The Blessed Virgin Mary and St Joseph her spouse most chaste presented the Son of God in the Jewish temple. In thanksgiving they offered a blood sacrifice of two pigeons. With that modest offering the entire sacrificial cultus of the Jewish temple was brought to its proper conclusion, truly speaking.
Messiah, the Desire of all nations, had finally come to His temple and thereby replaced it. The previous temples were replaced with a new and living Temple, one not made with hands. The stones and columns of the earlier man-made shrines were superceded by the living Body of Christ. His living Body was henceforth to be the true locus of God’s presence on earth, the new and final Temple that could never be destroyed.
The young Child Whom Simeon took in his arms had been born in order to become the final and everlasting blood sacrifice, thirty three years later, on the altar of the Cross. That once-for-all sacrifice on Calvary revealed simultaneously God’s ineluctable justice and His super-abundant mercy.
Our Lord’s self-oblation on Calvary is repeatedly offered up day by day in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the altar. Every time that Holy Mass is celebrated the Saviour’s atoning sacrifice is re-presented to God the Father, and its life-giving effects are again made accessible to us and applied for our benefit. In the Mass, the Real Presence of Christ and the daily repeated offering of His redeeming sacrifice are Messiah’s continuing and miraculous work.
The feast of Candlemas is a special anniversary for us at the Birmingham Oratory. It was on the eve of that feast in 1848 that Fr Newman founded the Oratory of St Philip Neri in England, at Maryvale, Birmingham. Divine providence working through Newman’s Marian devotion thus ensured that our Community was established on a feast suffused with the presence of our Lady, Mater purissima, Mater castissima.
At Candlemas we light “a hundred flames to purify the pure” (G.K. Chesterton). We pray that our blessed Lady, Mother of the Oratory, will hold our Community safe in her loving arms. We pray that her divine Son will bless us in our religious life together, and prosper our efforts to live His Gospel and build up his Kingdom.