Translation of St James the Great: 6th Day of Christmas

The figure of St James the Great on the clock at St James Garlickhythe Church in the City of London where pilgrims can obtain their first pilgrim passport stamp

Today we remember St James the Great who was one of the apostles and therefore someone who knew Jesus during his ministry.

The Translation refers to the arrival in about 814 of his body in Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain, where today many go on walking pilgrimage from France, Portugal and even England.

Many winter pilgrims and locals will be in Santiago Cathedral this morning for the Mass.

James was the brother of John who we remembered last Wednesday. He was also present with Christ at the Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane.

We know from the Bible (Acts 12.2) that James was beheaded.

His head remains in Jerusalem.

Also missing from the body in Santiago is the right hand which was cut off just before beheading. A hand in the care of St Peter’s Church in Marlow, but only occasionally displayed,  is claimed as being the hand of St James once at Reading Abbey.

London churches dedicated to St James the Great are St James’s Spanish Place and St James Garlickhythe.

St Thomas Becket: 5th Day of Christmas

Thomas Becket window in Southwark Cathedral

On this day in 1170 Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral.

The attack came just as Vespers was starting so today during 3.15pm evensong at Canterbury Cathedral there is a procession to the Martyrdom site.

His shrine inspired the great pilgrimage in England which has been compared with the camino of St James who we shall remember tomorrow.

The modern Becket is Oscar Romero who was murdered by the state in 1980.

Holy Innocents: 4th Day of Christmas

Today we look ahead to the Three Kings arriving on Twelfth Night at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

We remember the innocent male babies put to death on orders of King Herod who was trying to kill the Christ Child.

The Three Kings, or Wise Men, had visited Herod on their way to Bethlehem asking about this just born new ‘king’.

But fearing Herod’s hostility towards the recently born Baby Jesus they did not return to say where in Bethlehem they had found the Holy Family.

This morning we pray for very young children in danger from war and the sick children evacuated in the last few hours from Damascus.

This is a special day for churches dedicated to the Holy Innocents such as Holy Innocents Church in New York.

St John’s Day: 3rd Day of Christmas

St John window at St Stephen’s Church in Bournemouth

Today we remember St John who was with Jesus at crucial moments in his adult life and ministry such as the Transfiguration and the arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.

John was the first to find that Jesus had risen from the dead.

He is believed to have written one of the Gospels and so is patron saint of authors and theologians.

Boxing Day: Still Christmas

St Stephen above the west door of St Stephen’s Church in Bournemouth

Today is Boxing Day and St Stephen’s Day.

This morning there will be major church services in St Stephen’s Church Gloucester Road in London, St Stephen’s Bournemouth, St Stephen’s-on-the-Cliffs Blackpool, Cathedral Church of St Stephen Vienna and many other places.

For churches dedicated to Stephen today is their patronal festival.

Boxing Day, the second day of Christmas, is when we remember Deacon Stephen who was the first Christian martyr.

He was stoned to death because he followed the teaching of Jesus preaching about thirty years after his birth.

Christmas Day cannot be understood without Boxing Day.

Other churches such as Exeter Cathedral and Ripon Cathedral also keep today with a morning Eucharist with music.

Forget the sales. Remember St Stephen.

Christmas Day: St Mary of the Crib

The Holy Crib displayed in Santa Maria Maggiore

Today is Christmas Day when famous churches suddenly receive media coverage.

St Peter’s Rome and Church of the Nativity Bethlehem will probably bee seen in news bulletins.

In Rome there is another is another focus today.

The Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, once called St Mary of the Crib,  holds what is claimed to be the wooden remains  of the Bethlehem crib.

The church’s nativity scene figures date from  1290.

Christmas Eve but not Christmas yet

Time to light the fourth candle today before Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve but not Christmas yet.

Today is the 4th Sunday of Advent. The fourth candle on the wreath represents the Virgin Mary.

We first keep today as Sunday because the Church always remembers Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week.

What happened at Easter is even more important than Christmas.

We shall remember the birth of Christ later today. Christmas will creep in during this afternoon’s gathering darkness as the carols are broadcast from King’s College Cambridge.

At about 6pm many will be attending the First Mass of Christmas. Others will wait until Midnight Mass.

In Bethlehem midnight comes at 10pm GMT. Christmas spreads across the time zones as Christians look to tomorrow’s as day of celebration.

Tomorrow is the first of the Twelve Days of Christmas .

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Today’s O Antiphon, the last of the series,  is heard before the Gospel at Mass and bookending the Magnificat during Evening Prayer.

O Rex Gentium

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

Today’s O Antiphon is heard before the Gospel at Mass and bookending the Magnificat during Evening Prayer.

Old St Thomas Day: O Oriens

St Thomas Fair in Bilbao, northern Spain

Today Thursday 21 December is Old St Thomas Day.

This is Thomas the Apostle or Doubting Thomas who at first could not believe that the crucified Christ was alive.

So, although we now keep St Thomas Day is July, today is a reminder of the later years of the Christ Child.

Some Anglican churches still observe St Thomas Day today and many St Thomas fairs survive in the Basque Country.

It was the day, especially in England, to give to the poor before the great Christmas feast.

Today is the shortest day and its appropriate O Antiphon is O Oriens which means O Morning Star. 

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.

Hear it before and after the Magnificat at Evening Prayer.

Leigh Hatts