Candles, a prayer and a blessing

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Finally, a brief comment on two feasts of this past week. The are the Presentation of our Lord, and the celebration of Saint Blaise. The first is connected to an evening prayer I have said for decades. That prayer, the canticle of Simeon, is the one that reveals Christ as the light to both the Israelites and the gentiles. It declares Christ as the light of the world. That canticle is the one that allows Simeon to go to his rest because he has seen the savior promised to him. That title, light of the world, that is proclaimed on the presentation of Jesus at the temple of Jerusalem, gives name to the Mass that is celebrated on that day. Candlemas. Candlemas commemorates that light, and is the day that candles which will be used in churches throughout the year receive their blessing. That might not seem like much today with Edison’s invention, but think back to the days before the light bulb. Before Edison, churches were illuminated by candles, and the amount used was substantial. Those candles used too were special, they were the creation of Gods humble creature the honey bee. No soy, or paraffin, but the wax of the bee. In days past it was not the honey that bees were prized for, it was the wax used to make candles blessed at Candlemas. Those bees, and their hives became representative of a Christian community. They became representative through their cooperative effort to build their hive, and produce a bountiful harvest for the glory of God. The Churches were not simply illuminated by their work, it also gained valuable lesson through their cooperation. Sweet!

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; Your word has been fulfilled. My eyes have seen the salvation You have prepared in the sight of every people, A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people, Israel.

The day that follows Candlemas is one that immediately puts those blessed candles to use. The feast of Saint Blaise is known for the blessing of throats. A blessing where two blessed crossed candles embrace the faithful’s throat while the prayer is recited. “Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Not much is known of the saint other than he was a physician, an Armenian bishop. He was devout and pursued the healing of souls as vigorously as he did the healing of bodies as a physician. He was martyred through a persecution initiated by Armenian Emperor Licinius.

These two days are memorable first for the events they celebrate, they are also memorable for their sacramentals. They are days of blessed candles, and of blessings with candles. They are a simple reminder of a light to come. They might not be the largest days celebrated on the calendar, but for those guided by the light of Christ they certainly are memorable. A light to ease the gloom of darkness. As I think of those candles of Candlemas, I can think of the other candles used throughout the year. Most notable of course is that Easter Candle, the grandest candle of the Church. I also can think of the flame of Pentecost that descends on the disciples so that they might bring that light of Christ to others.

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