On Wednesday 1 May the calendar provides more confusion. It manages to be not only May Day but also St Philip and St James’s Day or St Joseph the Worker Day.
The May Day carol The winter’s sleep was long and deep mentions ‘two saints of God’.
But the universal calendar moved Philip and James to 3 May in 1955 to allow for May Day to be St Joseph the Worker Day giving the Virgin Mary’s husband two special days each year. We kept St Joseph’s Day during Lent.
However, Mary has the whole month. May is the Month of Mary. This tradition started in about 1826 whilst soon John Ruskin was instrumental in the spread of the May Queen custom in schools.
So May Day is the occasion to celebrate working people along with carpenter St Joseph, the coming of spring and summer and honour the Virgin Mary.
It used to be generally called Low Sunday although it is uncertain why. Was it because of a low attendance or less exuberance than last week?
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter but since Millennium Year many call it Divine Mercy Sunday because St Faustina Kowalska, canonised in 2000, claimed that this is the wish of Jesus.
This year, as we remember the Notre Dame de Paris fire, it might be tempting to use the very old name Quasimodo Sunday after the entrance antiphon Quasi modo geniti infantes meaning Like newborn infants.
Like newborn infants, you must long for the pure, spiritual milk, that in him you may grow to salvation, alleluia. 1 Peter 2.2
In Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris novel, the hunchback is called Quasimodo because when a child he was found abandoned in the cathedral porch on Quasimodo Sunday.
“None rejoice at Eastertide less than those who have not grieved in Lent”, reflected John Henry Newman who later this year will be declared to be a saint.
Easter has arrived overnight after our forty days of Lent and this last week of living with Christ in Jerusalem.
We now begin Easter and break the fast by eating eggs and lamb which all have a significant meaning. The French, who have the death and rebirth symbolism of Notre Dame cathedral, will enjoy chocolate fish -an early Christian symbol.
If we are following the real time of Holy Week today Saturday is a limbo with Christ dead whilst the apostles wonder what will happen next.
But today we know that come dusk there will be the first flickers from Easter fires outside churches and in public areas in Finland and villages in Cyprus.
So confident are we that the resurrection of Christ can be celebrated again that this morning Polish churches will already be filled with families bringing their Easter baskets with hard boiled eggs and sugar lambs for a blessing.
The Easter candle, lit from the fire outside the church door, represents Christ to those who follow behind into the building for theEaster Vigil. During the coming year this same candle will stand by every coffin as reminder of life after death.
On Good Friday 1783 Dr Johnson described his breakfast as “tea without milk, and…a hot cross bun to prevent faintness”.
Today is a day of fasting and abstinence so a hot cross bun, invented by St Albans Abbey in 1361, should keep one going until after church this afternoon.
The distribution of hot cross buns today at St Bartholomew the Great in London’s Smithfield (11.30am) and The Widow’s Son pub in Bow (3pm); skipping at Firle is Sussex (lunchtime) and marbles at nearby Battle and Tinsley Green all help to mark Good Friday as special and a still an important part of our Christian culture.
That culture draws on the teaching of Jesus who on the first Good Friday refused to deny his words and faced death.
Maundy Thursday has several themes including feet washing, institution of the Eucharist, watching with Christ and arrest.
At the distribution of the Royal Maundy, this morning at Windsor, the Queen will be accompanied by clergy and children wearing towels. This is a reminder that once the monarch not only gave out money but washed feet as Christ did today.
In church tonight the celebrant will wash feet during the Mass of the Last Supper.
Afterwards there is procession of the Blessed Sacrament to a flower decorated altar representing the Garden of Gethsemane.
In large cities one can walk from church to church visiting the Gethsemane focus. In the London the most garden-like is at St Peter’s Italian Church in Clerkenwell.
The Watch ends at midnight when Christ was betrayed and arrested.