I have waited to see this famous church for many years! It is very old and dates back from the beginning of the 17th century. Several years ago we took a taxi to the church which is in the middle of the historical area of Mexico City; however, because it was a Saturday, the crowd of people both inside and outside the church was so dense it was impossible to get even near it. What a disappointment! Fourteen years later I did get to see it: It was worth the long wait! The church is very small and probably holds only 40 people or so. It was absolutely lovely in its austere simplicity. A single mosaic of Our Lady holding the Infant Jesus adorns the whitewashed façade. The neoclassical interior has only one nave and a statue of Our Lady of the Candles, also dating from the 17th century, is situated above the main altar. But why is the church called La Candeleria?

Candlemas comes from the Latin festa andelarum which means “festival of candles.” The Feb. 2 feastday is very popular in Mexico. The feast commemorates a double celebration: the purification of Mary (not that Mary had to be purified!) and the presentation of the Infant Jesus in the temple. By participating in such an event Joseph and Mary are fulfilling the demands of the Mosaic Law.

It was the custom for Jewish women to remain in semi-isolation for 40 days after childbirth, after which they would present their first-born son to the Lord. (Exodus 2:12) It was at this time that the Holy Family would have had their momentous encounter with the prophets Simeon and Anna (Luke 2: 22-39). The feast day of Our Lady of the Candles is the feast of the Purification on February 2nd, 40 days after Our Lord’s birth.

The church is known in Mexico City as La Candelaria de los Patos (Purificacion de Ntra. Senora). 


Mary Hansen