Rev. Matthew R. Mauriello
Candlemas Day, or the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, is celebrated each year on the second of February, exactly forty days after Christmas. From about the year 350 AD this feast was celebrated locally at Jerusalem. The earliest account of the feast is described by a fourth century pilgrim from Spain named Egeria . She visited Jerusalem around the year 380 and wrote about this feast day in her diary, recording that a solemn and magnificent celebration of the Holy Sacrament was held at the Basilica of the Tomb of Christ.
The women of Israel were considered to have contracted a legal stain in childbirth and it was for this reason that they were obliged to offer a young pigeon or dove as a sin offering. By this sacrifice, they were free once more to attend the ceremonies of worship.
Mary had not contracted any stain in bringing forth her child, as the infant Jesus had been conceived outside the ordinary laws of nature and Mary preserved her virginity unimpaired before,,during, and after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. She did not come under the prescriptions of the Law, yet in a spirit of humility and obedience to do what was required of them, she and St. Joseph complied with the requirements of the law which also stated, "Consecrate to me every first-born among the Israelites ... It belongs to me." (Exodus 13:2) The writers of the Eastern church speak of Mary's being prepurified ( protokathareises) by the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation.
The above article appeared in the Fairfield County Catholic January 1996. Reprinted with permission of the author and publisher.
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