ON CANDLEMAS DAY
O admirabile commercium: Creator generis humani, animatum corpus sumens, de Virgine nasci dignatus est.
Consider first, that on this day the blessed Virgin Mary, according to the rites prescribed by the ancient law, came to the temple of God to be purified after her child-bearing, and to make her offering according to what her poverty allowed, of a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeon, the one for a whole burnt offering, the other as a sacrifice for sin – Lev. xii. Admire her ready obedience to a law in which in reality she was not concerned, being exempted by that singular privilege of hers of bringing forth her son without any detriment to her virginal purity. Admire her humility in being willing to pass for a person unclean, she that was more pure than the angels, and to be excluded for forty days from touching anything that was holy, or coming near the house of God, and to be cleansed by a sin-offering, as if she needed any such expiation. Admire her love of purity, which brought her on this day to the temple of God, to be there purified with these legal sacrifices, because she was desirous of omitting nothing, that could any ways contribute to increase or maintain purity. And learn to imitate these great virtues, viz., her ready obedience, her profound humility, and her great zeal and love of purity.
Consider 2ndly, that on this day, the blessed virgin made a rich present to God in his temple, infinitely surpassing all the offerings that had ever been made there before; when, according to the law of the first-born, Exod.xiii., she presented her Son, the first-born of the whole creation, by whom all things were made, both visible and invisible, to his eternal Father. Parents, learn to imitate this presentation, by making an offering of your children to God, by the hands of Mary, to be dedicated for ever to his love and service. Christians, learn to present him with your hearts, together with all their offspring, your thoughts, words, and deeds; learn to make an offering to him of your whole being, every day, and every hour of your life. But then you must not stop here, you must also present to him his Son Jesus Christ, and yourselves with him and through him, daily in the sacred mysteries, and hourly in the spiritual temple of your souls. The temple of God in Jerusalem was highly honoured on this day, by the presence of the Son of God, according to that prophecy of Aggeus ii., ‘The desired of all nations shall come, and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of Hosts. great shall be the glory of this last house more than of the first, saith the Lord of Hosts, and in this place I will give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts.’ My soul, art not thou ambitious of a share in this glory, peace, and happiness? Invite then this same Son of God, the desire of all nations, into thy inward house, and he will come and make thee the temple of his glory, and bring thee his true peace, which will make thee happy indeed.
Consider 3rdly, that on this day the venerable Simeon, who had received a promise from the Holy Ghost that he should see the Saviour of the world before he died, coming by divine instinct into the temple, whilst our Lord was present there, took him into his arms, and declared him to be the promised Messiah, the glory of Israel, and the light of all nations. At the same time that holy widow, Anna the prophetess, who for a great number of years had attended on the Lord in his temple by continual prayer and fasting, was also favoured with the like grace, and made the like public profession of her faith in our infant Saviour. This sacred meeting of so many persons of such eminent sanctity in the temple of God, in company with the Son of God and his blessed Mother, the Church celebrates in the procession of this day, which we make with lighted candles in our hands, which are solemnly blessed in the name of Christ, and received from the hand of God’s priest as emblems of the light of Christ. See then, Christian souls, with what affection of devotion you ought to receive, and to bear in your hands, those hallowed candles, as figures of Christ. O learn, on this occasion, of holy Simeon, to seek Christ alone, to sigh after him alone, to aspire with your whole souls after his embraces, despising all things else, that you may find him. O remember that he is the true light of the world, in his life and doctrine; and determine from this time forward ever to follow him.
Conclude to study well all the lessons which are to be learned from the presentation of the Son of God and the purification of his blessed Mother, and to conform yourselves to them in the practice of your lives; that so being purified from all your sins, you may also be worthy to be one day presented to God, in the eternal temple of his glory.