Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Candlemas Day

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas hall;
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind;
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
So many goblins you shall see.

(-Robert Herrick)

This is the absolute last day for taking down the Christmas decorations. Your final liturgical excuse for leaving them up goes away tonight at Vespers. Even if it weren't already Wednesday in Sexagesima week, Candlemas Day or the feast of the Presentation or the feast of the Purification as it is also known, is the last of the feasts surrounding the birth of Our Lord. In fact, one old piseóg says that if you don't have the decorations down by Epiphany Eve, you have to keep them up until Candlemas. A very useful tradition. A whole month of pine needles will keep one on one's toes next year.

Today is also one of the traditional weather predicting days:

If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,
The half o the winter's to come and mair;
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
The half o the winter's gane at Yule.

The sun is cracking the stones here today so it seems I will be playing in the rain on St Patrick's Day.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia gives the liturgical history of the day here. The Mass propers for today's feast in the traditional Roman Rite can be found here and here. A meditation on the day by Fr Hugh Thwaites, S.J. can be found here.

No one seems to have put the texts of the candle blessings and the processional hymns on line. A combination of time constraints and consitutional laziness prevents me from remedying that lacuna. Instead here is a Sequence by Adam of Saint-Victor which Gueranger includes in his entry for today. He says he "should not be surprsed if [our readers] gave it the first place among all the Hymns to our Lady written in the Middle Ages."

Templum cordis adornemus,
novo corde renovemus
novum senis gaudium;
quod, dum ulnis amplexatur,
sic longevi recreatur
longum desiderium.

Stans in signum populorum,
templum luce, laude chorum,
corda replens gloria,
templo puer presentatus,
post, in cruce, vir oblatus
pro peccatis hostia.

Hinc Salvator, hinc Maria,
puer pius, mater pia
moveant tripudium;
sed cum votis perferatur
opus lucis quod signatur
luce luminarium.

Verbum Patris lux est vera,
virginalis caro cera,
Christus splendens cereus;
cor illustrat ad sophiam,
qua virtutis rapit viam
vitiis erroneus.

Christum tenens per amorem
bene iuxta festi morem
gestat lumen cereum;
sicut senex Verbum Patris
votis strinxit pignus matris
brachiis corporeum.

Gaude, mater Genitoris,
simplex intus, munda foris,
carens ruga, macula:
a dilecto praeelecta,
ab electo predilecta
Deo muliercula.

Omnis decor tenebrescit,
deformatur, et horrescit
tuum intuentibus;
omnis sapor amarescit,
reprobatur et sordescit
tuum praegustantibus.

Omnis odor redolere
non videtur, sed olere
tuum odorantibus;
omnis amor aut deponi
prorsus solet, aut postponi
tuum nutrientibus.

Decens maris luminare,
decus matrum singulare,
vera parens veritatis,
via, vitae, pietatis,
medicina seculi;

Vena vini fontis vitae
sitienda cunctis rite,
sano dulcis et languenti,
salutaris fatiscenti
confortantis populi.

Fons signate
rivos funde,
nos infunde,
fons hortorum
riga montes
unda tui rivuli.
Fons redundans,
sis inundans,
cordis prava
quaeque lava,
fons sublimis,
munde nimis,
ab immundo
munda mundo
cor immundi populi.

Let us adorn the temple of our souls, and with new hearts bring back again that old man's joy, whose long-cherished wish is granted, as his arms press Jesus to his breast.

This Child is the Standard of the people, filling the Temple with light, our choirs with praise, and our hearts with jubilee. This day is He presented in the Temple, and will another day, when grown to manhood, be offered on the Cross, the offering for sin.

On one side Jesus, on the other Mary; here the sweet Infant, and there the sweet Mother; Oh! What a glad sight! But let us devoutly carry within us that work of Light which our lighted tapers symbolize.

The Father’s Word is the light; His virginal flesh is the wax; our lighted taper is Christ Himself, Who enlightens our hearts with that wisdom which rescues the sinner from the error of his way, and sets him on virtue’s path.

He that holds Jesus by love, carries, as our Feast would have him do, the Candle blest with light. So did Simeon love the Father’s Word, and fondly carry in his arms the Mother’s Babe.

Be glad, O Mother of thy God! Simple, pure, unwrinkled, spotless Mother! O Maiden! Chosen by the God of thy love, and loved by the God of thy choice.

All beauty is clouded, deformed, and displeasing to him that has seen thine. All sweetness seems bitter, sour or insipid, to the soul that has tasted of thine.

All fragrance, put near thine, grows faint or foul; all other love must cease, or be but an afterthought, in hearts that feed on thine.

Beautiful Star of the sea! Thou beautiful honour of all mothers! O true Mother of Truth! O path of holy living! O remedy of the world’s ills! Source of the fount of that Wine of Life, for which all men should thirst, and whose strength-giving chalice is sweet to the healthy and the sick and restores the drooping heart!

O Fount sealed up in holiness! Pour out on us thy streams! O Fount of inner gardens! Water with thy rivulet’s wave our parched and stony hearts!

Overflowing Fount! Flow out on us, and wash our hearts’ defilements. O Fount sublime, limpid above our thoughts, cleanse thy servants’ hearts from an unclean world. Amen.

Some final decorating hints out of tradition from Robert Herrick for Candlemas and a few other up-coming days in the liturgical year:

Down with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the misletoe;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box, for show.

The holly hitherto did sway;
Let box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter-day,
Or Easter's eve appear.

Then youthful box, which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin,
To honour Whitsuntide.

Green rushes then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments,
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.


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