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Candlemas

In many cultures, including in some Latin countries today, Candlemas marks the end of the Christmas season. It is celebrated on February 2nd, the 40th day after Christmas, and is technically known as the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as the Presentation in the Temple.

Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., wrote in 1871 that "We apply the name of Christmas to the forty days which begin with the Nativity of our Lord, December 25, and end with the Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2. It is a period which forms a distinct portion of the Liturgical Year..."

The basis of the Feast of the Purification was the Jewish tradition that women were considered unclean after the birth of a child and were not permitted to enter the Temple to worship. This was 40 days after the birth of a son and 60 days after the birth of a daughter. At the end of the 40 or 60 days, the mother was brought to the Temple or synagogue and ritually purified. Now she can go to religious services again, and generally go out in public.

This feast is now celebrated as the Presentation of the Lord, when the infant Jesus was taken to the Temple by his parents according to Jewish custom. The Canticle of Simeon (or the Song of Simeon) is a moving account of one elderly Jewish man who was present in the Temple on that day.

In many ways, Candlemas can be thought of a pivotal feast. It is forty days since Christmas and Lent is coming soon (as early as February 4th?). Likewise, the words of Simeon at the Presentation reinforce this.

… the prophetic words of Simeon, which speak of the falling and rising of many and the sword that will pierce, lead on to the passion and to Easter. The scriptures and the liturgy of the Christmas season have several pointers to the suffering of the Lord, but none more potent than the words of Simeon.

At Candlemas, there is also the traditional observance of blessing candles and distributing the candles to worshipers. The candles recall the lights of Christmas. The candles also symbolize Simeon's words to Mary and Joseph in Luke 2:32 that Jesus would be "a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."

According to one source, this was also the day that by tradition all candles that would be used for the next year were blessed. Christians were observing Candlemas in Jerusalem as early as the 4th century A.D. By the middle of the 5th century, candles were lit on this day to symbolize that Jesus Christ was the light, the truth and the way. The feast spread slowly and wasn’t well known even in the 7th century.

Like Christmas, Candlemas also has its secular side. In some prosperous manors of old England, this extension of Christmas-tide was marked by music, dancing, games and feasting: A "Lord Of Misrule," or "abbot of unreason" was appointed, whose duty it was to play the part of a buffoon. In addition,

"The larder was filled with capons, hens, turkeys, geese, ducks, beef, mutton, pork, pies, puddings, nuts, plums, sugar and honey.... A glowing fire, made of great logs, the principal of which was termed the 'Yule log,' or Christmas block, which might be burnt till Candlemas eve, kept out the cold; and the abundance was shared by the lord's tenants amid music, conjuring, riddles, hot-cockles, fool-plough, snap-dragon, jokes, laughter, repartees, forfeits, and dances."

Many poems and carols celebrate Candlemas. By tradition, Candlemas eve was the date upon which all Christmas decorations were removed. The mid-17th century English poet Robert Herrick (1591-1674) wrote at least four poems concerning Candlemas. In his "Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve," [Down With The Rosemary, And So] he wrote

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress'd the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.

In his longer "Ceremonies for Candlemas Eve," [Down With The Rosemary and Bays] he wrote:

DOWN with the rosemary and bays,
Down with the mistletoe ;
Instead of holly, now up-raise
The greener box (for show).

The holly hitherto did sway ;
Let box now domineer
Until the dancing Easter day,
Or Easter's eve appear.

Then youthful box which now hath grace
Your houses to renew ;
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped yew.

When yew is out, then birch comes in,
And many flowers beside ;
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin
To honour Whitsuntide.

Green rushes, then, and sweetest bents,
With cooler oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments
To re-adorn the house.

Thus times do shift ; each thing his turn does hold ;
New things succeed, as former things grow old.

This poem was adapted into a carol, Candlemas Eve Carol, set to a Basque melody by Edgar Pittman (1865-1943). Likewise, Candlemas day had its own traditions. In "Upon Candlemas Day," Herrick wrote:

END now the white loaf and the pie,
And let all sports with Christmas die.

Finally, in "The Ceremonies for Candlemas Day," [Kindle The Christmas Brand] he wrote:

Kindle the Christmas brand, and then
Till sunset let it burn ;
Which quench'd, then lay it up again
Till Christmas next return.
Part must be kept wherewith to tend
The Christmas log next year,
And where 'tis safely kept, the fiend
Can do no mischief there.

This latter poem celebrates the tradition that Christmas plants would be burned and the Yule Log was to be allowed to burn down completely, but that a portion should be held back to start next year’s Yule log (and as a good luck charm against "mischief"). The ashes were to be spread over the gardens to ensure a good harvest. Also, the Yule log for the next year would be chosen then.

And there is this poem from colonial Williamsburg, first published in the 18th Century:

When New Year's Day is past and gone;
Christmas is with some people done;
But further some will it extend,
And at Twelfth Day their Christmas end.
Some people stretch it further yet,
At Candlemas they finish it.
The gentry carry it further still
And finish it just when they will;
They drink good wine and eat good cheer
And keep their Christmas all the year.

Candlemas was also believed to be a good day for weather forecasting (it falls halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox).1 If it were a sunny day, there would be forty more days of cold and snow. This belief has carried into folklore tradition in England, Scotland, Mexico, the United States (as Groundhog Day), in Germany (using a badger instead of a ground hog), and many other places. One English rhyme says:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;
But if it be dark with clouds and rain,
Winter is gone, and will not come again.

In Western Europe, this was also the time for preparing the fields for the first planting.

Likewise, many carols of the period refer to Candlemas as the conclusion of the Christmas season.

In Christemas Hath Made An End, the singer laments the end of this Christmas-tide and the return to the fields:

Christemas hath made an end,
Well-a-day! well-a-day!
Which was my dearest friend,
More is the pity!
For with an heavy heart
Must I from thee depart,
To follow plow and cart
All the year after.

Keyte and Parrott, in The New Oxford Book of Carols, note that in the 17th century, there was little work to be done in the fields during winter, and that the Christmas-tide was, by nature, an extended holiday which could be lengthened to Candlemas (as in this carol), although rarely beyond Epiphany (January 6th).

The carol Farewell To Christmas begins:

Here have I dwelled with more & less
From Hallowtide till Candlemas,
And now must I from your hens pass;
Now have good day!2

The reference to Hallowtide comes from a tradition that the monarch would announce on All Hallows (November 1) where he or she would spend Christmas. There's a tradition I could live with! Celebrate the holidays from November 1 through February 2! See: Now Have Good Day, Now Have Good Day!

The carol Of The Purification concludes with:

Farewell, Christmas fair and free;
Farewell, New Years day with thee;
Farewell the holy Epiphany;3

Another carol, The fyrst day of yole have we in mynd, begins with:

Make we mirth
For Christ’s birth,
And sing we yule till Candlemas.

The last verse of this carol, which is an enumeration of the feasts of Christmas-tide, is:

On the xl [40] Day came Mary mild,
Unto the temple with her child,
To show her clean that never was defiled,
And therewith endeth Christmas.4

See also The fyrst day of yole have we in mynd and The fyrst day of yole have we in mynd - Thomas Wright.

But this is not just an old tradition, now forgotten. In many Latin countries, the tradition of Candlemas — especially as it relates to the celebration of the Three Kings — is still celebrated.

In Mexico, la Rosca de Reyes, a sweet circular cake is served with a doll baked inside representing the baby Jesus (similar to Mardi Gras Kings Cake) and is served with hot chocolate on Epiphany (known locally as Three Kings Day or El Dia de los Reyes Magos). The person who finds the baby in their slice is to host the forthcoming celebration Candelaria or Candlemas on February 2nd (when a feast of tamalitos and hot chocolate is enjoyed by all). According to an article in the Oaxaca Times by Gayle Hanson, when 20 or thirty people are on hand sometimes several babies are baked into the cake, all the better to spread out the cost of the next party among friends.

The Rosca de Reyes was used by the friars to evangelize: a small doll, representing the Christ child, is baked right in the bread — "hidden", to symbolize the hiding of the infant from King Herod's troops on the day of Los Santos Inocentes, the Holy Innocents [See: The Hymns Of The Holy Innocents].

As was the case in old England, it is on this day that the nativity scene and all the Christmas decorations are put away.

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This page will contain copies of articles that have 'caught my eye', including  The Riches of the Book of Common Prayer but firstly, it will  include contributions from visitors to the Church and this site. I start with an email and pictures gratefully received today (20th September 2010) :-

" Hello David, we made a brief stop in the Minster while our American friend was staying with us. Here are a few pictures you may be interested in, not my best work, but if I get to return I will take more thoughtful pictures.
 
             Take care,
                   Billy Hutchinson "

      

The Riches of the Book of Common Prayer Address given by by John Sentamu to the Prayer Book Society at Bishopthorpe on July 29th 2009

It is a great pleasure to be able to join you tonight to celebrate the gift of the Prayer Book and to enjoy the richness of worshipping together, using the words in which countless thousands across the centuries and across the world have praised
God. It is now 469 years since the Prayer Book was crafted by Dr Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and nearly
350 years since it began to be used in its present form. That is a wonderful heritage and tradition for our Church to  celebrate, and it is important not to lose the treasures contained in it.

What are the gifts of the Prayer Book which we value so much? When it came into being it was revolutionary. One of the founding principles of the Church of England when it became Catholic and Reformed was that church services should be 'in a tongue understanded of the people' (as Article 24 says in the Articles of Religion) so that everyone present might be able to participate in public prayer in the Church as well as the administration of the Sacraments.
And, once the Book of Common Prayer was created in English, it has subsequently been translated into many languages, and in many countries. I myself grew up using those very words in my worship of God in my mother tongue, Luganda.
The criticism of many is that the Book of Common Prayer contains language which is no longer 'understanded of the people', and yet many of its words and phrases are part of our common language. As Margot Lawrence pointed out in
Tudor English Today, the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations contains 549 of the Prayer Book's phrases -'at death's door', 'give up for lost', 'moveable feasts', 'the jaws of death', 'passing all understanding', 'lead a new life', all of these take their derivation straight from Cranmer's work and became the basis for a generation of authors whose work shaped the language we speak. Some indeed are so well 'understanded of the people' that they have become the titles of television programmes and books -'Till Death us do Part'; 'Ashes to Ashes'.
Continuity with the past, indeed, is the life-blood of public language, and we do well to value it. And the Prayer Book has, over the years, provided a bond of unity throughout the Anglican Communion, through a common understanding of worship and doctrine.
Liturgically, too, the Prayer Book is a treasure for the Church. Firstly in the large quantity of scripture it contains - more than half of it is in selected readings from the Bible.
Indeed, the principal importance of Archbishop Cranmer's use of Holy Scripture lies in establishing the ordered reading of Scripture as the basis of common prayer. As well as providing a large range of biblical passages for congregations to hear and read together, it also contains the riches of the elucidation of Scripture, tradition and lived Christian experience, through the creeds and prayers.
And then we must value it for the sound doctrine it provides, giving liturgical expression to the doctrine of salvation by  grace, to the understanding of Christ's sacrifice being a finished work. It affirms that our own offering is one of praise and
thanksgiving in acknowledgement of his gift to us, and it preaches Jesus as a living Saviour, not as a dead master of a by-gone age. The ever-present Paraclete is evoked unashamedly
Next, we all know and love the excellent prayers, thanksgivings and intercessions which sustain us and turn our hearts to God and to the hope he offers for the world. And we are blessed by the range of services, covering every variety of our human condition.
Finally, we enjoy the richness of its language. For many modernizers its language is seen as a stumbling block; and it is true that the prayer Book needs to be used with an historic understanding of the- language in order to appreciate its true richness and depth of meaning. However, as with any poetry, the language provides a way of conveying a complex vision, the many layered and rich expression of creation and thought, through a form which arouses our emotion and gives-us understanding beyond the surface meaning of the words themselves. In this the Prayer Book perhaps succeeds, better than many other forms, in expressing the love and grace of God, his glory and holiness, and the proper and faithful response and service of his people.
We sometimes make the mistake of thinking that our modern versions are automatically more intelligible to the modern mind, or to people of other cultures and languages. This is to assume that intelligibility is only a mater of paring down
language. What may be lost is the perception that there are greater meanings that can be sought, greater mysteries beyond the surface, which it would profit us to search for and discover. There may indeed be a case to be made that, if the language we use is too banal, there might appear to be nothing beyond the surface to be discerned.
I am glad therefore that the Book of Common Prayer is still a living spiritual tradition, and that you in the Prayer Book Society continue to celebrate and share in the worship of God in the language that so many have used before you. May God bless you and maintain you in everything that is holy and good in your life of common prayer.

 

Archbishop of York on being Anglican

For me having grown up in Uganda being Anglican has always been very important. Being Christian came first of course - I came to faith in Christ through the witness of lay people, and immediately became involved in the activities run by a very godly youth leader, Canon Peter Kigozi. My faith grew there and I was nurtured as a Christian surrounded by the liturgy, hymns, preaching and teaching, led by a Catechist - my father.

Even then belonging to the Church gave me a keen sense of both the local and the global. Later as a vicar in South London I knew my responsibility was towards everyone in the parish, not just those who came to church. But the global dimension was always there. Church was for me a window on the wider world. The missionaries and expatriates I knew brought with them qualities of selfless commitment and devotion to duty which I admired and still admire today. They introduced me to the idea of the church as a world-wide family, in St Paul's words, 'the body of Christ', a community of people where all need each other and where everyone is of infinite worth in the sight of God. This has always chimed, for me, with the wisdom of the African proverb: 'if a tiny toe is hurting, the whole body bends low to tend it'. The worldwide Anglican Communion is this kind of community today.

Our Anglican heritage is enriched and in many ways defined by the Book of Common Prayer, assembled in 1549 by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. The notion of 'common' worship is important to me. The prayers of the faithful are not individualistic or self-indulgent - they are rooted in Holy Scripture and they rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit to make them live. The Prayer Book itself commits the church to engaging creatively with various times, seasons, and cultures, so it is right that people should worship in 'such a tongue as the people understandeth.' So the wide range of Anglican liturgies used around the world are still 'common prayer'.

Essential to Anglicanism is a sense of magnanimity/'moderation' - a holding together, often in creative tension, of different emphases or points of view, but always in a spirit of charity and appreciative enquiry.

In our theology and lived Christian experience revelation and reason are set side by side. Because of God's gracious invitation for 'all sorts and conditions' of men, women and children to come and participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in our spirituality personal devotion and corporate expression are equally vital. In our church structures we prize the self-governing nature of provinces or national churches whilst at the same time treasuring both the level of mutual accountability and support we share, and the leadership exercised by bishops in council with clergy and laity.

We regard it as our calling to engage both with the individual and the corporate, and with the material and the political. As my friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said, he wondered which Bible people were reading if they thought religion and politics didn't mix. In fact our Anglican heritage demands of us a particular sense of responsibility, a critical, and at times prophetic solidarity, variously expressed in different contexts, with the political and constitutional life of the nation in which we live. In Cranmer's Prayer Book this is expressed in our regular prayers for Her Majesty the Queen and all those in authority.

With the tensions facing us in the church and in the world today we should rejoice in God's call to us, both in our diversity and in our common life, to remember our primary responsibility 'together to make Christ visible' in word and deed. Central to our Anglican calling are what we call the 'five marks of mission' which define our calling:

  • To proclaim the good news of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptise, and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain the life of the earth.

Of course many other church traditions would agree with these priorities.

Distinctive about the Anglican family of churches is what is known as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888): the four reference points of Anglicanism, namely the Holy Scriptures, the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, the two Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Holy Communion, and the historic episcopate. It would have been good if a fifth had been included: ' lived Christlike experience in his Body, the Church, and in his world.'

I am grateful for the Anglican family's apostolic, catholic, evangelical, and reformed tradition which in its local and international expressions is a spiritual home for so many people. Families often don't eat together these days. By contrast the Anglican family must continue to be one which gathers round the table for conversation, for generous and attentive listening, even at times for argument, but above all for fellowship in shared bread and wine. In doing we seek to look in two directions at the same time: towards God, worshipping him, and towards the world, infecting it with his goodness.

Archbishop of York

 

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Copied from the Official Minster website:-

"Stephen Hazlett is leaving Sunderland, and his roles at the Minster and as Industrial Chaplain, to take up a new challenge with the Mission to Seafarers in Rotterdam.

Stephen, originally from Belfast and moved to Sunderland after being Rector for five years at Bushmills in County Antrim. Before that, he was Rector on a Belfast housing estate where he was chairman of a works scheme tackling unemployment.

He has lived in Sunderland with his wife Hazel and their three children, and recently Stephen became a grandfather for the first time.

Over the 12 years Stephen has been in Sunderland as Industrial Chaplain he has seen major changes that have taken place in the industrial base of the city and the surrounding area. The heavy engineering base that flourished in Sunderland has disappeared with increasing emphasis now placed on the service sector, with the growth of call centres, although car giant Nissan maintains the manufacturing tradition along with Liebherr and Grundfos.

Stephen, who grew up in Belfast at a time when the shipbuilding industry there was going through tough times, is conscious of the constant changes and challenges being made in Sunderland affecting the working lives of “ordinary” people.

“A key element of my work is listening to people, allowing them space, whether it be on work-related or personal matters, in total confidence. If they have problems and it affects their work, a talk with an outsider might help them as individuals and, if the problem is eased or resolved, also make them a better worker”.

“The Church is not going to interfere with the running of a business. I/we are here by invitation only.

“If we are invited we should be doing what the Church does best listening and caring.”

Speaking of his time in Sunderland, he said: “I think it is very important that people see the Church as not just having a presence, which comes and goes. I lived here with my family. It is our home. “We loved living here. There may be problems, but there is an overall feeling among people in Sunderland that is positive.”

I am always impressed by the “sheer friendliness and openness” of people in the city.

When Stephen has time, he indulges in his love for music, playing the violin, literature, good malt whisky and his trademark hats and bad jokes.

We will all miss him and wish him and his family well with our love"

           

All Souls' Day commemorates the faithful departed. In Western Christianity, this day is observed principally in the Catholic Church, although some churches of Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Churches also celebrate it. The Eastern Orthodox Church observes several All Souls' Days during the year. The Roman Catholic celebration is associated with the doctrine that the souls of the faithful who at death have not been cleansed from the temporal punishment due to venial sins and from attachment to mortal sins cannot immediately attain the beatific vision in heaven, and that they may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the Mass.[1] In other words, when they died, they had not yet attained full sanctification and moral perfection, a requirement for entrance into Heaven. This sanctification is carried out posthumously in Purgatory.;

  

      In accordance with the Anglican Articles of Religion, I do not accept the existence of Purgatory - neither should the modern church. I have therefore declined the invitation as I know that my late brother (as others) are safe with the Lord.

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The reaction of the city to Stephen's departures is well represented by the following excepts:-

   

 

 

 

Your opinion on these pages is invited. Please contact me by e-mail:- herring57@btinternet.com or (for the next few weeks)  david.herring@ukonline.co.uk  with any queries, comments, criticisms or suggestions - all are equally welcome !

 

 

 

 

Pages prepared by David Herring October/November 2005