Happy Feast of Candlemas.
The events that inspired the Feast of Candlemas (celebrated liturgically on February 2nd) are those of the Fourth Joyful Mystery: the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple and the Purification of Our Lady.
The scenes are rich with imagery and ripe for consideration. Indeed, a person like me could easily spend an hour in meditation on a day like the Feast of Candlemas, provided I sat still long enough to do so.
Which is to say that I’m a twitch.
And which is to say that I am less prone to pondering things in my heart than I am to running them through my mind along with a lengthy to-do list. Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph enter the temple. Check! Thaw ground beef. Check! The prophet Simeon approaches. Check! Make husband’s lunch, eat breakfast and check my e-mail. Check! Check! Check!
I am such a work in progress.
And the fact of the matter is that I should be spending hours in contemplation of this mystery because I have myself offered a child to God. Four of them, in fact–lost to miscarriage but never truly gone from my heart or my longing.
In my own little way, I have lived the Presentation.
And a sword my own heart did pierce.
I once labored to deliver my stillborn child while, at that very moment, my 7-year-old son made his First Confession. My mother’s tears of joy were mingled with my cry of anguish.
“Behold,” said the prophet Simeon, “This child is destined for the rise and fall of many…”
Well, that’s life. I say this not to be glib or overly pat in my assessment of what I went through. Oh my goodness, far from it. But this is life! Sorrow follows on the heels of happiness; pain follows pleasure in rapid succession.
I see how on this double feast that I, too, was chosen to be purified.
But unlike the Blessed Mother, I really need it.
In Caryll Houselander’s Wood of the Cradle, Wood of the Cross, she explains (with tremendous insight for a woman who herself never bore children) that “there is nothing more mysterious than infancy, nothing so small and yet so imperious. The infancy of Christ has opened a way to us by which we can surrender self to Him absolutely, without putting too much pressure on our weak human nature.
“Before a child is born,” she continues, “The question which everyone asks is ‘What can I give him?’ When he is born, he rejects every gift that is not the gift of self.”
How very true. With every birth of every infant, a woman is asked to suffer. She must overcome even her basic needs for sleep and recreation, at times, in order to provide for this ever-fussy, ever-needy little person.
And she does so…willingly! At least, she ought to.
She’s a mother.
It’s what we do.
The Feast of the Presentation is a chance for us to consider the great gift that is our children. They are our sanctity! A child is a complicated gift, however; he or she is not really ours, and we must be at peace with giving the gift back to the Giver when He asks us.
Our offering of two turtledoves, only much much harder.
You know, I wonder at which point of Simeon’s prophecy Our Lady clutched her precious babe ever more fiercely to her heart. Was it when a stranger tried to take Him from her? Or was it when the words of the stranger’s prophecy hit home?
As always, Mary overcame her fear of sin and suffering. She handed over her child and listened to what God was saying…and she was brave.
Today and always, may we be equally brave.
May we live out our Presentation like Mary.
Ad Jesum per Mariam,