|Presentation of Christ at the Temple by Hans Holbein the Elder, 1500–01|
This coming Thursday, Feb. 2, is the feast of The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple. By law the first new born son had to be offered to God forty days after birth. Also, the mother had to present herself for purification because according to Levitical law, a new mother was considered unclean until she presented her son to God. Certainly, our Lord was exempt from this law. But, though his Mother and St. Joseph He submitted anyway. It was not necessary for our Lady to be purified since she was without a spot of actual sin or stain of original sin. Yet, she chose to act like any other Jewish woman of her time.
This feast highlights purity. Jesus is the source of purity. Mary is most pure; she is the Immaculate Conception. Last week I reflected on the virtue of chastity: that it is meant of every single one of us; that it is necessary in order to have real love. At the center of chastity is love. By it we are able to have an affection towards God and a selfless desire for the good of others. We are able to see others as God's children.
Impurity destroys love. Impure thoughts lead to impure actions. Impure actions lead to more and greater impure deeds. The loss of chastity weakens one's will to do good and causes one to lose the desire to know God and to understand His Will. By licentiousness one can quickly and easily become merely a sensate being, living for only that which can be experienced through the senses. Hence, we have the world of advertising. The appeal is made to us on the basis of what can make us feel good. So, we are encouraged to be self-centered.
There is a high correlation between impurity and violence and cruelty. The libidinous person thinks not of the other person but only of his desires. The consequences of his actions are disregarded.
So, in a world with much temptation to selfish impurity, how does one stay chaste (or become pure if he has lost that virtue)? First, one must truly desire the virtue of chastity and hold it as a treasure. Our motivation must be a realization of its worth, more so than a revulsion to the results of its absence.
So, truly wanting purity we must beseech God for it and cooperate with his help. That means avoiding impure shows, internet sites, reading materials, etc. It means controlling our sight -- how we look at others. Also, controlling our desires for constant comfort as well as mortifying our imagination are essential. We should also ask Mary for her help as our mother and for her prayers.
On Thursday, which is also called Candlemas Day, the priests will bless candles which people can take to their homes. It symbolizes Christ Who is the Light of the world. Through the aid of the Virgin most pure may we receive the Light of Purity Himself.