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February and the spiritual meaning behind the month

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Lawrence OP | Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Philip Kosloski - published on 02/02/22

February means "purification," and reflects both a pagan and Christian tradition of purification during this month.

While the modern celebration of February is most often associated with Valentines Day, the ancient world viewed it as a month of purification.

According to an early 20th-century book entitled Anthropological Papers, the English word, “February” is derived from a Roman rite of purification.

A 19th-century book entitled The Doctrine of the Deluge further confirms this tradition.

[E]xpiatory rites were practiced by the Romans in the month of February, which derives its name from that circumstance. The beginning of the month was selected with great propriety for the purpose, because it was under the sign of Aquarius, the Pourer of Water and it was the last month of the old Roman year and consequently the month in which the purification of the earth was completed. People purified themselves with water: houses, temples, whole cities, were sprinkled with holy water and this was done says, a German author, for the expiation of sin and for regeneration.

Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

In the Roman calendar of the Catholic Church, February 2 is known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This refers to the rite of purification that Mary participated in 40 days after the birth of Jesus, mentioned in the Gospel of Luke.

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.

Luke 2:22

It simply made logical sense for the Roman church to celebrate this feast in February, focusing Romans away from the pagan sense of purification, to a Christian one.

Furthermore, February is often the beginning of Lent, a time of intense spiritual purification.

Christians today are still encouraged to reflect during February on their sins and to begin their preparations for Easter. It can still become a month of purification, purifying our souls of sins so that we may be ready to welcome the Risen Jesus into our hearts at Easter.

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