Friday and Saturday, February 2nd and 3rd |
Friday, February 2, 2001
FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
First Reading: Malachi 3: 1-4
Psalms: Psalm 27: 7-10
Second Reading: Hebrews 2: 14-18
Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 22-40
The Presentation of Jesus is also called the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Candlemas Day, since on this day the Church blesses the candles used in the procession (if there is one) and which will be used to bless throats on the next day - the feast of Saint Blase. The main focus of course is on the Presentation of Jesus which is in accordance with the old Jewish Law given from God to Moses for the Jewish women after childbirth. A mother was still considered unclean and not to appear in public for 40 days after the birth of a son, and 80 days after the birth of a daughter. At the end of this period, the first place she was to go with her husband was to the temple. There, at the door of the tabernacle she was to present a young pigeon or a turtle dove as a sin-offering. The ideal offering was a lamb, the highest immolation one could offer, as documented throughout the Old Testament - specifically with Abraham and Isaac and culminating with the Sacrifice of the Lamb - Jesus Christ on the Cross. However, very few could afford to donate a lamb for the altar. Therefore, they were allowed to substitute a second turtle-dove in lieu of a lamb. Once the high priest sacrificed these gifts to Almighty God, the woman was cleansed of the legal impurity and free to return to a normal life with all its privileges. In accordance with all this, the Blessed Mother, accompanied by her chaste husband Saint Joseph, complied, bringing Jesus with them since there was also a Hebrew code commanding the first-born be brought to the temple and presented to God. Hence, the Presentation. The Gospel Reading in Luke 2: 22-40 relates all that happened in the temple. Though the Virgin Mary was always pure she still was obedient to the law and humble in all she was asked to do by God and by man. There was also present in the mysteries of the Purification and the Presentation, a third "mystery", that of the prophecies of the holy Simeon and the prophetess Anna. Simeon knew immediately that this child was the Messiah. This was foretold by the prophet Malachi in his book of the Old Covenant and selected as the first reading in this feast's celebration of the Mass. He was also charged by God to reveal further the sorrows Mary would undergo by her fiat to God. The second reading in Hebrews 2: 14-18 reveals much of what Our Lady understood, especially verse 18 where Paul writes: "For in that He Himself has suffered and has been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted." Yes, Jesus walked in our shoes, so to speak, which allows us to follow in His footsteps.
Saturday, February 3, 2001
Weekday in Ordinary Time
Feast of Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr
Feast of Saint Ansgar, Bishop and Missionary
Observance of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday
Green, Red or White vestments
Feast of Saint Blaise, Bishop and Martyr
First Reading: Hebrews 13: 15-17
Psalms: Psalm 23: 1-6
Gospel Reading: Mark 6: 30-34
The traditional "Blessing of Throats" commemorates the feast of Saint Blase who lived in the fourth century. A philosopher and physcian, St. Blase was turned his back on the worldly pleasures and devoted his life to God as a physician of souls. His virtues and preaching drew people from everywhere. This bothered Agricolaus the Governor of Cappadocia, which is today Turkey and Iraq. The Roman governor seized Blaze and ordered his incarceration. On his way to prison, Blase was stopped by a distraught mother who pleaded for him to help her daughter who was dying of a throat disease. Blase, touched by her sorrow and faith, prayed and through these intercessory prayers the little girl was healed. Other reports say he healed a young boy choking on a fish bone. St. Blase is often depicted with two candles, used by priests on this day to bless throats. There are a plethora of stories of how many have been cured of throat diseases by praying to St. Blase to intercede. He was beheaded by the heathens in 316 and his remains are buried in the church bearing his name in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Unfortunately, the church was damaged by the Serbs in 1993 and is presently being restored.
Feast of Saint Ansgar, Bishop and Missionary
Dubbed the "Apostle of the North," Saint Ansgar was born into a noble family in 801 in Amiens in what was then Frankish territory. God called and Ansgar became a Benedictine monk at the Picardy monastery of Old Corbie. He became the master of the monastic school there before King Harold heard of his prowess as a preacher and evangelizer and requested the saint to accompany him back to Denmark under the protection of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne. His zeal and missionary success in Denmark prompted King Bjorn of Sweden to invite him into the land of the Vikings. While there he was made the first archbishop of Hamburg and later appointed by Pope Gregory IV as the first papal legate to the Scandinavian countries. During his fourteen years in Sweden he converted countless pagans and Holy Mother Church was making great inroads until the heathen Vikings invaded in 845 and destroyed the city of Hamburg and much of Sweden. Ansgar was forced to flee to Bremen in what is today Germany where he was appointed the first archbishop there in 848. Pope Nicholas I did not forget Ansgar or Hamburg, uniting the see of Hamburg with Bremen in 854 when Ansgar again returned to Denmark and Sweden resuming his missionary activities. His coup de gras was converting the King of Jutland, King Erik who was impressed with Ansgar's fluent preaching, great austerity and the holiness he exhibited to all. Though Ansgar had always wanted to be a martyr, he died at the age of 64 of natural causes on February 3, 865 in Bremen. Shortly after that the Vikings again overwhelmed Scandinavia and destroyed almost all remnants of Christianity as the entire lands resorted to paganism since there were no more "Ansgars" to keep the faith burning in the hearts and souls of the peoples. The lack of the Church to maintain her roots in Scandinavia was one reason protestantism took such a firm hold in these countries during the Protestant Revolution of the sixteenth century.
Observance of theBlessed Virgin Mary on Saturday
Honoring the Blessed Virgin Mary is a custom first promoted by the Benedictine Monk Saint Alcuin back in the days of Charlemagne (see archives December 23, no. 25 issue). He composed different formulas for Votive Masses for each day of the week, with two set aside to honor Our Lady on Saturday. This practice caught on with great enthusiasm and eventually the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday became the Common of the Blessed Virgin. This Mass was a favorite with retired priests and those whose sight was failing for most had memorized this Mass and were able to say it by heart without having to read the Lectionary or Sacramentary. One reason Saturday was dedicated to Mary was that Saturday held a special meaning in Mariology. First of all, as Genesis accounts for, God rested on the seventh day. In the Old Testament, the Sabbath was Saturday. Jesus, Son of God rested in the womb and then, when He became incarnate, in the loving arms of Mary from birth until she held His lifeless body at the foot of the Cross. Thus the God-head rested in Mary. It was also on Saturday after Good Friday that Jesus gave His Mother a special gift and reward for keeping her faith in His Divinity intact by making an exceptional appearance to her. Thus, because of these reasons, the devotion spread by St. Alcuin and other liturgies that evolved within the Church, Saturday took on a special Marian significance. Saturday took on even more significance in honoring Mary when Our Lady imparted to visionary Lucia in her third apparition at Fatima on July 13, 1917, "Our Lord wishes that devotion to my Immaculate Heart be established in the world. If what I tell you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace; the war will end...I ask the consecration of the world to my Immaculate Heart and Communion of reparation on the First Saturday of each month...If my requests are granted, Russia will be converted and there will be peace...In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph, and an era of peace will be conceded to humanity." As we draw nearer to that wonderful event, it is more important than ever to honor Mary's request on the First Saturday as well as each Saturday that her feast is commemorated in the Church calendar, not to mention responding to her call daily with the Rosary and attending Daily Mass, nourished by her Divine Son present body and blood, soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament. It is in the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary where she remains in the background in the liturgy of the Word so that her Divine Son's words and His Presence take the spotlight as He should while Mary remains the chief intercessor before the Holy Trinity as she should and serves as the ideal for all Catholics to strive for, as we should. The Dictionary of Mary states quite succinctly, "Through these liturgical acts, (honoring Mary on Saturday) Christians exalt the person of Mary in the action that renews the sacrifice of Christ and in the action that prolongs His prayer."
February 2, 2001
volume 12, no. 33