[The following is from the program notes from our last celebration of Solemn Vespers.]
The Law of Moses prescribes that childbirth renders the mother ritually impure for a period of forty days after the birth of a male child and eighty days in the case of a female child [Leviticus 12: 1-5]. Thus it comes about that today’s feast, falling forty days after Christmas, was until recently referred to as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is this connection with Christmas that warrants our keeping the Christmas tree lit throughout this time. Tomorrow, we turn more purposely toward the penitential seasons of Septuagesima and Lent, and ultimately toward the Cross, foreshadowed in so many ways in our Lord’s first temple appearance today.