Loreto’s Holy House is where Christmas began

Our Lady of Loreto has been the patron of pilots since 1920.

The feast of Our Lady of Loreto, also called the Translation of the Holy House, today Thursday 10 December marks the arrival at Loreto in Italy of the house where Mary lived and heard from the angel that she was to give birth to the Messiah.

The little house arrived in 1294. The journey of the 23ft 6in x 12ft 10in building from Nazareth had began in 1291 with a three year pause at Trsat in Croatia where there is a shrine known as the Croatian Nazareth.

The tiny building had stood against a cave which was part of the home. At Loreto it was first at the bottom of the hill for about eight months until lifted up to the summit wreathed in laurels.

The sandstone and brick house without any of its foundations is now encased in marble and enclosed by a large church, the Santuario della Santa Casa built in 1468, just as Christ’s outdoor tomb in Jerusalem is also now protected within a church.

The house was moved from Nazareth via Coatia by a family called Angelos which gave rise to a belief that the building was carried by angels and has resulted in the charming iconography of flying and even swimming angels carrying the little house.

The flying story led to Our Lady of Loreto, whose statue is in the Holy House, being declared the patron of pilots and air crews a century ago this year.

Recent archaeological excavations at Loreto and Nazareth have
confirmed the authenticity of the Holy House.

Many people have been intrigued by Loreto including painter JMW Turner who sketched the Holy House in 1819. John Henry Newman visited in the year of his ordination 1847.

Buried in the basilica’s Lady Chapel is Richard Crashaw, Little St Mary’s Cambridge curate, who in 1648 wrote the Christmas carol Gloomy Night.

Last year Pope Francis restored the feast of Our Lady of Loreto to the universal calendar making it an option for observance today.

The importance of the day is that it allows us now in Advent to recall the Annunciation. The appearance of the angel to Mary, The Annunciation, is observed nine months before Christmas on 25 March when it is also often largely forgotten due to the approach of Easter.

Immaculate Conception remembered in the virus

Flowers will be presented as usual to the Virgin Mary on her column near Rome’s Spanish Steps early on 8 December by the fire service but the Pope’s visit has been cancelled due to the virus.

The Immaculate Conception on 8 December does not celebrate the conception of Jesus but the conception of the Virgin Mary by her mother Anne following normal sexual intercourse with husband Joachim.

Mary’s birth, after Anne’s nine month pregnancy, is observed on 8 September.

The announcement of the Virgin Mary being pregnant with Jesus without sexual intercourse was celebrated at the Annunciation on 25 March and but is also remembered in two days’ time on the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto, also called the Translation of the Holy House.

The dogma of the Immaculate Conception maintains that Mary was born free of original sin in order to preserve the purity of her future son. She was immaculate, meaning spotless and never alienated from God, because she was being prepared for her unique calling.

St John Henry Newman said: ‘She was filled with grace in order to be the Mother of God.’ This reflects God’s call of Jeremiah: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you.’

St nicholas Day

Parish Clerks’ Company banner

Advent is not Christmas but this weekend 5-6 December we can think about Father Christmas because he is derived from St Nicholas.

Or is he St Nicholas as in Holland where last night children this Saturday will put out their shoes hoping for a present?

This year St Nicholas does not get his usual a big day to himself because St Nicholas Day, 6 December, is also the Second Sunday of Advent.

St Nicholas was born into a Christian family in 280 at Patara (now in Turkey) and became Bishop of nearby Myra.

His life has resulted in him being the patron of bankers, single women and pawnbrokers (thanks to a three girls and the bags of gold story) children ( after a pickled boys incident), sailors (following the calming of a storm) and parfumiers and apothecaries (due to the manna from his tomb in Bari, Italy).

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

St andrew’s Day

St Andrew’s relics are in Amalfi Cathedral crypt.

As we enter Advent, the first weekday Monday 30 November is St Andrew’s Day

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

It’s a holiday in Barbados where the crest of the coat of arms is two sugar cane stalks forming a St Andrew’s cross.

The Saxon church at Greensted-Juxta-Ongar in Essex, the oldest log building, is dedicated to St Andrew.

Andrew is one of the Apostles.

Advent Sunday

First Advent candle

Advent starts tonight as darkness falls. Saturday Evensong is the first of Advent. Tomorrow is Advent Sunday when we light the first candle on the wreath.

But it’s not Christmas.

However, it could be the start of a Slow Christmas as we try to live out the lovely special days and significant steps of Advent so that the Christmas Day feast is more appreciated when it comes.

Advent is a time for thinking both about the birth of Christ which will be celebrated at the climax and the coming of Christ again.

Christmas cannot be cancelled by isolation due to the virus. Christian prisoners during the Second World War or people held in Soviet camps counted the days and kept Christmas in their hearts with joy when the day came.

**There is a live stream from Winchester Cathedral at 5.30pm today Saturday for Advent carols.

Advent wreath at St George’s Cathedral, Southwark. See first candle lit during 10am Sunday Mass broadcast online www.stgeorgescathedral.org.uk

Christ the King

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King

This last Sunday before Advent is known as Stir Up Sunday due to the Book of Common Prayer collect for today. This old name is much used now as it is linked to the idea of stirring the Christmas pudding although most puddings will have been maturing for some time.

Many Anglicans can expect hear that old prayer today immediately after communion.

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.

So today is not Christmas but the end of the liturgical year when we celebrate Christ the King. It is the climax of the year we began on Advent Sunday twelve months ago.


Corpus Christi 2020

St Juliana poster 1946

Corpus Christi meaning Body of Christ is a feast of celebration and thanksgiving for the institution of the Holy Communion.

It is kept today 11 June, a Thursday, to recall Maundy Thursday and we celebrate again because normally we can be more joyful now than in Holy Week.

The Mass has been hard to find recently so maybe it’s the moment to read again the reflection by Patrick O’Donovan in 1967 when attempting to explain the significance of the Eucharist:

They do it in colossal cathedrals, on kitchen tables, in chapels built on the cheap, at Baroque altars in which an instant of religious drama has been frozen in stone and contrived light, in rooms over public houses that still smell of beer and occasionally, still, in upper rooms with the doors guarded.

A man bends over a piece of unleavened bread and over a silver gilt cup with a little wine and water in it and he pronounces a formula more terrible than the sound of guns … And the majority of Christians believe that God himself is immediate and present, not in the way that he is everywhere anyway, but in the way that a man is there in the same room.

This celebration day with its processions was introduced by brave and feisty St Juliana of Liege, supported by her friend Blessed Eve, in the face of huge opposition by the male hierarchy.

Juliana said that she was passing on the wish of God for this feast day which we keep now in our hearts and hope to keep with traditional custom next year.

**Whilst Corpus Christi is observed on the traditional Thursday by the Church of England it is being transferred by the Roman Catholic Church in England & Wales to next Sunday. An exception is Arundel Cathedral, famous for its Corpus Christi Thursday carpet of flowers in past years, where there will be a live stream online Corpus Christi Mass tonight Thursday at 6.55pm.

Trinity Sunday 2020

Trinity Chapel at Canterbury

Trinity Sunday was first celebrated by Bishop Stephen of Liège in the early 10th century and by the twelfth century the custom had spread to France where it was observed at Cluny Abbey.

Archbishop Thomas Becket introduced it to England having been consecrated and as Archbishop at Canterbury Cathedral on the Sunday after Pentecost (or Trinity Sunday) 1162.

Appropriately his shrine was to be placed in the Trinity Chapel of Canterbury Cathedral.

In 1334 Pope John XXII added Trinity Sunday to the universal calendar along with next Thursday’s Corpus Christi which also originated in Liège.

The Trinity is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all in one, as alluded to at Christ’s baptism when the Spirit descended as a dove (Mark 1: 9-11).

Today we are sent out from church Sunday by Sunday (maybe online) in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Like St Paul we say in prayer may The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all (2 Corinthians 13: 13).

Ascension Day 2020

Southwark Cathedral by the river depicted on a mug by painter and printmaker Ed Kluz

Ascension Day on Thursday 21 May is the spiritual climax of the year.

This Thursday marks Christ’s last resurrection appearance to the disciples who report seeing him ascend.

St Paul said that Christ had been seen by over 500 men and women between resurrection (Easter) and ascension.

For some years Ascension Day has been largely ignored in Britain whilst understood better in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Finland, Holland, Norway, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland where it is public holiday.

In the British Isles however it is in normal times faithfully kept in many towns and villages which maintain much loved old customs. Oxford, for example, has lots of tower top singing from morning to evening.

So also does Southwark Cathedral where singers are used to climbing the tower early on Ascension morning.

But without this it will still feel an extra special day to those following services on the Southwark Cathedral feed for this will be the first time since mid-Lent that worship comes again from inside the cathedral church.

The Eucharist for Ascension Day at Southwark Cathedral is at 12 noon and can be followed via the website.

Leigh Hatts