Our Lady carried into the old temple a new and living temple, a new and better temple not made of stone but of living flesh and blood, the flesh and blood of Messiah. In that strange encounter, when the new temple came to replace the former, our Lady heard Simeon’s prophetic words but doubtless she did not fully understand their import.
Thirty three years later when our Lady stood at the foot of the cross, the mysterious destiny of her Son, the new temple, became painfully clear to her. She realized why it was that He had to die. It was so that Simeon’s prophecy might be fulfilled; so that her Son would be revealed as Messiah, the light of all nations and the glory of Israel. She came to understand that her Son’s death was necessary for the salvation of Israel and of all nations.
At the foot of the cross the Immaculate Heart of Mary not only understood the prophecy, she also personally experienced it. She was pierced by the sword of sorrow that Simeon’s enigmatic prophecy had foretold. In that transverberation she shared in the painful and paradoxical revelation of her Son. The light of the gentiles was revealed, but dying in agony. The glory of Israel was made visible, but covered in blood.
Christ was first given to us through our Lady. It is still through her that Christ is given, because it is through her intercession that God gives us all the graces necessary for our salvation. In our daily spiritual lives the lights of Candlemas, the lights of faith, hope and charity, will burn all the more brightly when we place ourselves unconditionally in our Lady’s maternal arms.
Fr John Henry Newman established the English Oratory on the eve of Candlemas, 1848.
He understood that our Lady was never closer to her Son than in His Passion. He later wrote the following brief verse to place under a picture of the Heart of Mary:
Holy the womb that bare Him,
Holy the breasts that fed,
But holier still the royal heart
That in His passion bled.