The celebration of the feast, which is traditionally known as Candlemas, on February 2, began with the lighting of candles at the west end of the Cathedral. Bishop Peter then joined a procession of priests into the building and sprinkled the congregation with holy water before processing with the congregation to the east of the Cathedral.
The annual Mass is an opportunity for Religious to renew their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, as well as other obligations specific to each community. It takes place forty days after Christmas – an opportunity, said Bishop Peter, to “contemplate the purification of God’s People that was accomplished by the 40 years of their wandering and wondering in the midst of the desert”.
The theme of wandering and wondering ran through the Bishop’s homily as he turned to our own journeys and asked the congregation to contemplate what is being asked of us today.
“Human beings are charged with the duty of contemplation,” he said. “From the confines of our finite existence we are empowered to contemplate the infinite realm of the Godhead.”
He then turned to the characters in the Gospel narrative – firstly Mary, who received the Annunciation, and Joseph, who was given visionary insight through a dream, and then the two as a couple who learned to walk together.
Then there were Simeon and Anna, “aged in years but fresh in spirit”, to whom the Holy Spirit provided the “ignition of recognition”.
It was the Holy Spirit who gave them the flame of insight, said the Bishop, the same Holy Spirit who prompts and sustains the consecration to religious confession.
“In all our wanderings and wonderings,” he said, “we stand with Mary and Joseph, having to contemplate all authentic questions of identity and destiny.”
On this journey we “embrace the light of Christ that brings clarity, that reveals what is concealed,” and we “embrace the flame of the Holy Spirit that brings both comfort and purification”.
Pictured above is Bishop Peter preaching at the Mass for Religious. You can see a gallery of the Mass by clicking on the link or the picture below.