Today is the first of the three Sundays of the season of the Church Year called Pre-Lent. This is the season of the Gesimas, that is, Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima, In this season, there is a sort of “sea change” as we begin to turn our thoughts away from the joyous celebrations of the Christmas and Epiphany Seasons, with their focus on the birth and manifestation of Christ, and toward the penitential season of Lent, with its focus on our Lord’s suffering and death. Each year on the Sunday before Septuagesima (the first of the Pre-Lenten Sundays) we sing Alleluia, Song of Sweetness, and this marks the final time we should sing or say Alleluia until the great Alleluias of Easter. In fact, some refer to the final Sunday before Septuagesima as “Farewell to Alleluia Sunday”. In Pre-Lent, the colour of the liturgical vestments and altar hangings changes from green to purple, giving us a visual cue that it is time to begin to prepare ourselves for Lent, the season of penitence and self-examination, but also the season of hope, as we look toward the resurrection of Christ at Easter.
ALMIGHTY and everliving God, we humbly beseech thy Majesty, that, as thy only-begotten Son was this day presented in the temple in substance of our flesh, so we may be presented unto thee with pure and clean hearts, by the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Collect for the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, BCP, p. 266)
The Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, also known as the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin, and often called Candlemas, will be observed with a service of Choral Holy Communion on Thursday, February 2nd, at 7 pm. In the Gospel on page 267 of your Prayer Book you will find a description of what this Holy Day is commemorating. The service will feature a candlelight procession in which all who are present will take part. As we will hear in the Gospel reading, the ancient Simeon greeted the arrival of the Infant Jesus with the words: “Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace.” Simeon recognized the Christ Child as his Saviour and carried Jesus, the Light of the world, in his arms, and so we too will carry our lighted candles as a sign of that Light that came into the world. During this service, all the candles for the next year will be blessed. The music of the service will include the beautiful choral music of Philippe de Rogier, William Byrd and Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, with an organ voluntary by Dietrich Buxtehude.
Our guest preacher will be the Rev’d Dr. Paul Friesen, Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Halifax.
On January 25th, we remember and give thanks for the conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. Paul, known originally as Saul, was born at Tarsus in Cilicia (southern Asia Minor) of Jewish parents, though he was also a Roman citizen from birth. As a young man, he studied in Jerusalem with Gamaliel, the leading scholar and teacher of his time. The young Saul was educated in the strict observance of the Law. Sometime after Our Lord’s death, he left Tarsus and went to Palestine, where he was known as a zealous opponent of the followers of Christ and participated in their persecution. As a young man, he was present at the stoning of St. Stephen. While traveling to Damascus one day in order to arrest some Christians, he was thrown to the ground and saw a vision of Christ, saying “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” From that day forward, he went from being a fierce persecutor of Christians to being the great Apostle to the Gentiles, making three missionary journeys to spread the Gospel to people in distant lands and of different races. Thirteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament were written by St. Paul, so we give thanks both for his journeys taking the Gospel throughout the world and also for his contribution to the Scriptures.
Three Holy Days are traditionally observed on the 26th, 27th and 28th of December. On the 26th, we remember St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, with Morning Prayer at 9:45am and Holy Communion at 10:00am.
On the 27th, we observe the Feast of St. John, the Apostle and writer of the fourth Gospel, with Evening Prayer at 5:30pm, followed by Holy Communion at 5:45pm
On the 28th, we commemorate the Innocents, the little boys who were murdered by King Herod around the time of Christ’s birth in an effort to kill the Messiah, with Morning Prayer at 9:00am and Holy Communion at 10:00am