By Christina Hermoso
Hundreds of devotees of the revered Our Lady of Candles (Nuestra Senora dela Candelaria) are expected to gather Saturday at the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral in Iloilo City for the commemorative masses in celebration of the feast of the patroness of Western Visayas and Jaro, Iloilo.
The traditional blessing of candles, which are brought home by devotees and pilgrims, like the palms (palaspas) on Palm Sunday, will be held, as well as a high mass, and a grand procession.
Pilgrims believe that the blessed candle will protect them against evil, harm, and misfortune.
Other activities include the Jaro carnival, where a fiesta queen will be chosen, an agro-industrial fair, concerts, exhibits, a garden show, and a grand cock derby.
The miraculous image of Our Lady of Candles was canonically crowned by Saint John Paul II on his first visit to the country in 1981. It is enshrined at the Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral which was declared a national shrine during the Feast of Our Lady of Candles in 2012.
According to stories, the image of the Blessed Mother, carrying the Infant Jesus on her right arm and a green candle on both hands, was found by fishermen on a river bank in Iloilo in 1587. It was later placed in a small church in Jaro and was transferred to the Jaro Cathedral in 1864.
Meanwhile, devotees of Our Lady of Candles in Metro Manila traditionally visit and pray before her image enshrined at the Presentation of the Child Jesus Parish in BF Homes, Paranaque City and at the San Fernando de Dilao Parish in Paco, Manila.
Also Saturday, the Roman Catholic Church commemorates the Solemnity of the Presentation of the Lord. Also known as Candlemas Day, many Catholic churches will hold the traditional procession of blessed candles to remind the faithful that “Jesus is the Light of the world, who, by His birth, saved the human race from eternal damnation and expelled the darkness of evil and death.”
Mass readings and reflections will focus on an early episode in the life of Jesus when He was brought to the temple in Jerusalem by His parents, St. Joseph, His foster father, and the Blessed Mother, to be consecrated to the Lord in accordance with the Jewish Law.
The Virgin Mary also offered a pair of turtledoves for her own purification. As was customary, a Jewish woman was in semi-seclusion for 40 days after childbirth and an offering was necessary for her ritual of purification.
Considered as one of the most ancient feasts of the Christian church, this day is also regarded as an important day for those in humble service. Saint John Paul II consecrated the feast with the renewal of religious vows.