Today the Church celebrates the meeting of the Holy Family with Anna and Simeon. Jewish law mandated that a woman return to the temple 40 days after giving birth to be ritually cleansed. In keeping with that tradition, Mary and Joseph brought JESUS to the temple so that they could make an offering t0 GOD. The two elders who see the Christ child represent the waiting and watching of Israel for the coming of the messiah. When they behold Him, they are filled with joy because the promise has been fulfilled. Simeon, who was given the grace to see this day, prays: "Lord, let your servant now die in peace for you kept your promise. With my own eyes I have seen the salvation you prepared for all people. A light of revelation for the Gentiles and glory for your people, Israel."
Not until the 11th century did the practice of blesing candles begin. "Candlemas" has become an honored ritual in churches and monasteries all over the world. (Our liturgy at the monastery is exceptionally beautiful. I miss being home on days like this - more than usual.)
February 2nd is also set aside as a day to celebrate consecrated life. The Church, here in Richmond, planned a retreat day for all the sisters, brothers and religious priests serving in the diocese. The three of us joined about forty others at St. Joseph's Home, the mother house of the Little Sisters of the Poor. The hospitality was over-the-top, and from a Benedictine, that is high praise. The sisters were so happy to welcome us to their home. The day began with a Eucharist of Thanksgiving in which we all renewed our vows. (I monkeyed with the words a bit to reflect our monastic profession of stability, obedience and fidelity to the monastic way of life. Had to be done.) Our presider was Rev. Msgr. Thomas Shreve, PA. Then, after lunch, Adoration and Reconciliation. Two conferences followed. Fr. James Kauffmann, Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at VCU, spoke on St. Paul's hymn to love. Rev. Msgr. Mark Lane, Vicar for Clergy & Religious, gave a wonderful conference on the life, conversion and ministry of Paul. All in all, a grace-filled day. (Special thanks to Liz Primich and Ann Niermeyer - the women who organized the event.)
I guess I'd be remiss if I failed to mention the other event on February 2nd. Did he see his shadow?
Blessings and love to you all...
- Sister Vicki