Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Candlemas Day, Saint Blaise, Candles and Throats.


Candlemas, Candles, throat blessings and the Feast of Saint Blaise.  All these wonderful blessings and feasts, the Church gives to us in these two consecutive cold dark days in the dreary month of February.
As a convert it has been hard to keep these similar sounding events straight in my mind and every year since my conversion, I still need to refresh the distinctions between Candlemas, and the Feast of Saint Blaises. Through Divine Providence, both of these celebrations have candles associated with them, but they are two very separate events. So here is a little primer for Candlemas Day and the Feast of Saint Blaises.

Candlemas Day is actually the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord  when the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph bring Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. Following the precepts of the Law, they brought an offering to the priest and Mary was ceremonially purified.  At this momentous occasion, the devout Simeon rejoices that God fulfilled his promise to him that he would not see death until the coming of Messiah.  The feast has also been called the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
      How do candles fit in here? Where does the name Candlemas come from? Since Jesus is the Light of the World, candles, the only source of light back in the day, were used to symbolically represent this light. The early Church celebrated this feast day with candlelit processions to remember the momentous occasion of the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, the Messiah, light of this world coming to us. Even now, the Church blesses candles for anyone who wishes to bring them to the priest on this day, making those candles sacramentals to be used at home.
   This feast day is so important to the life of the Church that the Canticle of Simeon (Lk 2) is recited by every priest and religious, as well as many lay people throughout the world daily when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
Your word has been fulfilled.
My eyes have seen the salvation
You have prepared in the sight of every people,
A light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people, Israel.

Okay I get Candlemas day now, but how does the Blessing of Throats and Saint Blaise fit in here?  The following day after the Feast of the Presentation happens to be the Feast of Saint Blaise, an early fourth century physician and bishop from Armenia who was martyred for the faith. Tradition has it that he healed a child who had a fish bone stuck in his throat.  In the Middle Ages in Europe, devotion to Saint Blaise became very strong and healings were attributed to his intercession. The Church still celebrates his feast day by offering a blessing of throats to all who wish to come forward after mass. The priest or deacon holds two candles that had been blessed on Candlemas day (the day before) in a cross pattern on the throat of the parishioner and prays this blessing : 
"Through the intercession of Saint Blase, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat and from every other illness."

An added benefit to this blessing is that we can also receive grace from God to control the words that come out of our blessed throats too! As I waited in line (I was last in line for the blessing) I marveled and thanked God for all the rich blessings he has given us through His Church.

There is so much more to say about these two great feast days of the Church, but I hope I have cleared up any confusion about Candlemas Day, Candles, Saint Blaises and Throat Blessings.


video

 A priest at Saint Francis of Assisi in Nesquehoning, PA blesses throats after vigil mass last evening. vigil.

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