The Feast of Candlemas gave even greater cause for celebration this year than simply marking the conclusion of the Christmas cycle. Mr Harry Smith recovered the communion first enjoyed at his baptism when he was received by Fr James Bradley into Holy Mother Church. Harry has regularly worshipped with the Marylebone Ordinariate Group since first expressing his desire to return to the one true fold and pleasingly strengthens the contingent of those formerly connected to Pusey House now united in communion with Peter. We give thanks for his journey into the Church and pray that he may continue to deepen his love for Christ and His Church.
Below we include the homily from Candlemas along with a number of photographs taken of the liturgy.
"Our Saviour was born without sin. His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, need have made no offering, as requiring no purification. On the contrary, it was that very birth of the Son of God which sanctifies the whole race of woman, and turned her curse into a blessing. Nevertheless, as Christ himself was minded to ‘fulfil all righteousness’ (Mt 3:13), to obey all ordinances of the covenant under which he was born, so in like manner his Mother Mary submitted to the Law, in order to do it reverence."
These words of our patron, Blessed John Henry Newman, remind us of two points which we might usefully consider as we come to this feast today. First, we are here because of the obedience of Our Blessed Lady, both in her acceptance of the will of God in her fiat, her ‘yes’ to the Lord’s will at the annunciation, and in her obedience to the Law, laid down in the Book of Exodus and Leviticus: ‘Consecrate to me all the first-born’ (Ex. 13: 1).
Secondly, we are here because the Lord himself - although, as Newman says, he was ‘requiring no purification’ - nonetheless submits himself to the Law with humility, out of love for his heavenly Father and for those - for us! - he came to redeem. God became Man, but as if that is not enough, he submits himself to the Law prescribed for those who are in need of the very thing which he embodies.
These two traits, which are in actual fact personified in Our Lady and Our Lord - that is obedience and humility - are central not only to our understanding of this great and glorious feast of the Church’s year, but the entire Christian life, which summons us to grow in likeness of Christ through the example he gives us in himself and in the saints.
Harry: in some profound way you are embodying these traits today as you come in humble obedience to Holy Mother Church and ask for the grace to persevere in a deepening relation with the Lord. In full communion with the Church, you are placing no obstacles between yourself and God’s favour, allowing him to do what he desires above all things, to prepare you for eternal life in the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem.
When we come to the Lord in this way - by reception into the Church, and in our ongoing and continual reconciliation with the Church through the Sacrament of Confession - we open ourselves unconditionally to God’s love, in order that he might convert our hearts and our lives in an ever-more profound way, and draw us more closely to him. We should expect this to be a great joy, but also a great challenge to our human inclination to err, and so it is only with the grace which we receive in the sacraments - and particularly in the Holy Eucharist - that we can ever hope to succeed.
And if all this seems a daunting task, we should remember that the humility shown us in Christ is not an aspect of Our Lord’s divine nature, but his human nature. As St Thomas Aquinas reminds us, ‘Humility cannot befit God, who has no superior’. Christ accepted humility, and obeyed the Law as we must, and through his humanity: he shows us the way to perfect our lives. In him we are presented not only with the fullness of life in God - what we hope one day to attain in heaven - but also the fullness of human existence, which is humble before the Lord in all things, even to the point of death, death on a cross (cf. Phill. 2).
Harry: let the humility and obedience of Christ and his blessed Mother be yours today. And recognise, too, the example you are offering, to us who rejoice with you in the Church, and to those who long to do so. Let your whole life take on a new ardour and purpose - letting the bright light of Christ radiate through you, so that he may draw all men together in one, that the world may believe.
The liturgical theologian, Romano Guardini, once said, “As one candle is lit from the flame of another, so is faith kindled by faith”. Use the grace which the Lord offers to you in abundance in your new life fully united to him, not only to grow in grace and virtue, perfecting each day the very essence of your person, but in order to bring others to the gladdening light of his pure glory.
As the light of the Candlemas flame has been passed to you, and as the guaranteed fullness of God’s grace is passed to you in communion with the apostles, allow that flame of faith to consume your life entirely - as a holocaust, a wholly consumed offering to the Lord - that he may (through you) bring others into the life we share with him, and bring you into a closer and more profound union with him, that one day we may see face-to-face the salvation prepared for all people, the glory of Israel, even Christ the Lord. Amen.