Thursday, 2 February 2012

Light of the Nations

When the Catechism the Catholic Church talks about the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (nn.1423-1424), it explains several different names for the Sacrament, each of which brings out a different aspect of the Sacrament.

Today's feast day has what one might call the informal title of  "Candlemas", which draws attention to the symbolism of light that is part of what the feast day celebrates. It also draws attention to the Liturgical symbolism of the candle, as a sign of the light of Christ. The formal title in the Liturgy of the "Presentation of the Lord" points more transparently to the Scriptural texts that are at the root of the celebration of the feast day. The two titles are, of course, not contradictory to each other.

One of the striking things about the hymns for Morning Prayer/Lauds contained in the Latin texts of the Liturgy of the Hours is the way in which they make use of the symbolism of darkness and daylight. As a prayer particularly associated with the moment of dawn that is the also the moment of the Resurrection of the Lord, though not always prayed literally at that time, the hymns often make reference to the coming of daylight overcoming or displacing the darkness of night. The symbolism represents the overcoming of the darkness of sin by the light of Christ, and the experience is one of using the every day repeated natural phenemenon of dawn to remind the one who prays of the conquest of sin by the Resurrection of Christ. (Similarly, a character of the office of Night Prayer is to see the coming of night as a sign of the death and burial of Christ, with a looking forward to his Resurrection at dawn.) Not infrequently, the hymns also go on to call the one who prays to conversion of life, to live out the turning away from darkness towards light, interceding for protection from sin and temptation. As is the intention of the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayers sanctify that particular moment of the day by drawing attention to its meaning for the life of grace.

Today's feast day has its analogue every day in the prayer of Morning Prayer/Lauds.

It is, of course, also the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life (see here and here). I might not make it to Mass today, so if you can, do go for me!

1 comment:

Patricius said...

Perhaps some expert on the Extraordinary Form will correct me- but I seem to recall that, before the liturgical reform, all the candles to be used in the church in the coming year were blessed (along with those used in the procession) at the mass on this day. In other words, it was very much a "candle mass"!