Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“The anniversary of a church’s dedication is celebrated with the rank of a solemnity.” – Roman Pontifical, Rite of Dedication of a Church, 27.
In a typical year, we move the celebration of the dedication of our parish church to the closest Sunday. In the Church’s liturgical calendar, the anniversary of the dedication of a parish church is considered so important for the local community, it even takes the place of a Sunday in Ordinary Time. However, every few years the date of our dedication – February 2 – falls on a Sunday. Thus, in addition to our celebration of the consecration of St. Mary’s, we also celebrate the great feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, a.k.a., Candlemas. (Keep in mind, our feast was celebrated long, long before we Americans came up with “Groundhog Day”!)
The placement of our church’s dedication to the feast of Candlemas was intentional. According to Jewish Law, the Child Jesus, being the first-born, was brought on the fortieth day after His birth to be presented in the Temple in Jerusalem. A sacrifice was offered, usually an unblemished lamb. However, for the poor, a pair of turtledoves was acceptable, which is what Mary and Joseph offered. (You can see this scene commemorated in one of our new stained-glass windows. Look for the pair of turtle doves and the candle.). The Ark of the Covenant, which was considered to be God’s throne and contain His Divine Presence in the Temple, had long been lost in 586 B.C. with the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and the subsequent exile of most of the Jews from Israel. The Ark had contained the tablets of the Law, the staff of the priest and Moses’ brother Aaron, and a jar of manna. As the Child Jesus comes to the great Temple forty days following His birth, both the Ark (the New Ark – the Virgin Mary) and the Divine Presence (Jesus Christ – God-with-us) return.
The twelve consecration candles surrounding the inside of the church will be lighted for our Masses, which are only lighted for the most important celebrations. These symbolize the twelve gates of the new and heavenly Jerusalem – the Church as the Mystical Body and spotless Bride of Christ. The crosses below them are where the Bishop anointed the walls in 2015 with the sacred chrism oil, as you and I are anointed at Confirmation.
The true beauty of the Church, of course, is with the capital letter, “C,” i.e., the baptized members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Our church buildings are important symbols and have an important purpose. It is here in this building that we are formed to be the Church, living and breathing, sent out into the world. Jesus is the Head and we, the baptized, are the Body (see 1 Cor. 12:12-26). Be who you are called to be, which is nothing less than another Christ for all the world to see! Let us pray for each other that we may always become more visibly the one, holy Body of Christ to each and every person we encounter.
Father WilsonBACK TO LIST