FEBRUARY 2ND – A VERY FULL DAY
February the Second. I actually had no idea, when I woke up this morning, how many lovely and supernatural Mysteries are remembered on this day!
Of course, first, I woke up to the radio announcing “the ground hog has seen its shadow.” An extended winter – yay! Trivial, silly, traditional, fun — but . . . trivial.
But there are deep and important Mysteries for us to attend to on this date, coming to us from Western Civilization, and the wisdom and knowledge of those who lived before us.
One is the three-fold remembrance of (1) the Purification of Mary, (2) the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and (3) Candlemas. This is a part of Western Civilization; it’s a part of our history, celebrated continuously from the time of the earliest Christians. It was old when the first written account of this celebration was made just after 300 AD.
(1) The Purification of Mary
The Holy Family lived under the precepts of the Old Testament. One of the precepts refers back to the Creation of mankind, the Fall of mankind (and Original Sin falling upon everyone thereafter), the provision of sacrifice to “satisfy” the infinite offense against the Creator – and His act of Creation that accompanies every “marital act.”
So, according to Mosaic Law, Mary presents herself to the priest in the Temple (there was only one Temple for the Jews) and provides two turtledoves for the sacrifices: a sin offering and a ritual, liturgical “cleansing,” called “purification.” (This does not refer to the worth of a woman.)
Mary needed neither. If she had needed either, she could not have contained the Holy Child, the Son of God, in her womb. She had been prepared in such a way so as not to actually have needed “purification,” but she humbled herself to the obedience of Old testament precepts. Her holiness is all from her Holy Son. Her salvation is all from her Holy Son – and His Cross.
(2) 2nd on this day, the Holy Child is presented to the priest in the Temple.
Every human child is from God. He made it; the child is His. But in a charming and loving ceremony, (written down in Leviticus), the parents are allowed to “redeem” the child, to buy it back, so to speak, for a price, (today it’s usually 5 gold coins – or gold-type coins) and they are then allowed to take the child back to their home and to love the child and raise the child in the knowledge of God.
Two people present at the Presentation of Christ were Anna and Simeon, both of whom waited in the Temple most of their long lives for the coming of the Promised Child. They were rewarded for their faithfulness by being allowed to see – and to know – that this was indeed the long-promised Messiah.
Today, this “Presentation” ceremony is not necessary because Christ has redeemed all mankind on His Cross. However . . .
. . . . today’s Jews sometimes continue the practice in a ceremony called Pidyon Haben – you can look it up on any Search Engine. The intention is the same. God created this child, the child is God’s, we offer to redeem it back and raise the child in the knowledge of You, his Creator.
(3) So, we have on Feb. 2nd, the Purification of Mary, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, and now: Candlemas.
Candles that are going to be used in the coming days are blessed on this day. Were blessed on this day. The twentieth century is a century of shortcuts, drop-offs, and the evaporation of meaning. But Candlemas is still practiced . . . somewhere.
Little Nellie of Holy God:
There is a second “event” that we can remember on this day, and this event is the death of a very young child whose whole life had supernaturally pointed to the Mystery of Christ’s Cross – and His coming to us in each celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
This death brings us into modern times: Feb. 2, 1908, the day “Ellen Organ” died at age four years old. Her life is one of hardship, poverty, and pain, not so uncommon among the Irish poor, but also a life of extraordinary and unexplainable knowledge of the presence of “Holy God.” Her knowledge far exceeded whatever the nuns had ever taught her, what they knew and what they could have perceived.
Little “Nellie” recognized a consecrated Host from an unconsecrated host. She could tell whether or not someone had taken part in Holy Communion that day. She spontaneously called her chapel the House of Holy God. She knew, vaguely, in a childlike way about putting men in prison lock-ups, and so when she saw the Tabernacle in her church which contained the consecrated Hosts, she thought that Jesus had been “locked up in prison.”
Here is a commonly distributed photo of her, not long before tuberculosis of the bone painfully took her life away.
To the nuns in the convent-hospital where she lived out her last months, she became known as “Little Nellie of Holy God.” You can look her up – you can even go to Wikipedia, where although they tell her life story at arm’s length away from anything supernatural, they do a fairly good job of summarizing her life.
The Spruce Tunnel would like to keep all this in memory.