Monday, February 02, 2015

Purified, Tear by Tear (for the Feast of Candlemas)

(from the archives):

The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, Rembrandt van Rijn

Today is the Feast of Candlemas ... the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

This feast day is rich and full of meaning -- so dear to me, and to the hearts of other women who have lost children. There are many ways in which they have been lost: through miscarriage ... stillbirth ... failed adoption attempts ... infertility. Those who have had our souls pierced by such a sword cannot read the Scripture passage on which this feast is based without feeling the sharp pain of the blade again.

And thy own soul a sword shall pierce

Other mothers have shared the connections they've made between the loss of their children, and Mary's obedient offering of Jesus in the temple and later at the foot of the Cross. I share their nods of recognition, their tears of recollection, their sorrow.

And I've always been struck by the fact that this day is both Mary's presentation of her Son and her purification, for it has been through the presentation of my own children to the Lord that I have been purified, bit by bit, tear by tear, and sorrow by sorrow:

When I had my first miscarriage, I asked the Lord, "Why?"

He whispered in my heart, "I won't tell you 'why' ... but I know what you feel."

And I was purified, knowing that He's with me in every emotion, and every circumstance, in a very real and personal way.

When I miscarried again, I asked the Lord, "Will we ever be allowed to have a baby?" and He whispered, in the depths of my pierced heart, that I must walk in darkness for a time.

And I was purified, knowing that I will not always understand His ways, but that His plans are for my good.

When we followed His promptings to try again, and then miscarried a third time, I asked the Lord, "How can I trust again? I was so wrong." He whispered to my confused and grieving heart that I was not wrong ... He had called us to conceive again, and now He was calling me to surrender to His wisdom at taking this child so soon.

And I was purified, knowing that I could trust His promptings, even when they did not end as I had thought or hoped they would.

When next I miscarried, I wept to the Lord, and said, "I am so sad ... and yet I know You will use this suffering. Please accept it, Lord. I give you my child and I beg her intercession for her father's sake."

And I was purified, knowing that He would allow my children in heaven to pray for their father's conversion.

When I miscarried again, I whispered to the Lord, "Oh, how I had hoped it would be different this time ... I so hoped for life instead of death." He held me close and whispered to my bruised and battered heart that my baby did have life, the Life we all long for and hope to share one day. And in this way, He used the short life and death of my child to heal me of an old and terrible wound.

And I was purified, knowing that He is the Lord of all creation, the Lord of my life, the God who saves and heals me, the Christ.

My Christ, my Savior.

And I gave thanks.

Mary's fiat -- her "yes" to bearing the Child -- was both an openness to life and an openness to death.

And that is what God asks of us. To be open to life is to be open to its loss, open to suffering. And yet, what choice do we have but to say, "Yes. Let it be done to me according to Thy word"? It's the only way that I know to answer the One I love so much.

And it is through our fiats that He will purify us. He is purifying me still, daily. Hourly, sometimes, it seems. Through sorrow? Yes. Through the sword? Yes.

But also through the resurrections. Because, though there is sorrow, there will always be a Resurrection, and there is joy awaiting us.

Mary saw her Son again. And we will see our children. Mary's Son -- and all our sons and daughters -- are waiting for us. As St. John Paul II said :
"You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost .... "
And so we wait, we yearn. And we are purified, a little more. And then a few steps more.

Our presentations give us glimpses into the depths of the Divine, even -- especially -- the presentations that hurt. We will weep in the nighttime of this life, but there will be joy in the morning.

Because, as Simeon said in the temple, knowing that he had seen the face of God:
Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace,
according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you prepared in sight of all the peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.


  1. Karen, this is beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Wow. This is just beautiful. This is my first year observing Candlemas, and I didn't think of it this way at all. But you are so, so right on. Thank you so much for this.

  3. Amy, and Bonnie, thanks so much to both of you for your kind words and for taking the time to say them!