Forty days after Christmas, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to Jerusalem, and so on February 2 we have the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple. The law given to Moses was that every firstborn son in Israel belonged to God, and his parents had to buy him back, so to speak, by giving God a young sheep or goat, or a pair of doves if they were poor. This feast used to be called the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because the mother was ritually purified on the same day as the child was redeemed. I know a woman named Purificación; probably she was born on February 2 in some Hispanic culture. In England, this day was colloquially named Candlemas because of the custom of blessing candles and lighting them to carry in procession.
The Office is lovely today; we had a bunch of Psalms about God coming to His Temple. "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; the King of Glory shall come in!"
It's the official end of the Christmas season (or maybe just in the old calendar? I haven't time to look it up), and though most Catholic churches took their decorations down at the Baptism of the Lord on Jan 11th, I was in a church yesterday that was still decorated to the hilt, making Christmas last as long as they were allowed. Kind of nice to see one more nativity scene. :)
I am most seriously displeased that some heavy metal band went and named itself Candlemass and has taken all the top Google results. On the other hand, I'm tickled to discover that Groundhog Day seems to have evolved from Candlemas! Check out this old rhyme:
If Candlemas day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight.
If Candlemas day be shower and rain,
Winter is gone and will not come again.
Here in L.A. it's very fair and bright and even warm. We've been having a beautiful winter.
Some Candlemas pictures! Click for big versions. The first is "The Presentation of Christ in the Temple" by Tintoretto. He has more than one mother and child. You'd expect the central pair to be the Virgin Mary and Jesus, but the pair on the right look so radiant that I'm not sure. The second is from the St. Columba Altarpiece by Weyden, and you can see the basket of two little doves that Mary and Joseph are offering to redeem their son. Both pictures have candles prominently positioned.
I just learned from Fr. Schnippel that Feb. 2 is also the Day of Consecrated Life (the link explains very briefly why), and Benedict XVI said yesterday, "I invite everyone to thank the Lord for the precious gift of these brothers and sisters, and to ask him, through the intercession of the Madonna, for many new vocations, in the variety of charisms with which the Church is rich."
It would be fun to write about the custom of the Churching of Women at this point, but I probably won't have time. My laptop's all infected with something and I can't even get on the internet with it, and only the internet can tell me how to fix things-- so I'll be back here at my parents' house tonight figuring that out. Now I'm off to work.