A Light to enlighten the Gentiles

“Could anyone hold up a lighted candle in his hands on this day without at once remembering that old man who on this same day took up in his arms Jesus, God’s Word, clothed in flesh like a candle-flame clothed in wax, and affirmed him to be the Light which would be a beacon for the Gentiles?” Guerric of Igny, “The First Sermon for the Purification” in Guerric of Igny: Liturgical Sermons, translated by the Monks of Mount Saint Bernard Abbey, Cistercian Publications 1970, p. 101.

In this sermon for the festival of the Purification of Mary the twelfth-century Cistercian abbot  compares Simeon’s holding of the infant Jesus with the monks’ ritual bearing of candles.  Thereby, he emphasized the traditional teaching that Jesus would not only save his own people from their sins, but also enlighten the nations.  It was a common practice in the Cistercian monastery for monks to process with newly-blessed candles throughout the monastery on this festival of the Purification.

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