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My latest instalment on what Episcopal priests are thinking about involves respecting the Church calendar.

The following tweets come from the Revd Scott Gunn, an Anglo-Catholic serving in a Midwestern city. He is also the executive director of Forward Movement in the Episcopal Church, a co-author of Faithful Questions: Exploring the Way with Jesus and a religious editorial writer for Fox News.

Epiphany

We are in the last few Sundays of the season of Epiphany, so let’s make the most of them. We should be grateful for the Lord God sending His only begotten Son who died for our sins:

And, while we are at it, let’s forget this abominable modern concept of ‘Ordinary Time’ in the Church calendar, as promulgated by Roman Catholics. Sadly, it has spread to some liturgical Protestant churches. How can Sunday worship or the Church calendar ever involve something ‘ordinary’?

Someone replying suggested developing an Episcopal Church of Twitter. Count me in. It’s a darn sight more traditional and meaningful than many Episcopal Church witterings. That goes for the Church of England, too.

Septuagesima Sunday

In my post with the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany — Year A, I later updated it to say that February 9, 2020, was Septuagesima Sunday, the seventh Sunday before Easter. Next Sunday will be Sexagesima Sunday and the one after that Quinquagesima Sunday.

Until Vatican II modernised the Catholic Church, that was the Sunday that signalled the beginning of Lent for traditionalists. In old money, Lent would have started on Monday, February 10. Now Lent begins on Ash Wednesday for nearly everyone. You can read more about the Sundays before Easter below, including the season of Shrovetide in my post below:

Shrovetide — a history

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation (the Sundays that define Shrovetide)

The readings for the latter Sundays in the season of Epiphany begin to move towards a call to repentance, and this was evident in the first reading from Isaiah as well as the Gospel reading for February 9.

Scott Gunn reminded us of our traditions, which some of his readers had also noticed:

Other Episcopal priests also remembered it was Septuagesima Sunday:

There was a bit more about the importance of the Gesimas in terms of our souls:

Holy Week

Then we discover that Holy Week is a separate season from Lent. This I did not know. I was not alone:

Either way, penitence, prayer and fasting still apply to the final days before Easter.

Corpus Christi

Mr Gunn also reminded us of the feast of Corpus Christi, which is the Thursday or the Sunday following Trinity Sunday. (Corpus Christi is Latin for Body of Christ.) It is still commemorated in the Church of England on the first Thursday after Trinity:

This is the modern version of the Collect from that liturgy:

Lord Jesus Christ,

we thank you that in this wonderful sacrament

you have given us the memorial of your passion:

grant us so to reverence the sacred mysteries

of your body and blood

that we may know within ourselves

and show forth in our lives

the fruits of your redemption;

for you are alive and reign with the Father

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

An Episcopal priest replying to him was in a lather, tweeting in all caps. It culminated in this exchange, which clarified that the priest was angry about Maundy Thursday as the institution of Holy Communion at the Last Supper:

Oh, dear. I connect both with Holy Communion.

In closing, it is good to see that so many clergy — and laity — still place importance on the traditional Sundays of the Church calendar. Long may it last.

I hope more follow their example.

Centuries ago in the east and the north of England, shortly after Epiphany, agricultural workers returned to the fields following a rest during the Christmas season.

Plough Monday was the first Monday after Epiphany. Although this tradition has its origins with the Northern Goths and Swedes, as the Church became rooted in England, it became a religious day with farmers bringing ploughs to the church to be blessed and donations made to keep the church’s plough light lit all year round, as a way of asking for God’s blessing on the land.

During the Reformation, the religious aspect was abolished by law. The day turned into a time of secular celebration with plough competitions and a good meal at the end of the day before a return to toil the next day in the cold outdoors.

You can read more about Plough Monday below. It is still celebrated in some towns, though often on a weekend now:

The English tradition of Plough Monday (2016)

Plough Monday — the Monday after Epiphany (2017)

January 7 was traditionally known as St Distaff’s Day, a facetious name for the day when women returned to spinning wool, flax and other fibres after Christmas holidays. A distaff is a dowel used in spinning. ‘Distaff’ is a word still used today to describe a wife: ‘distaff half’. It is also used in horse racing; a distaff race features all-female horses. You can read more about St Distaff’s Day in the post below:

St Distaff’s Day — Distaff Day: January 7

It was a day that featured a return to work, but not without some gentle fun and games involving ladies pouring water over men who attempted to burn their flax.

From these traditions, we can better understand the ancient tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas, an annual time of rest for many.

The next instalment of Forbidden Bible Verses will be posted tomorrow.

In 1818, John Keats’s poem Endymion was published.

It begins with these verses:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

I think of the first line often, especially when I look at architecture.

One of the joys of living in Europe is becoming acquainted with the architectural styles particular to each country. Even without a photograph identification, even an amateur architecture buff can often tell where the photo was taken.

However, since the end of the Second World War, eyesores have appeared everywhere, springing from a hyper-functional Bauhaus style taken to the nth degree.

Architectural Revival‘s Twitter account profiles the best of traditional architecture and the worst of the modern. They also retweet others on the subject.

Here is an example of British post-war architecture in Birmingham:

Of course, this goes on in non-European Western countries, too.

This man makes an excellent point. Please click on the first photo. It is inexplicable that Twitter would deem it ‘sensitive content’:

Returning to Britain, the postwar era also saw homeowners ruin pre-war homes. It was positively encouraged:

Here’s the video. By way of explanation, the late magician Paul Daniels appeared on BBC’s Room 101 to lament interior designers. Paul Merton, the show’s host, then showed Barry Bucknell’s instructions.

The man who owned our house during the 1960s must have seen this on television, because our interior house doors were like this, too. No longer, I am happy to say:

This was also the era of modern council estates. No matter where they are located — Britain, the US, France and elsewhere in the West — they became a bedrock for crime and gangs.

These tweets concern an example in London:

We are often told that architects can no longer design traditional buildings — things of beauty which are joys forever — because of the lack of building materials or techniques.

However, that is not true, as we can see in Germany:

Architects have done traditional rebuilds in Poland, too:

People enjoy not only seeing traditional buildings but also living in traditional houses.

When the Prince of Wales’s Poundbury community was being built nearly 20 years ago, it came in for much criticism and derision. Yet, 17 years on, the houses are maturing well:

Wow!

A return to traditional homes is taking place in Belgium, too:

However, we have had the Bauhaus-gone-mad style for so long because there is more money in it.

Roger Scruton is an English philosopher with a keen interest in traditional architecture. Unfortunately, he is being treated for cancer at present. I wish him all the best:

Scruton explains the architectural money angle involved:

People don’t like boxes. Comments to that tweet follow:

Architects and planners tell people who love traditional architecture that they are too stupid or ‘uninformed’ to appreciate modern buildings. This is what is happening to the iconic Château Laurier in Ottawa:

Again, more negative comments followed that tweet:

And this is what is happening to historic Allerton Manor outside of Liverpool. Words cannot describe it:

Even a young architect criticised the monstrosity:

The Ottawa and Liverpool eyesores make this one — location unknown — look good by comparison:

Fortunately, Roger Scruton’s many lectures and articles on traditional beauty are gaining ground:

Even an Austrian school is quoting him to youngsters:

Beauty IS important to people. Likewise, tradition.

Let’s help to put a stop to those who want us to live in boxes. Let’s educate each other and our children: it IS possible to build structures incorporating tradition and beauty.

————————————————————————————————-

Forbidden Bible Verses will appear on Monday, August 26.

March 30, 2019 is Laetare Sunday, which is Mothering Sunday here in the UK.

To all the British mums reading this, I wish you a very happy day with family. (Commiserations on the move to British Summer Time.)

Laetare Sunday was the day that Britons and others in Anglophone countries worshipped at their ‘mother’ church. Afterwards, the congregation gathered round the church and held hands to ‘clip’ it, showing their love for and solidarity with it.

Servants were given time to make a Simnel cake ahead of time to give to their mothers that day. Nowadays, Simnel cake is more often served at Easter. Its 12 marzipan balls symbolise Christ and his faithful 11 Apostles.

Celebrants in the Catholic and Anglican traditions often wore a pink vestment on Laetare Sunday, as it is the one joyful day of worship during Lent.

It is so called for the ancient Introit, which includes these words:

“Laetare Jerusalem” (“O be joyful, Jerusalem”)

Catholics have a longstanding tradition dating back to the Middle Ages of the Golden Rose, which the Pope can award at his discretion to worthy dignitaries for an exemplary life. The University of Notre Dame in Indiana awards its Laetare Medal on this day to a deserving recipient. The Golden Rose symbolises our Lord who sprang from the root of Jesse’s tree like a flower (Isaiah 11:1).

Laetare Sunday was known as ‘the Sunday of the Five Loaves’, as the Feeding of the Five Thousand was the original Gospel reading, prior to the incursion of the Lectionary.

You can read more about Laetare Sunday in the posts below:

Laetare Sunday, Mother’s Day and the Golden Rose

Laetare Sunday is Mothering Sunday

Now onto the readings for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

This passage from Joshua is about the Lord’s gift of Gilgal to the Israelites. Once they could eat abundantly, He withdrew His merciful supply of manna. The Lord provides for His people.

Joshua 5:9-12

5:9 The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.

5:10 While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho.

5:11 On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain.

5:12 The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year.

Psalm

The Lord is good, therefore, we should rejoice and be glad. He forgives the iniquities of those who repent. The righteous receive His many blessings. ‘Selah’, incidentally, means ‘heed these words’, ‘pay close attention’. Verse 8 is David’s message of instruction to his people. He took a long time, because of stubbornness, to repent of his sins (verses 3, 4). This Psalm is a maschil, a teaching Psalm.

Psalm 32

32:1 Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

32:2 Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

32:3 While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

32:4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

32:6 Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.

32:7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah

32:8 I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

32:9 Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.

32:10 Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

32:11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

Epistle

Paul’s message to the Corinthians is an uplifting one. We are reconciled to God through His Son Christ Jesus. As such, all things become new for the faithful. Therefore, we must be ambassadors for Christ and live in righteousness.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.

5:17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;

5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

5:20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Gospel

This Sunday’s Gospel is the Parable of the Prodigal Son, most troublesome to many of us for various reasons. Although the Lectionary compilers include Luke’s introduction, it would have been welcome had they also included the Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, which add to the context.

It says something about modern society that we cannot bear listening to Scripture! Seven extra verses! ‘Quick, I gotta get to the mall’ or ‘Johnny can’t be late for football practice’. Woe are we.

Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

15:1 Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.

15:2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

15:3 So he told them this parable:

15:11b “There was a man who had two sons.

15:12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them.

15:13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.

15:14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need.

15:15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs.

15:16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.

15:17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger!

15:18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;

15:19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”‘

15:20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.

15:21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

15:22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe–the best one–and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

15:23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;

15:24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

15:25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing.

15:26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.

15:27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’

15:28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.

15:29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.

15:30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’

15:31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

15:32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.'”

Here are the missing verses:

4 What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Or what woman, having ten silver coins,[a] if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

It took me many years to come to grips with this parable, often misused in family situations. I had to do a lot of research on it, because most of the sermons about it are what we’ve been hearing all these years.

Three lessons: one, it was intended for the Jewish hierarchy and, two, Jesus was referring to the lost tribes of Israel.

And, finally — most especially for Christians — it has to do with the last-minute repentant sinner, whom we should celebrate. As the father in the parable said, inspiring Amazing Grace, the brother was dead but came to life, was lost and now found.

I hope these posts help explain it (sources within):

Historical meaning of the Parable of the Prodigal Son

Everyone sees older brother as bad

The Prodigal Son, public policy and churchgoers

The Parable of the Prodigal Son and brothers in Genesis

The Parable of the Prodigal Son relates to the lost tribes of Israel

It’s a difficult parable but relatively simple when placed in context.

May everyone reading this enjoy a blessed Laetare Sunday.

Epiphany Magi salesianity_blogspot_comChristmastide ends on January 5, Twelfth Night.

January 6 is the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord. These posts explain its significance as well as old traditions that developed centuries ago:

A Lutheran pastor reflects on the Epiphany

More Lutheran reflections on the Epiphany

Remembering the Epiphany in chalk

The Epiphany and the Bible

Why the Epiphany is so important — a Lutheran perspective

A Lutheran perspective on the Magi

Jesuit astronomer discusses the Star of Bethlehem (2016)

What to remember about Epiphany (2016)

Epiphany and king cake — a history

The readings for Epiphany follow, with posts discussing each one, except for the Psalm.

First reading

This post discusses the reading from Isaiah:

Epiphany — Old Testament reading — Isaiah 60:1-6

Isaiah 60:1-6

60:1 Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.

60:2 For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.

60:3 Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

60:4 Lift up your eyes and look around; they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from far away, and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.

60:5 Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice, because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you, the wealth of the nations shall come to you.

60:6 A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the LORD.

Psalm

The Psalm mentions kings from far away bringing gifts to honor the king’s son. Although David appears to have written this for his son, Solomon, it also prophesies Christ and His Kingdom.

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

72:1 Give the king your justice, O God, and your righteousness to a king’s son.

72:2 May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.

72:3 May the mountains yield prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness.

72:4 May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.

72:5 May he live while the sun endures, and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.

72:6 May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass, like showers that water the earth.

72:7 In his days may righteousness flourish and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

72:10 May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute, may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.

72:11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service.

72:12 For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper.

72:13 He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.

72:14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.

Epistle

This post discusses Paul’s message to the Ephesians:

Epiphany — Epistle — Ephesians 3:1-12

Ephesians 3:1-12

3:1 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles–

3:2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you,

3:3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words,

3:4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ.

3:5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:

3:6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

3:7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s grace that was given me by the working of his power.

3:8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ,

3:9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;

3:10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

3:11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,

3:12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.

Gospel

This post elaborates Matthew’s account of evil Herod wishing to see the child the Magi — all of whom were Gentiles — called ‘king of the Jews’:

Epiphany — Epistle — Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

2:1 In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,

2:2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.”

2:3 When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him;

2:4 and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.

2:5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

2:6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'”

2:7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared.

2:8 Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”

2:9 When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.

2:10 When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.

2:11 On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

2:12 And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Over the years I have really come to look forward to and better appreciate Epiphany. It is always that much more special when this feast day falls on a Sunday.

I hope that you have a blessed Epiphany.

Happy New Year to all my readers!

May 2019 be a year of blessings, comfort, health and prosperity!

On a serious note, traditionally, January 1 is the feast of the Circumcision and Naming of Christ Jesus, about which you can read more below:

January 1 – Feast of the Circumcision of Christ (2010)

New Year’s Day: the Circumcision — and Naming — of Christ Jesus

Circumcision of Christ stained glassThe stained glass window at left, depicting our Lord’s circumcision, is probably the only one of its kind in existence. It was originally made in the mid-15th century for the Crutched Friars in Cologne, Germany, and is now displayed in the Cloisters Museum in Manhattan. You can read more about it below:

New Year’s greetings — and the Feast of the Circumcision

It is always interesting to contemplate how closely the Holy Family obeyed Jewish laws and traditions. Surely, given that Jesus is Messiah, they did not need to, but they did — because they loved God and they wanted to obey Him.

The greatest sign of obedience was the Crucifixion, the ultimate, all-sufficient sacrifice that Jesus made for our sins.

For all the ‘fun’ we might be having at this time, may we be always mindful of our all-loving Creator who sent His Only Begotten Son to us to humble Himself as Saviour and Redeemer.

Below are past posts about the surprising history behind Christmas traditions.

I have also included Christian reflections on our Lord’s birth.

Some are bound to be eye-openers. For starters, historically, Christmas wasn’t always a pious time of year, and it is acceptable to write ‘Xmas’. In the present day, attitudes towards Christmas have been changing in the United States:

A Lutheran defence of Nativity scenes and crucifixes

The case for Xmas — yes, Xmas

Christmas prayer intentions

Martin Luther on the birth of Jesus

Carol services: ‘Christmas as secular entertainment’

Jesus’s nature as depicted in Christmas carols

Jesus, the ‘born leader’

What we can learn from Christmas — humility

Angel imagery in Christmas carols (Dr Paul Copan on how the Bible portrays them)

Jesuit astronomer discusses the Star of Bethlehem (2016)

The Christmas tree — a history (related to Christianity)

Christmas gifts — a history (and a Christian defence thereof)

Christmas feasting and revelry (the rehabilitation of Christmas)

British attitudes towards Christmas

Detail from Pew Research on Christmas celebrations and beliefs in the US (2017)

Take a break from gift wrapping and cooking to have a look!

And to everyone who is celebrating a birthday today — Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year — have a happy one. May your year ahead be merry and bright!

When I was growing up, Holy Saturday was our family’s big shopping day.

As Lent would end that evening, we could have a mini-feast then and a grand repast for Easter.

Many countries have Christian food traditions for Holy Saturday. The following post discusses those in Eastern European countries:

Holy Saturday and food traditions

The much-loved doyenne of home cookery, Mary Berry, presented an excellent two-part programme for the BBC in 2016 on other Easter traditions around the world, summarised below:

Easter food explored — part 1

Easter food explored — part 2

However, foremost in our minds is the religious aspect of Holy Saturday:

What happens on Holy Saturday?

Joseph of Arimathea fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:9. The whole chapter is worth reading and meditating upon as we approach Easter Day:

53 Who has believed what he has heard from us?[a]
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected[b] by men,
    a man of sorrows[c] and acquainted with[d] grief;[e]
and as one from whom men hide their faces[f]
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;[g]
when his soul makes[h] an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see[i] and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,[j]
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,[k]
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53 is a good chapter to consider as we contemplate the Crucifixion and anticipate our Lord’s Resurrection.

Last year, I wrote an extensive post on Plough Monday, which is the first Monday after Epiphany:

The English tradition of Plough Monday

I thought I had covered the waterfront with regard to this ancient festival but found more history about the day that signalled a return to full time agricultural work on the Tuesday.

Ploughing matches

When Plough Monday was widely celebrated, some farmers would have had their ploughs blessed at church on Sunday. Other villages had a communal plough at the church which was blessed annually.

In some areas, ploughing matches took place, which gathered crowds of onlookers. The Cottage at the End of a Lane has an old colour photo of one such contest, likely to have been in Suffolk.

The author points out:

The men who walked 10 miles a day in all weathers back in the day would have smiled to see people nowadays doing it for fun or to keep the memory alive. Most of them welcomed the arrival of tractors.

I bet they did.

Traditional poems

The Cottage at the End of a Lane also has a traditional poem:

Plough deep while sluggards sleep:
and you shall have corn to sell and keep.

Turn out for Plough Monday
Up, fellows now
Buckle the horses 
And Follow the plough. 

Plough Monday started with chores before everyone moved on to festivities. This was to show willingness to work hard in the year ahead. As I mentioned in last year’s post, a kitchen maid was given a cockerel for Shrovetide before Lent. A contest between the maids in the kitchen and the men in the fields took place to see if the maids could keep their cockerels. If one of the men was able to get some of his farming implements by the fireside before the kitchen maid got her kettle on, then she forfeited her cockerel — ‘cocke’ in the poem which follows.

In the 1500s, a gentleman farmer by the name of Thomas Tusser penned these lines, featured on Legendary Dartmoor:

Good huswives, whom God hath enriched ynough,

forget not the feasts that belong to the plough:

The meaning is only to joy and to be glad,

for comfort with labour is fit to be had…

Plough Monday, nest after that twelftide is past,

bids out with the plough, the worst husband is last:

If plowman get hatchet, or whip to the skreene,

maids loseth their cocke, if no water be seen.

Thomas Tusser (1524-1580) was born in Essex, the county to the east of London. He was part of the choir at St Paul’s Cathedral before studying at Eton and going up to King’s College, then to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, for his university education.

He spent ten years serving as a musician for William Paget, 1st Baron Paget of Beaudesart, before marrying and farming in Cattawade, Suffolk, near the River Stour. His first wife was sickly, and he abandoned farming so they could move to Ipswich. After her death, he remarried and resumed farming, with interruptions for illness or escaping the plague of 1572-1573. When he died in London in 1580, he owned a small estate at at Chesterton, Cambridgeshire. According to contemporary accounts, he not only farmed arable land but also raised livestock. He did not make much money and lived frugally.

Tusser wrote many agricultural poems which laid out the best traditional methods of farming and raising livestock, most famously in A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie, first published in 1557. In 1573, he expanded his original work and published Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry.

Tusser most likely saw his fair share of Plough Mondays.

Devon customs

Legendary Dartmoor‘s post, ‘Plough Monday’, reveals a local custom that invokes ‘The Spirit of the Harvest’:

In order to add some extra clout to the devotions to the ‘Spirit of the Harvest’ it was also imperative to plough the ‘neck‘ or ‘corn dolly‘ which was taken from the previous harvest into the first furrow ploughed either on or just after Plough Monday. To do this would ensure a good harvest but to fail to observe this tradition was to invite ‘tare and rook’ to decimate the growing crop.

Another is more modern:

I don’t know if it was just a family thing but I can remember uncle always sprinkled a, “drap o’ firejuice,” on the plough shares before the first furrow was cut. It must have been a pretty serious belief because it was unheard of for any relation of old ‘John Barleycorn’ to go anywhere but down his throat.

This is encouraging:

It appears that the tradition of Plough Monday died out on the moor around the late 1900’s but the church blessing has been revived by some Young Farmer’s clubs.

Regional celebrations

In 2018, Plough Monday was January 8.

Durham

Durham held their festivities on Sunday, January 7 (photo at the link):

Come and join us in our drawing of the Plough from Durham Market Place to the Palace Green to be received by the Dean of Durham Cathedral.

There we’ll welcome in the traditional start of the agricultural year with Morris and Sword Dancing, Music and Ceremony!

Celebrations for Plough Sunday, a traditional English festival, are being revived in Durham this weekend. Drawing a plough into the Cathedral, they will be invited inside by the Dean, who will give them a commemorative four pence in a re-enactment of Plough Sunday celebrations that took place in 1413.

The afternoon will continue with a music session and bar at the John Duck, Claypath.

All welcome!

That sounds very traditional.

Balsham

In Cambridgeshire, the village of Balsham revived Plough Monday festivities in 1972.

The Balsham Ploughmen site has their whole modern-day story. Incredibly, Plough Monday has been celebrated there every year since to raise money for charity.

In 1972, the original organisers studied the village plough, built between 1680-1720, and constructed a new one based on the design of the old one using 100-year-old wood.

The organisers and a team of volunteers go to houses and pubs to collect money and sell raffle tickets:

Money is collected at each stop and along the streets, from one end of the village to the other and there is a raffle at the finishing pub. However, the chief means of fundraising, which justifies such activity in what is usually one of the coldest nights of the winter, is the traditional “horseplay”. There is a great deal of banter among the Ploughmen, Cambridge Morris Men and the followers.

The cries of “pity the poor ole ploughboy” together with the rattle of collecting tins and the jingle of the Morris Men’s bells signals that Plough Monday is with us again.

Then:

The day following Plough Monday has evolved into “Harrowing Tuesday” when Ploughmen, members of the team and their families traditionally meet for lunch of bangers and mash and discuss the events of the previous evening – the name does tend to reflect the fragile state of the team rather than an agricultural reference.

The Balsham Ploughmen have been highly successful:

Plough Monday 2017 has broken all fundraising records!

We were once again out and about on 9th January 2017 with the Cambridge Morris Men fundraising for Balsham 2nd Brownies, Buttercups Community Pre-School and a village defibrillator …

This year’s total was a massive £3,219.50!

I hope they had another great success this year.

It is marvellous that people in England still care about Plough Monday, an ancient tradition that deserves to keep going for generations to come.

This week I learned of another old English tradition, St Distaff’s Day — the day after Epiphany.

While there is no St Distaff — a facetious name — January 7 was the day when women returned to spinning wool, flax or other fibres after the twelve days of Christmas.

A distaff is a ‘roc’ or ‘rock’ — a rod or dowel — used in spinning. It was used before spinning wheels were invented. It holds the unspun fibres and keeps them untangled. Wikipedia has an excellent entry with ancient illustrations of distaffs.

January 7 is also known as Distaff Day or Roc Day.

As spinning was a female occupation, the English language has two words emanating from it: spinster (never-married woman) and distaff (referring to the matrilineal branch of a family, e.g. ‘distaff half’ for ‘wife’). A distaff race means that all the horses running are female.

Breathing in books has a poem by Robert Herrick (1591-1674), which he wrote for January 7. It involves a custom of:

high jinks in which men and women engage in a battle of the sexes with the men trying to steal away and burn the women’s flax while the women respond by trying to throw water over the men (not much fun in January in my opinion!). However, [Steve] Roud [author of The English Year] points out that other, later, sources all seem very similar and vague and it seems likely that they all used Herrick’s poem as their sole source on the tradition.

This is Herrick’s poem:

St. Distaff’s Day or the Morrow After Twelfth Day

Partly work and partly play,
Ye must on S. Distaff’s day
From the plough soon free your team;
Then come home and fother them.
If the maids a spinning go,
Burn the flax, and fire the tow:
Scorch their plackets, but beware,
That ye singe no maiden-hair.
Bring in pails of water then,
Let the maids bewash the men.
Give S. Distaff all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good night;
And next morrow, every one
To his own vocation.

In closing, the Monday after Epiphany is Plough Monday, which sometimes coincides with St Distaff’s Day, depending on the calendar year.

Tomorrow: More Plough Monday traditions

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