re: “The Feast of the Presentation”
Behold I send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before my face. And presently the Lord, whom you seek, and the angel of the testament, whom you desire, shall come to his temple. Behold he cometh, saith the Lord of hosts.
Vespers of the Purification
The Epiphany of Our Lord
Dear Friend of Our Lady,
I am writing to let you know I am praying for you and all dear friends of Our Lady of Fatima during this Christmas season.
Does it seem strange that I should write this to you now, after New Year’s and after the Feast of the Epiphany, which many think of as the end of Christmas?
It’s not a mistake. According to the traditional calendar of Holy Mother Church, Christmas begins on Christmas Day — the Feast of Christmas — and ends on February 2nd, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
This feast day, now commonly called the Feast of the Presentation, also known as Candlemas Day, is one of the most significant feasts of the year. The event which we celebrate is so important in the life of the Mother of God that it is one of the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary — the Fourth Joyful Mystery.
On this day, when the Forty Days of Mary’s Purification were complete, She went to the temple, according to the Law of Moses.
Of course the Blessed Virgin knew in Her Heart that God did not require Her to wait for 40 days before She could go to the temple. She did not need Purification because She was conceived without original sin and had no actual sin on Her soul.
And thus She had no need to be purified. All the same, She went to the temple to be “purified” in a great act of humility and love of God and His Son, Her Divine Child Jesus.
It was also a part of the Law of Moses that every first-born son was considered as belonging to God. So his parents were required to obtain him again by offering a sacrifice to God in the temple.
Imagine — the Creator and Sovereign Lord of all things — humbling Himself by being “redeemed”, like a slave or servant whose life and body are not his own.
Yet the Holy Ghost revealed to Mary that She must obey both these laws. So the Holy Mother of God went to the temple, just like the other Jewish mothers.
She did so because Our Mother Mary is “the handmaid of the Lord” and does whatever God tells Her to do. She always accepts and embraces His will wholeheartedly. She always prays, with Her Son, “Thy will be done.”
God’s Divine Will was dear to Our Lady in this and every circumstance of Her life. She knew that by submitting Herself to the rite of Purification, She was not compromising the honor of Her Child. Nor was She denying Her Perpetual Virginity and the respect due to Her.
The Blessed Virgin obeyed! Her Son — Her God and ours — also submitted meekly and humbly to the rite. He would be obedient even unto death, even to His death on the Cross.
The Child Jesus and His Blessed Mother both humbled Themselves in the Purification. We should learn from this one of the greatest lessons ever taught.
Behold the image of Jesus and Mary on the beautiful prayer card which is enclosed with this letter. The Divine Babe is in the arms of His Blessed Mother, the Living Ark of the Covenant.
Jesus and Mary are in the temple. It is not the magnificent Temple of Solomon, which had been burned to the ground during the Jewish captivity. It is the second temple, not so imposing or beautiful. It is the temple which Jesus said would be destroyed:
These things which you see, the days will come in which there shall not be left a stone upon a stone that shall not be thrown down. (St. Luke 21:6)
But not yet. What you see pictured on the prayer card is nothing less than the fulfilment of a prophecy! The Old Testament prophet Aggeus wrote:
I will move the heaven and the earth, and the sea and the dry land. And I will move all nations: and 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...and in this place I will give peace, saith the Lord of hosts. (Aggeus 2:7-8, 10)
Here, in this beautiful picture, we see Jesus the Heavenly Babe, yes Jesus the Lord, carried in His Mother’s arms, about to take possession of His temple. The very fact of His entering the temple gives it the glory of which the prophet spoke.
Notice how the beam of sunlight shines on the Holy Family. It dispels the gloom and darkness of the temple, and represents the coming of the Sun of Truth and Justice. Truly, the Light of Christ has come into the world!
And there were witnesses, who knew that they had seen the Christ. You can read in the second chapter of St. Luke’s gospel — the chapter that tells the most familiar version of the first Christmas — how Simeon and Anna, drawn to the temple by the Holy Ghost, celebrated the coming of the Divine Child who would bring salvation and peace to the world.
After submitting Herself and Her Divine Son to God the Father in this sacred place, the Blessed Virgin, with Jesus pressed to Her bosom, and Her faithful Joseph by Her side, left the temple.
And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth. And the Child grew, and waxed strong, full of wisdom; and the grace of God was in Him. (Luke 2:39-40)
That is the beautiful mystery of the fortieth day, which we celebrate in prayer and in the Holy Mass of the Feast of the Purification. Pope Benedict XIV said that this solemnity was instituted by the Apostles themselves.
The Roman Church has traditionally considered the Purification a feast of the Blessed Virgin. And it was Our Lord who was presented in the temple.
So it is our duty to honor both Our Lord and His Blessed Mother on this very special feast day, which closes the Holy Season of Christmas. Hearing Holy Mass and receiving Our Lord in Communion on Candlemas will be greatly to your spiritual benefit.
I also urge you to pray, during this week, the prayer on the back of the card. This prayer is the Canticle of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32) and is two thousand years old.
In so many parishes, the Feast of the Presentation has been downplayed or forgotten altogether. And the Christmas season has been sadly abbreviated.
The Nativity scene and other Christmas decorations are removed from our churches — even from some Catholic homes — first thing in the new year, sometimes even before Epiphany.
I hope you will be a part of our campaign to keep Jesus Christ in “Christmas”, and to strengthen devotion to Christ’s Blessed Mother for the entire Christmas season.
The honor which we pay to His Mother actually adds to the greater glory of Her Son, for He is the Author and the End of all those prerogatives which we revere and honor in the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Many times, priests and laypeople only hear about the traditions (like the Presentation) of the Church from Our Lady’s Apostolate.
It is only through the generosity of dear friends of Our Lady that we are able to distribute millions of pieces of literature, prayer cards and sacramentals each year, that help people to learn or remember the important dates in the Church year, and what they mean.
Please keep in mind Our Mother Mary’s Presentation of the Baby Jesus, and support Her Apostolate.
May Jesus, the Light of the World bless you, and Mary, His Mother, protect you throughout the coming year.
P.S. We have a small supply of beautiful 8½ x 11 color pictures of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts (suitable for framing). If you can make a gift to be used for printing and distribution of our holy pictures and our Fatima literature, we will be happy to send you one.
Yours in Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Father Nicholas Gruner