February 2, 1998
LITURGY






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vol. 9
no. 23

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GOSPEL Reading and Reflections for the Mass of the day



MONDAY, February 2, 1998

Monday, February 2:
FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD

      Blessing of Candles and Procession
      First Reading: Malachi 3: 1-4
      Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 24: 7-10
      Second Reading: Hebrews 2: 14-18
      Gospel Reading: Luke 2: 22-40

FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
Presentation of Jesus in the Temple      The Presentation of Jesus is also called the Purification, or Candlemass 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.

TUESDAY, February 3, 1998

Tuesday, February 3:
Weekday in Fourth Week of Ordinary Time and

      Feast of Saint Blase, Bishop and Martyr
      Blessing of Throats and
      Saint Ansgar, Bishop, Missionary and Religious
      First Reading: 2 Samuel 18: 9-10, 14, 24-25, 30; 19: 3
      Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 86: 1-6
      Gospel Reading: Mark 5: 21-43

Saint Blase, Bishop and Martyr
St. Blase      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 Blase 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.

Saint Ansgar, Bishop, Religious and Missionary
St. Ansgar       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.


    February 2, 1998 volume 9, no. 23     LITURGY



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