detail from 'The Presentation of Christ in the Temple', by Tintoretto, 1550-1555, oil on canvas, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice, Italy

IN honor of the Nuestra Señora de la Candelarias or the Candlemas Virgin.
Jaro, Iloilo, in the Philippines celebrates today the Candlemas Festival.

Candlemas Virgin was the title bestowed on the Blessed Virgin Mary to commemorate the Presentation of Jesus and Mary’s own rite of Purification in accordance with the Jewish Law. The feast is marked by candles being blessed and a procession of lights showing Mary as the bearer of light.

In the Philippines, it is said that the Image of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria was found by a fisherman in a river in Iloilo in 1587. It took several men to lift the image because it was heavy. When it was decided that the image would be brought to Jaro, the image became lighter. It was placed in a small church located in the town of La Paz. In 1867, when Jaro became a diocese, a cathedral was constructed in the town proper named after St. Elizabeth of Hungary. The image was placed on a portal high on the front of the cathedral so that Our Lady could see the entire town.

The image was lighted by a lamp but after a while, the people neglected this duty. It is said that one evening in 1874, Our Lady appeared to a Chinese businessman as a beautiful young woman with her child. She bought an oil lamp. Curious, the businessman followed the woman and found her bathing her child at the artesian well located across the street from church. Soon people started bathing in the same well and were cured of their ailments. This led to a great devotion to Our Lady of the Candles.

The image was canonically crowned by Pope John Paul II in 1981 during his visit to the Philippines. Today, religious pilgrims flock to Jaro, Iloilo to participate in the procession of the Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria with the Carnival Queen and all the pageantry and ceremony that goes with this great honor. Other highlights of the Candlemas Festival are the blessing of the green wax candles called the Perdon and an hourly liturgical Mass the whole day.

In keeping with the celebration of Our Lady of Candles, let us ask Jesus to guide our steps each day and to ask His grace so that we may be free from all blindness of sin.

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