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Archives: January 2021
The feast of the Presentation of the Lord (February 2), also known as Candlemas is one of the lesser known feasts in our church. The Gospel of the day taken from Luke, chapter 2 relays the story of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the temple 40 days after his birth in order to fulfill the prescriptions of the law as noted in Leviticus chapter 2. However, even more important than fulfilling the law by offering two turtle doves was their enlightening encounter with Simeon, a righteous and devout man and Anna, a prophetess. Simeon called Jesus a “light for revelation to the nations” while Anna saw Jesus as the redeemer.
The history of this feast is complex and rich. At one time it marked the end of the 40 day long Christmas Season as it sits on the cusp between the celebration of Jesus’ mysterious birth into humanity and his salvific death for humanity. Yet because February 2 most often falls on a weekday very few people even are aware of it. Nevertheless, I have very fond memories of this feast which go back all the way to my childhood.
Our family would attend early morning Mass on that day. Upon entering the church we received a thin, tall candle, one per family. After the priest said a prayer and sprinkled Holy Water we walked around the church in procession. As the oldest child I was tasked with carrying our family’s candle. My current fondness of processions probably dates back to those Candlemas celebrations when I carried the candle under the watchful eye of my parents and the envious glances of my siblings. After Mass we were encouraged to take our candle home and to care for it with reverence. The priest told us to light the candle in times of need. I distinctly remember lighting our candle when my great-grandfather was mortally ill while we prayed for his recovery. We also found some solace in this candle once he died. We even would light the candle and huddle around it during bad storms. It made us less afraid.
Many years later, when living in a Benedictine abbey we celebrated the day with even greater ceremony as the candles were bigger, the procession was longer and the psalms sung were more numerous. We started the celebration in the chapter room. After the lighting and blessing of our candles we processed through the entire cloister into the church while singing Lumen ad revelationem gentium or A light of revelation to the Nations. I can still hear the sounds, see the sights and smell the burning wax which even overpowered the copious amounts of incense used for the procession.
Memories are great yet they need to be interpreted carefully. My childhood experience of the feast reveals profound truths but maybe there was a hint of superstition which tainted the use of the candles at home. Or was it the result of a more generous and less complicated faith? My monastic memories, though revelatory of deep faith undoubtedly suffer from some liturgical romanticism.
The essence of the feast is this: year after year we are called to be the new Simeon and the new Anna who proclaim Jesus as the Light to the Nations and the Savior of the world. The candles are a tangible affirmation that Christ is indeed the Light. And the procession is not just a pretty parade rather it symbolizes and rehearses us in our calling to bring Christ’s light to the world.
As a child I always wished we could keep the candle burning throughout the liturgy and even on our way home. I did not quite know why but I thought it made sense. Today I know what I sensed then as I dream of this grand procession of all Christians leaving their respective churches on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord with lit candle in hand, proclaiming to the world that Christ is the Light to whom we bear witness in word and deed.
At The Basilica we will bless candles for Candlemas on Sunday, January 31 during the 9:30am and 11:30am celebration of the Eucharist. You are welcome to take them while you if you attend the liturgy. Or you can come to The Basilica between 10:30-11:00am or 12:30am-1:00pm and pick them up while staying in your car. You will receive a prayer card outside the Rectory and the candles outside the school. We invite you to light these candles and say the prayer when you find yourself in any kind of need.
Blessed Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
In our weekly video series "Art That Surrounds Us," Johan van Parys, Ph.D., our Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts, shares information about a piece from The Basilica of Saint Mary's art collection.
This week's video is the second installment about the four carvings in The Basilica walls near our chapels. Why is there a wall carving with a clover and a snake, symbols of Saint Patrick, near the recently restored chapel of Saint Anthony?
I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these challenging times.
Today I have four things I would like to mention. First, I want to thank everyone once again for your financial support of our parish during the past months and particularly at Christmas. Your generosity enabled us to surpass on budget income for December. Thank you so much.
Your ongoing financial support enables us to continue to offer the many programs, ministries and services that are at the heart of our Basilica community. It has been a blessing for our parish. As your pastor, please know of my great gratitude for your ongoing financial support.
The second thing I wanted to mention is that at the Masses on Sunday January 31 we will bless candles for the celebration of Candlemas on February 2. After the 9:30 and 11:30am Masses we invite people to pick-up blessed candles to use in their homes. The process will be very simple, and there is no need to pre-register. You just come to the rectory on 17th Street, where you will receive a prayer card. You will then proceed to the front of our school building to receive your blessed candles.
The third thing I want to mention is that on Ash Wednesday, February 17, we will have three Masses: 7:00am; Noon and 5:30pm. Ashes will be offered at each of these Masses. Now, because of the pandemic, we won’t be making the sign of the cross with ashes on people’s foreheads. Instead we will drop a few ashes on the crown of each person’s head. This is the custom in much of Europe and it was suggested by our Liturgy Office as a way to distribute ashes this year. After the Noon and 5:30pm Masses ashes will be offered to those who want to come to The Basilica after the livestream.
The process will be the same as we have used before. People will drive up 17th Street, stop at the rectory to receive a prayer card, and then drive to the front of the school to receive ashes. Given the logistics of offering ashes to people in their cars, we will use Q-tips to offer these ashes. Certainly none of this is ideal, but we want to do everything we can to ensure people’s safety and security.
The fourth thing I want to mention is that after the 9:30am Mass on the First Sunday of Lent, February 21, we will once again distribute communion to those who want to come to The Basilica after our livestreamed Mass. As on Candlemas and on Ash Wednesday, we ask you to stop at the rectory to receive a prayer card and then drive to the front of the school to receive communion.
Finally, as always, if you have questions or concerns about anything that is happening at the Basilica, please contact me at the parish office or send me an email. My contact information is available on our parish website.
Let me close today in prayer.
We pray for your love and compassion to abound
as we walk through this challenging season.
We ask for wisdom for those who bear the load
of making decisions with widespread consequences.
We pray for those who are suffering with sickness
and all who are caring for them.
We ask for protection for the elderly and vulnerable
to not succumb to the risks of the virus.
We pray for misinformation to be curbed
that fear may take no hold in hearts and minds.
As we exercise the good sense that you in your mercy provide,
may we also approach each day in faith and peace,
trusting in the truth of your goodness towards us.
News and Resources
Zoom recording of presentation:
Can We Work Together to End Homelessness?
Addressing the issue of homelessness has never been more important.
Join leaders from our state and city in a free virtual forum about the status of homelessness in our community. Hear from people with lived experience of homelessness. Speakers will include:
- Cathy ten Broeke: Minnesota State Director to Prevent and End Homelessness
- Londel French: Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board Commissioner
- Tyra Thomas: a leader of Street Voices of Change (SVoC), an Align Mpls program. SVoC brings individuals who have current or past personal experiences with homelessness together to build community. They make positive changes in the lives of people experiencing homelessness and the systems that contribute to and keep people in homelessness.
Learn about Minnesota’s Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness—a plan that aspires to include all Minnesotans—from education professionals to business people to service providers to philanthropy to local government to concerned citizens.
- What have been the successes?
- Where are the struggles and failures?
- What are next steps for our city/state and as individuals?
Together, we can learn how to effectively get involved and work toward ending homelessness.
For more information, please contact Janice.
In the days and weeks after Christmas there always seems to be a lot of sales, as companies try to unload some of their excess inventory. Often the ads for these sales are accompanied by the phrases, “limited number in stock” or “this won’t last long.” As I listened to one of these ads a few days ago, I couldn’t help but wonder if many people are feeling that “hope” is one of those things that is in limited supply these days. I say this, because as I write this, our U.S. Capital has just been attacked and ransacked by an angry mob. And while vaccinations have begun, we are still in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, there are still no signs that we will be returning to normal—whatever that normal might be—any time soon.
In regard to “hope” I think it is I important to distinguish hope from optimism. Optimism is often based on feelings or possibilities—what one can see or intuit. Unlike optimism, however, hope is not based on our view of or interpretation of current events. Rather, hope is a theological virtue in which we trust in the promises of God, as we make our way through the world, and seek to be open to God’s grace. Where optimism is based on human events and/or our interpretation of those events, hope is based on God’s love for us—revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ.
In his letter to the Romans St. Paul wrote: “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees. But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.” (Rom. 8:24-25) I think these words speak very specifically to our current situation. They remind us that we dare to hope because of God’s love for us. Because of this love, we are not to give ourselves over to worry or anxiety. Rather in whatever situation we might find ourselves, we have reason to hope because of God’s abiding love for us revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
It should not be surprising that in our Christian tradition, the anchor is a symbol for hope and steadfastness. The source for this symbol is found in Hebrews 6:18b-19 "We who have taken refuge might be strongly encouraged to hold fast to the hope that lies before us. This we have as an anchor of the soul, sure, and firm.” Our experience of God’s love, and our hope in God’s promise are the anchors that hold us firm amidst the changing tides and circumstances of our lives.
Many years ago in grade school we had to memorize the Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love. I confess I had to look up the Act of Hope, but as soon as I read it the words came rushing back to me. “O my God, relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.” Given all that is going on in our world today, I think it would be good for all of us to remember and cling fast to our hope in God. And it wouldn’t hurt to pray the Act of Hope on a regular basis.