(Feb) 2. The Purification of Our Lady. This festival was instituted in 544, under the Emperor Justinian, on occasion of the plague which ravaged Constantinople, where ten thousand
persons sometimes died in one day. In the year 701, Pope Sergius added to this feast the solemnity of the Tapers. (Baronius in Annal. ad ann. 544.)
Image (click it to enlarge): Part of the Altarpiece of the Purification (Seville Cathedral) by Pedro
On Blessing the Candles and the Procession at Candlemass
The procession with lighted tapers on this day is mentioned by pope Gelasius I, also by St. Ildefonsus, St. Eligius, St. Sophronius, patriarch
of Jerusalem, St. Cyril of Alexandria, &c., in their sermons on this festival. St. Bernard says: “This holy procession was first made by the virgin mother, St. Joseph, holy Simeon, and Anne, to be afterwards performed in all places and by
every nation, with the exultation of the whole earth, to honor this mystery.” In his second sermon on this feast he describes it thus: “They walk two and two, holding in their hands candles lighted, not from common fire, but from that
which had been first blessed in the church by the priests, and singing in the ways of the Lord, because great is his glory.” He shows that the concurrence of many in the procession and prayer is a symbol of our union and charity, and renders our praises
the more honorable and acceptable to God. We walk while we sing to God, to denote that to stand still in the paths of virtue is to go back.
The lights we bear in our hands represent the divine fire of love with which our hearts ought to be inflamed, and which we are to offer to God without any mixture of strange fire, the fire of concupiscence, envy, ambition, or the love of creatures.
We also hold these lights in our hands to honor Christ, and to acknowledge him as the true light (St. John, i. 9), whom they represent under this
character, and who is called by holy Simeon in this mystery, a light for the enlightening of the Gentiles (St. Luke, ii. 32); for he came to
dispel our spiritual darkness. The candles likewise express that by faith his light shines in our souls: as also that we are to prepare his way by
good works, by which we are to be a light to men (St. Matth, v. 16).
Related Link: More Information on the Holy Feast of the Purification
Calendar of the Feasts of the Blessed Virgin, With the Foundations and Churches Dedicated to Her", from Abbé Orsini's work, "Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God", Imprimatur 1858 A.D.