This Saturday morning (2/2), the Church celebrates a great feast: the Presentation of the Lord! As I have mentioned, this is a kind of “bonus Christmas” celebration, in part because it honors the final event of Our Lord’s Infancy recorded in Scripture, but even more because it used to be the conclusion of the Christmas Season. This year, it becomes a little more low-key, since it falls on Saturday, thus we didn’t have a Mass for the Feast Day itself. But, part of the tradition with this feast is to have a special blessing of the candles to be used throughout the year, hence the nickname “Candlemas.” This candle blessing is taking place after the 4 PM Mass, with a special procession. Since the Presentation marks the conclusion of the last lingering remnant of what was the Christmas Season, it also means the conclusion of our Marian themed bulletins, which we began with Advent. We conclude our reflections on our Marian images (along with a few that relate to her, although less directly) with the image Our Lady of Light, which is depicted in a beautiful tapestry which hangs in Harkrader Hall on the West side of the South wall. As this is the side which holds the majority of our smaller gatherings, when the wall is closed, Our Lady of Light watches over so many moments when our Parish Family is gathered. Its location makes it a very fitting spot to have the blessing of candles for Candlemas. Furthermore, its visually vibrant quality and its name make it even more pertinent for this celebration of the moment in which we reflect upon Mary carrying the Light of Christ into the darkness of the Temple, where a desolate people still awaited their Savior. Christ is the Light that will scatter our world’s darkness, if only we can follow Mary’s example of carrying Him to those who are longing for Him. We might consider Mary’s own cousins, Elizabeth and Zechariah, to whom she carried Christ while He was still growing in her womb. Consider the great canticle that Zechariah prayed, blessing God, when his son John was born. Mary was still present to assist with the birth at this point. I like to think of the final parts of that canticle. Of course, his eyes would have been fixed on his newborn son, as he spoke the words: “You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His Way, to give His people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.” But, then, He continues: “In the tender compassion of our God,” and I can’t help but imagine him lifting his eyes to Mary with the words, “The Dawn from On High shall break upon us,” the words which have been on the sign in our parking lot since midway through Advent, “to shine on those who dwell in darkness and shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1). Indeed, it is from her womb, that this Dawn from On High broke upon the world. This truth is what prompts the final title from the Litany of Loreto, which we will invoke in these bulletin reflections: Mary, Morning Star, pray for us! WINTER WEATHER: Isn’t it great living in the midwest? As I write this, I am dealing with a bit of the frustration and disappointment that comes from having to cancel or postpone so many of the great opportunities we have planned for our parishioners to come together for prayer, fellowship, preparation for sacraments, faith formation and ongoing growth in discipleship. But, this is just part of what comes with winter in the midwest. And it is certainly best that people stay safe when conditions are as bad as they have been during much of the recent weeks. As I consider my own frustration and disappointment, I can’t help but consider that of so many good and faithful people who would love to be at Mass but are legitimately prevented due to health and hazardous weather. It is a good reminder to everyone this time of year that, while the obligation to Mass on Sundays and holy days is never to be taken lightly, the Lord knows the difference between neglecting our obligation and being prevented by factors beyond our control, between skipping and being unable to attend. When health or hazardous weather are keeping you inside for your health and safety, it is not a sin to miss Mass under these circumstances. Please be prudent and safe and trust that the Lord is pleased by this. These unfortunate occasions can create more opportunity for prayer in the home. I especially recommend praying with the readings for Mass, which can always be found at usccb.org/readings, and a prayer of spiritual communion. A sample Act of Spiritual Communion can be found on the back of Missalette & I'll share it here: “My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire You in my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. As though You were already there, I embrace You and unite myself wholly to You; permit not that I should ever be separated from You. Amen.” SECOND CHILDREN’S MASS: As next weekend is the Second Sunday of February, the 10:30 Mass will be our second Children’s Mass, followed by Second Sunday Stay and Play. Remember, that this means a selection of pews toward the front of the Church will be reserved for young children and their families. Last month, there was some question as to whether it was genuinely for families or just children. The reason it is listed as reserved for young children and their families is twofold. First, we would not tell families they ought to split up, if they prefer to sit together. Second, the children obviously will need supervision anyway. If some families decide to split up and send the younger ones up front to sit with their friends, that is your choice (if some parents prefer to take turns each month sitting with the children, that could certainly also be an option).
In Christ through Mary, Fr. Gifford
St. Louis, pray for us!
Blessed Mary, Queen Mother of the King of Kings, pray for us!