary Form Mass.
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.