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

Corpus Christi in Liege & Maiden Lane

Corpus Christi Church in Maiden Lane where St Juliana is in the top right window

In the Belgian town of Liege this year’s Corpus Christi on Thursday 20 June is being described as the 773rd.

Bishop Jean-Pierre Delville of Liège says: “I am delighted by the growing interest of so many people from Liège and elsewhere for this intangible and spiritual patrimonial treasure of our city. Under the impetus of mystical and socially committed women, especially Saint Julienne de Cornillon, Corpus Christi was created in 1246 in Liège by my predecessor.

It was Saint Julienne de Cornillon, or Juliana as she in known in Britain, who conveyed Christ’s wish that we should have this extra festival in the church calendar. We needed to be able to say thank you for the gift of Holy Communion with a joy that is difficult on Maundy Thursday in Holy Week.

This is why Corpus Christi is on a Thursday although many now celebrate on the nearest Sunday.

Most, but not all, Roman Catholic churches in England and Wales will mark it on Sunday.

The exceptions include Arundel Cathedral where a street procession to the castle follows Mass.

Another church keeping the feast on both days is Corpus Christi Maiden Lane Church in London’s Covent Garden.

This delightful little church has an image of St Juliana in a window behind the high altar. After Sunday morning’s Mass there is procession round the Covent Garden piazza and passing, in an ecumenical gesture, under the porch of St Paul’s Church.

An ecumenical Corpus Christi procession in Mayfair will follow Sunday’s 11am Sung Eucharist at The Grosvenor Chapel and the 11am Sung Latin Mass at Farm Street Church.

Another procession begins at 5pm on Sunday from the Assumption Church in Warwick Street W1B 5LZ and makes its way to St James’s Spanish Place in Marylebone.

But Anglican All Saints Margaret Street W1 will take its procession along Oxford Street on Thursday following a 6.30pm Mass.

An early 20th-century image of St Juliana of Liege

Trinity Sunday

Holy Trinity Trowbridge

Trinity Sunday marks the end of the great liturgies of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter.

We are about to enter ordinary time. This is time is live out the faith after the renewal of the Easter season.

The ancient celebrations will be found this weekend at Kirtlington in Oxfordshire where there is the Lamb Ale feast with lots of morris dancing.

At Rothwell in Northamptonshire the ‘Rowell Fair’ opens at 3pm in the afternoon following a civic service in Holy Trinity Church. The ancient traditional celebrations are on Trinity Monday starting at 6am outside Rothwell Church.

Trinity Sunday, in honour of God the father, Son and Holy Spirit, was invented in Liege and brought to England from Normandy by St Thomas Becket when Archbishop of Canterbury.

Liege also gave us Corpus Christi which is observed later in the week or next Sunday.

Leigh Hatts