St Lucy brings light to Advent

A Lucia procession in a Stockholm church

In Sweden this morning a young girl representing St Lucy wearing her crown of candles will make an early morning appearance in many homes and schools.

There will also be Lucia processions in many darkened churches tonight.

Lucy wore candles on her head to light the way and leave her hands free to assist persecuted Christians in Sicily. Now she is the symbol of the light of Christ to be celebrated soon at Christmas.

On St Lucy’s Day, 13 December, there are big celebrations in her home town Siracusa, Naples where the Lucia song sung in Sweden was first heard and Venice where her body lies in a church near Santa Lucia railway station.

Lucy is the patron of opticians, blind people and photographers.

Lucia buns in London: To taste the Lucy Cat saffron buns as enjoyed today in Sweden call in at the Scandinavian Kitchen at 61 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 7PP.


Loreto feast is universal

Angels carry the Holy House

The Feast of Our Lady of Loreto 10 December now appears in the universal calendar.

The announcement by Pope Francis was made last month with the view that it may help us during Advent to think about the Annunciation.

The feast marks the day in 1294 that the Holy House from Nazareth arrived at Loreto in Italy.

The little building is the front entrance of the Virgin Mary’s house in Nazareth which survives there within the Basilica of the Annunciation. 

It is said that the section in Loreto is where the angel appeared to the Virgin Mary to tell her that she was with child. That was on the day we call the Annunciation and keep, nine months before Christmas, on 25 March each year.

The house was moved from the Holy Land to Italy by the Angeli family which has given rise to the tradition that it was carried by angels rather than dismantled and placed on a ship.

Artists have long provided some lovely images of angels carrying the Holy House.

Whilst we may be in the age of fast communication only a few printed calendars feature Our Lady of Loreto on Tuesday 10 December.

The new Latin texts for the feast have been published in Rome but the  official English translation of the new prayers and readings will not be available until next year.

Even then there will be 2020 calendars which have already been printed without mentioning Loreto.

The feast is an optional memorial so it will appear in calendars whilst being observed by choice in some places. It will take time to catch on.

Churches dedicated to Our Lady of Loreto are found in Kew, near Kew Gardens, and in Musselburgh near Edinburgh.

Litany of Loreto
The Litany of Loreto to the Blessed Virgin Mary sung at Loreto and elsewhere dates from before 1587. Cardinal Newman’s writings include meditations based on the titles of Our Lady found in the Litany.

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ hear us
Christ, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, Have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, Pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, Pray for us.
Holy Virgin of Virgins, Pray for us.
Mother of Christ, Pray for us.
Mother of the Church, Pray for us.
Mother of Divine Grace, Pray for us.
Mother most pure, Pray for us.
Mother most chaste, Pray for us.
Mother inviolate, Pray for us.
Mother undefiled, Pray for us.
Mother most amiable, Pray for us.
Mother most admirable, Pray for us.
Mother of Good Counsel, Pray for us.
Mother of our Creator, Pray for us.
Mother of our Saviour, Pray for us.
Mother of mercy, Pray for us.
Virgin most prudent, Pray for us.
Virgin most venerable, Pray for us.
Virgin most renowned, Pray for us.
Virgin most powerful, Pray for us.
Virgin most merciful, Pray for us.
Virgin most faithful, Pray for us.
Mirror of justice, Pray for us.
Seat of wisdom, Pray for us.
Cause of our joy, Pray for us.
Spiritual vessel, Pray for us.
Vessel of honour, Pray for us.
Singular vessel of devotion, Pray for us.
Mystical Rose, Pray for us.
Tower of David, Pray for us.
Tower of ivory, Pray for us.
House of gold, Pray for us.
Ark of the Covenant, Pray for us.
Gate of Heaven, Pray for us.
Morning star, Pray for us.
Health of the Sick, Pray for us.
Refuge of sinners, Pray for us.
Comforter of the afflicted, Pray for us.
Help of christians, Pray for us.
Queen of angels, Pray for us.
Queen of patriarchs, Pray for us.
Queen of prophets, Pray for us.
Queen of apostles, Pray for us.
Queen of martyrs, Pray for us.
Queen of confessors, Pray for us.
Queen of virgins, Pray for us.
Queen of all saints, Pray for us.
Queen conceived without original sin, Pray for us.
Queen assumed into Heaven, Pray for us.
Queen of the Holy Rosary, Pray for us.
Queen of families, Pray for us.
Queen of peace, Pray for us.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Let us pray: Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord God, that we Thy servants may enjoy perpetual health of mind and body, and by the glorious intercession of the Blessed Mary, ever Virgin, be delivered from present sorrow and enjoy everlasting happiness. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen

The Holy House arrived after a three year rest at Trsat

Lights and candles in Lyon for Immaculate Conception

Lyon’s Notre Dame de Fourviere and other buildings are now lit with electricity

Is the feast of the Immaculate Conception on its usual date 8 December or Monday 9 December?

It depends where you are.

In England and Wales it is being observed just for this year on 9 December to allow us to keep the Second Sunday of Advent without distraction.

But in Rome the Pope is going to the Column of the Immaculate Conception near the Spanish Steps on Sunday afternoon.

In Lyon, where a candle tradition on the day has become a major light show lasting several days, the feast is being kept on the evening of 8 December as usual.

However, a French national rail strike may mean that the traditional candle procession from the cathedral after vespers to the hilltop Notre Dame de Fourviere may once again be a largely local event.

Lyon candles

The Immaculate Conception celebrates the conception of the Virgin Mary by Anne as a result of her sexual intercourse with husband Joachim. ‘Immaculate’ refers to the belief that Mary was conceived free of sin in order to preserve the purity of her son Jesus.

St Nicholas’s Day in London

An image of St Nicholas dated 1294

Haydn’s St Nicholas Mass will be the setting on Friday 6 December for the St Nicholas Day Solemn Mass at St Matthew’s Westminster

The Mass, starting at 6.30pm, will be attended by members of the St Nicholas Society. Bishop Stephen Venner will preside and Tim Livesely of Embrace the Middle East charity, will speak.

It is from St Nicholas that we have Father Christmas who first appeared in Beales department store in Bournemouth in 1885. It’s interesting to see that after a long gap he is back there this year.

Nicholas is a big Advent figure in many parts of Europe.

His reputation for saving children from poverty and danger makes a good role model and has resulted in him being the patron of bankers, single women, pawnbrokers, children, sailors, parfumiers and apothecaries.

He is also patron of Russia, Lorraine, Aberdeen, Liverpool, Portsmouth, New York, merchants, scholars and parish clerks.

The latter will meet in the City of London to worship and dine together on Friday night.

On Sunday afternoon 8 December ‘St Nicholas’, looking a bit like Father Christmas with a mitre, will make an appearance in Canterbury Cathedral during the St Nicholas Family Service beginning at 3.15pm.

Father Christmas is back in Beales

St Andrew’s Day & Advent

Amalfi Cathedral on St Andrew’s Day 2018

Scotland is keeping its patronal festival this Saturday 30 November with much noise.

But St Andrew is the also patron of Amalfi, Barbados, Greece, Russia, the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul and fishermen.

Amalfi holds Andrew’s main relics whilst his head is in Patras where there is a long outdoor procession today.

Look on Amalfi Cathedral website for film and live coverage.

St Andrew’s Day most often falls just after Advent Sunday but this year it is the Eve of Advent Sunday.

So, unusually, St Andrew’s Day will close with the first Advent Carol services at Salisbury, Winchester, St Paul’s and many other cathedrals.

Not Christmas yet…

Tim Stanley’s column in The Daily Telegraph on 11 November

Tim Stanley has written in his Daily Telegraph column about Christmas being marked too early.

The date of his article is significant because 11 November was not only Armistice Day but St Martin’s Day which in Milan and parts of Spain triggers the start of Advent on the following Sunday.

But, as Tim Stanley points out, Advent is not Christmas.

His article may have been written two weeks ago but it is still worth reading because we have still not reached Advent which here does not start until next Saturday evening.

And Christmas is still a month away today.

Christ the King & Stir up

A model of Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral which is dedicated to Christ the King

This Sunday completes the Christian year.

Christ the King Sunday 24 November is the climax of the year during which we have relived Christ’s birth, ministry, persecution, resurrection and ascension.

So on Sunday we look back with Christ our king as we begin to look forward yet again to Advent next week.

It is not Christmas yet but the the first line of the old 6th-century collect for this Sunday has led to the popular name Stir Up Sunday which hints at Christmas.

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

It suggested that on this Sunday we should stir the Christmas pudding mixture.

The Stir up collect is now heard as the post communion prayer in most Anglican churches and as the weekday collect on Wednesday to Friday this week in Roman Catholic churches.

Stir up, the translation of Excita, is also the opening of the Easter Vigil collect.

Advent is starting in Milan

Milan Cathedral (Photo: CiaoMilano)

This Sunday 17 November in Milan and Toledo it is the beginning of Advent.

Because last Monday 11 November was St Martin’s Day it follows that in the Diocese of Milan, which retains its own local liturgy, it must be Advent Sunday.

The very long Advent is also observed in the Mozarabic rite found in parts of Spain. Some Orthodox churches keep a forty day Advent with fasting .

But Advent is not the start of Christmas although many shops in the UK and even some European countries seem to hope so.

In the USA there is Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, followed by Black Friday, which helps to hold back the tide of commercial Christmas.

Father Christmas, or Santa Claus as Americans call him, will in New York not be seen until 28 November when he appears at the end of Thanksgiving Day procession.

The western church will begin Advent on Sunday 1 December which is handy for the 1-25 day Advent calendars.

Anglican priest Sue Wallace has this week reflected on the longer Advent: “It seems to me to make sense to start [Advent] this early, and then it doesn’t get overtaken by Christmas celebrations quite so quickly.”

Toledo Cathedral

Leigh Hatts