Pray for MPs on Boxing Day

Chapel screen at Westminster in 1360s

Boxing Day is St Stephen’s Day when we remember the first Christian martyr.

The cost of following Baby Jesus’ teaching can be high.

Stephen was a deacon and is the patron saint of altar servers, who with the clergy have brought dignity to our Christmas Day liturgy, and international development charity CAFOD.

He is also the patron of the House of Commons which sits in the successor to the Chapel of St Stephen.

Today’s feast day was observed in the chapel at Westminster from 1348 until 1547 when the MPs moved in and sat in the choir.

The old chapel space is now St Stephen’s Hall but MPs still have offices in the chapel cloisters.

So today we might pray for newly elected members that they may have wisdom and seek the common good.

Churches dedicated to Stephen in Blackpool, Bournemouth, Gloucester Road London, Vienna and many other places will be keeping their patronal festival today.

Midnight Mass on Radio 4

St George’s RC Cathedral, Southwark (picture

If you cannot go to Midnight Mass tonight listen on BBC Radio 4 at 11.30pm.

The live broadcast is from St George’s Cathedral in Southwark, the Roman Catholic cathedral opposite the Imperial War Museum.

The entire church was a glorious Pugin building until bombed during the Second World War.

The celebrant and preacher is the new Archbishop of Southwark John Wilson.

We can expect the music under Director of Music Jonathan Schranz to be superb. Hymns include Unto us is born a Son, In the bleak mid-winter and Hark! The herald-angels sing.

The motet is Bethlehem Down which has a setting by Peter Warlock, father of art critic Brian Sewell. The carol was written in 1927 by Bruce Blunt whilst on a moonlit walk with the composer between two Hampshire country pubs.

The Midnight Mass service sheet can be downloaded here.

The Expectation of Mary

Our Lady of the O

Yesterday we imagined Mary and Joseph setting out from Nazareth to reach Bethlehem.

Today we think about Mary’s pregnancy due to an old custom of recalling the Annunciation on 18 December.

This began with the Mozarabic Rite in Toledo and the tradition remains in Spain where they speak of Our Lady of the O as it is the second day of the O Antiphons.

The Expectation was being observed in the 12th century at Barking Abbey and Bury St Edmunds Abbey.

The Expectation of Mary

Mary & Joseph have set out…

The seven O Antiphons

Today is another Advent staging post.

It’s just over a week to go before Christmas and if Mary and Joseph are to be in Bethlehem they will need to have started their 90 mile journey from Nazareth.

By tradition they set out about now and are accompanied by the singing of the O Antiphons at Mass and Vespers or Evensong.

An O Antiphons is said or sung over the next seven days starting today with O Sapientia or O Wisdom inspired by the Old Testament.

You will hear them at a cathedral evensong and find all brought together in the Advent hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel sung to a 15th-century tune.

Britain’s Christmas Story on BBC1

Karen Gibson and Gareth Malone

One reason for the BBC being accused of ignoring religion is that its often very good programmes are hidden.

Britain’s Christmas Story is a good example. Part one was shown yesterday morning. Even the Sunday morning political shows have small audiences. When Robert Peston switched his Sunday morning show to the evening viewing figures shot up.

It’s worth looking at Britain’s Christmas Story on iPlayer.

For an hour Gareth Malone and Karen Gibson consider the origin of Christmas traditions with visits to Hexham Abbey, Walsingham’s Holy House (like Loreto), Salisbury Cathedral, Great St Mary’s at Cambridge and Hampton Court Palace.

At Salisbury there is time to see rehearsals for the Advent carol service which attracts 6,000 people and meet this year’s Girl Bishop trying on her vestments.

In Cambridge there is a long discussion about the time when Cromwell banned Christmas and it was difficult to go to church.

Part two is next Sunday morning but at a different time!

Also worth finding is Lucy Worsley’s Christmas Carol Odessey where she expands on the dancing tunes of Christmas carols mentioned briefly by Gareth Malone in his programme.

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.

Leigh Hatts