The Feast of the Presentation takes place this weekend.
This is an appropriate day to ask for purity, especially in a culture devoid of it. The blessing of candles was one way the Church expressed this prayer sacramentally; the candles would fill the home- the domestic church- with the pure light of Christ, who removes sin.
This is an appropriate day to confess your sins to a priest and receive absolution and reconcile yourself to God. Then your Lenten fasting can be a means to greater purity.
We haven't had a chance to unite these two occasions (the Presentation and Ash Wednesday) so closely since the mid-1800s. Take advantage of that fact this year and truly enter Lent with purity as your goal.
Beware-- asking God for purification brings with it the sword, the pruning knife, a spiritual circumcision. Remember how angry Jesus got when he purified the temple; this he will do in your interior soul. "I bring the sword," says Jesus. It will hurt, much like surgery hurts. Bleeding always precedes birth. Unite your sufferings with those of Mary:
- When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,
- just as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,"
- and to offer the sacrifice of "a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons," in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.
- Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him.
- It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.
- He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,
- he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:
- "Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word,
- for my eyes have seen your salvation,
- which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
- a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."
- The child's father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;
- and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted
- (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
- There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
- and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.
- And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.
- When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.
- The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
Unite your prayer for purity with St. Joseph, the perfect exemplar of virtue. Ask him to teach you how it's possible. Ask him to strengthen you. Ask him how to build, to carve, whittle and fashion, to cut away, to smooth. His feast day will take place the day before Palm Sunday, another feature of this year's liturgy that won't soon happen again. The weight of wood and the pain of a splinter-- these were quite familiar to the Carpenter's Son. How much did Jesus recall the time he spent with Saint Joseph while he labored on the way to Calvary, bearing the timber that would fell our sins?
How often had Mary observed Jesus wielding a hammer and nail, only to witness them once again for so brutal a purpose? Unite your Lenten prayers with the Holy Family, who journey with us from the manger to the temple, from the magi to Simeon and Anna, from Jordan to Cana, from Tabor to Calvary, from the desert to the New Jerusalem.
Bless your candles and light them at the Easter Vigil. Prepare your hearts no longer for the entrance of a Prince, but the entrance of a King!
Bleeding, washing, purifying-- this is the time of Purgatory that leads to Easter. This is the time when marble becomes sculpture, clay becomes vessel, vine becomes grape. May your Lent be a profoundly holy time~