Wednesday, 1 February 2012


Tomorrow sees the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, more popularly known as Candlemas. It's one of my favourite feast days, and happens to be the anniversary of the arrest of my patron saint, Anne Line.

St. Anne, as I've mentioned before, was arrested and charged with harbouring a Catholic priest - although the priest managed to escape, the presence of the Mass vessels and vestments was considered sufficient evidence for a conviction. Feisty lady that she was, she declared boldly, first at her trial, and later on the scaffold, that her only regret was that she couldn't have helped a thousand priests.

The feast day is now more commonly referred to as the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, partly because of a misguided attempt to downplay the idea that "purification" was needed after childbirth, because the Church thought of sex and birth as something shameful and unclean.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and this is borne out by the phrase used to describe the cleaning of the chalice and paten after Communion: purifying the sacred vessels. It doesn't mean that the vessels are dirty after having held Our Lord's Body and Blood. The purification is removing all traces of the Sacred species, so as to allow the return of the vessels to "normal" use - I use inverted commas because the sacred Mass vessels aren't used for any other purpose, but they are placed in a safe or cupboard to await the next Mass.

The Purification of Our Lady can be seen in the same way - pregnancy and childbirth were considered so special that a woman needed to be brought back into everyday circulation, so to speak, and this was even more true for Our Lady, who bore the Body and Blood of Our Lord and God within her womb for nine months.

We've got a Missa Cantata tomorrow night, starting at 8pm, at Blackfen, so I shall try to get some photos. I'm also looking forward to getting a blessed candle to go with my blessed chalk...

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