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Feast of the Presentation

We celebrate today the Feast of the Presentation or traditionally called “Candlemas” or “Candle Mass.”  This is an ancient feast in the Roman Catholic Church dating back to as far back as 312 with some historical homilies by bishops.  This feast falls 40 days after Christmas and commemorates the Purification of Mary in the temple in Jerusalem following the mandate of the Law of Moses in the Book of Leviticus (Leviticus 12:2-8).  According to this Mosaic Law, any woman who had given birth to her first-born son is considered impure, and would have to go through a process of ritual purification.  Consequently, the Child Jesus was also presented to the temple to be consecrated to God according to the same Law.  Candle Mass was originally a celebration of the blessing of candles.  These candles were blessed and were reserved for the use of the Church in its different liturgical celebrations throughout the year.  In the liturgy, we still have the part of Simple or Solemn procession and blessing of the candles.  After Vatican II, the emphasis was refocused on the feast of the Presentation itself.  It traditionally became the day when Religious renew their vows as a symbol of renewing their religious consecration.  This year the Catholic Church will celebrate the World Day of Consecrated Life on February 7th.

This feast presents to us many points for personal reflection.  There are many things which come to my mind and among these are the following:
A lesson on poverty: This feast recalls to mind how Mary and Joseph were really poor.  They offered to God what was prescribed in the Law as the offering of poor people: turtle doves.  Sometimes we may be tempted to think that the Holy Family’s poverty was a pious tradition to exalt the virtue of poverty to those who were born poor in this world. Or to pacify the restless hearts of peasants during the middle ages by the backing of religion.  But this Gospel event proves to us that they were materially poor in the true sense of the word.  It is so consoling to think that material possessions are not always a badge of God’s favor and the lack of them is not a sign of God’s disfavor.
We are all consecrated: By virtue of our baptism, we are consecrated to God.  We are set apart to do a particular mission in life to bring about the Kingdom.  Consecration is lived out in many ways.  Religious are consecrated by a certain ritual in the Church which sets them aside for a particular ministry following a particular charism, within a particular Religious Order.  Ordained Priests are consecrated to be God’s ministers of Word and Sacraments for the life of one’s soul.  A baptized Christian in the world is consecrated to be a leaven, a salt of the earth, to make present the presence of God in the market-places of the world.  No one is exempted.  We just do not exist, we live for a purpose.  The Presentation of the Child Jesus was a statement of this truth.
God lives in His temple and because of that we ought to give the House of God the respect it deserves.  The drama of Mary’s purification, Jesus’ consecration, the prophecy made by Simeon and the love of the prophetess Anna, all demonstrate to us how holy the temple or Church is.  In our Catholic Churches is present, day and night, the Son of God, Lord of Heaven and earth, who chose to remain in that little piece of bread we call the Eucharist so that He can be with us always.  And yet, for one reason or other, we take it for granted.  We need to recapture the reverence and awe we once had for the House of God.  Everyone of us can cite examples of how people can be so disrespectful of God’s temple.
The sword piercing Mary’s heart was a prophecy of the Cross.  Along with the joy of having given birth to God, the joy was lined with sorrow because the prophecy foretells  rejection, hate and death.  Isn’t this a consequence of following Jesus, of discipleship?  The Cross is never far away from those who truly follow God.  That is one reason why people are afraid to follow Christ, “it is difficult, too complicated” many would say.  It entails dying: to self, selfish desires, life of sin.
As we celebrate this feast of the Presentation, let us again be mindful of these truths and ponder the insights which God reveals to those who seek Him.  “And suddenly there will come to the temple the Lord whom you seek (Malachi 3:1-4).  “Are you not aware that you are God’s temple?”  Let us enter in, into the temple of our soul.  Let us remain in silence before the Lord our God.  Nothing is needed for this journey except the desire to be united with Him. The language he hears best is the silent language of love.


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“I have carefully studied the principal Religious Orders and none satisfies me well, my needs, my desires, and my tastes as does the Order of Carmel. Each Order has its rule and spirit, but I prefer that Order which to an austere rule, joins a spirit of love. Each has its end, but I prefer that whose end is sustaining the church and converting sinners. Each has its characteristic means, but I prefer that whose means is prayer. Each has its advantages, but I prefer that whose advantages are those of solitude. Each has its glory, but I, while passing by in humility that whose glory is learning and with reverence that whose glory is silence and in rapture that whose glory is poverty, while (humbly) striking my breast before that whose glory is penance. I run to that whose glory, before all other glory, is the incomparable glory of love. I hasten to enter the family of Elias, of Teresa, of John of the Cross and of Magdalene of Pazzi, a family inflamed by divine love. I, a little straw picked up from the dust by the Redeemer, purified by His grace, prepared by His Charity. I entered into this Order, as into a burning furnace, to be quickly consumed for Him; thus to attain the end for which He had created me by the means which it was His pleasure to choose for me. That was my hope.”

(From Sr. Marie Aimee of Jesus, who died in the odor of sanctity in Carmel of Paris, May 4, 1874)

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Advent: The Waiting Begins

There are three major personalities in the season of Advent: Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary. It is very helpful to meditate on the significance of these three personalities and to find their significance in the event of Christmas.

Isaiah is the great prophet of Advent. Most of the liturgical readings are taken from him. For the most part, they are proclamations of Israel’s infidelities to God and God’s plan of salvation. Despite Isaiah’s cries of woes, the liturgical texts of Advent are really beautiful in the sense of being invitations to keep our faith anchored in God’s promise of redemption. Advent is a season of supernatural hope. It reminds us that despite our infidelities, or precisely because of our weakness, God is ready to take us back if only we repent.


This subject of repentance brings us to the person of John the Baptist. John was an ascetic, the “voice in the wilderness.”  Isaiah proclaimed John as the one to prepare the way of the Lord. Advent does not have the penitential rigors of Lent though the priest uses purple vestments during Mass, but an inward conversion of heart. God’s coming is to take the form, not as judge, but as an infant. That in itself is a joyful event. There is a jubilant expectation, love is in the air. John calls us to repent and to turn away from everything that lies in the way of God’s coming to us. It is a call to a deeper awareness of who it is “leaving heaven” to be with the sons of men. After having grasped this we are moved to love. Advent requires that we make room for the Spirit of God. We need to do away with things that are not compatible with Him. Having offered the little we have, God purifies them so that we may be presented to Him as a “chaste bride to her bridegroom.”

Mary is the central figure in Advent because she is the Mother of God made Man. It is fitting to celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception during Advent because it makes sense to honor the Ark that contained the New Covenant. She had to be immaculately conceived to bear the Sinless One.  Mary’s greatness does not only depend on her privilege of physical motherhood but more so because she exemplifies the faith of a true disciple. I think it was St. Bernard who said that Mary gave birth only to what she had already conceived in her heart and mind. This was manifested in her complete submission, her living faith, her readiness to give herself to the fulfillment of what the great prophets had foretold. She exemplifies the true spirit of Advent, the vigilant waiting we  must try to practice.  You and I will make it our aim to make this Advent and Christmas Season different.  Let us ponder how..

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