Yesterday was the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord and Saviour, which is sometimes called the Feast of the Purification of Mary.
In the Sermon below, St Bede reflects on the gifts which Jewish law required of Joseph and Mary, “A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons”.
THERE are two kinds of compunction, by which the faithful make sacrifice of themselves to the Lord upon the altar of the heart: for you may be sure, just as we have received in the sayings of the Fathers, the soul which thirsts for God is pierced [compungitur] first by fear, and then by love.
For first he affects himself in tears: because as long as he recalls his evil deeds, he grows fearful of suffering eternal chastisements on their account, which is “to offer a turtle-dove, or a young pigeon” (see Lk 2:24) for sins.
But as the long anxiety of fear is consumed by fervour, already a kind of security in the presumption of pardon is born, and the desire of heavenly joys is fanned into a flame.
And he who previously wept that he might not be led away into chastisement, begins afterward to weep most bitterly, because he is far off from the Kingdom, which is to make a holocaust of the other “turtle dove or young pigeon”; for a “holocaust” means a total burning.
And he makes a holocaust of himself to the Lord, who having despised all things earthly, can sweetly burn with desire only for highest blessedness, can seek this only through grief and tears.
For the mind contemplates what the choirs of angels, the very society of blessed spirits, the majesty of the eternal vision of God, might be to him, and laments the more because something is missing of those good things which never fail, than it wept previously, when it feared eternal evils.
St Bede, monk of Jarrow (+735). Sermon XXIV: On the Purification of Saint Mary.
THROUGH the prayers of the Mother of God, O Merciful One, blot out the multitude of my transgressions.
Verse: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy. According to the fullness of your compassion blot out my offences.
LET heaven’s gate be opened today. For he who is without beginning, the Word of the Father, taking a beginning in time, yet not abandoning his godhead, is being willingly brought into the temple of the law as a babe of forty days by a Virgin Mother, and the Elder receives him in his arms.
The servant cries to the Master, ‘Release me, for my eyes have seen your salvation’.
You have come into the world to save the human race. Lord, glory to you!
Mattins on the Feast of the Presentation. Translation from Anastasis.