Feb 2nd is a turning point in the year: there’s that thing with the ground-hog, and there’s the Blue Hag of the Highlands, and Imbolg, but at Manning and Ulster we celebrate Candlemas. I suppose I’ve witnessed five Candlemas services at the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene now, and this year was just as memorable as the last four. A day of doom was forecast by the weather people, but that storm turned into a gentle shower of fluffy stuff that just made trudging to church with my tuna casserole all the more scenic. Seventy brave souls did make it out to Mass and enjoyed the anticipated potluck – a deserved reward for those who make it out to mid-week winter feasts at St. Mary Mag’s. The choir was healthy enough to sing Willan Mass #12 and Eccard’s motet “When to the temple Mary went” in 6 parts very beautifully. This celebration has been a favourite of mine since coming to SMM, probably because I have a soft spot for candles, and we all get to walk around carrying them, and singing Divinum Mysterium. What could be better? But I’d have to give Father David credit for pointing out some details that made the evening more meaningful. If you’re interested in renaissance art, you’ve probably seen these gorgeous paintings of the Presentation. There are always signature objects to look for – the baby, the old man Simeon being astonished, and a couple of doves in a cage. Fr David pointed out that the pair of pigeons given as an offering was a sign that you were poor (not evident judging by the lavish costumes in this painting) and in fact the birds were not so much of an offering as a “ransom” that needed to be paid to get the baby back. Harsh – yet suddenly the words of the hymn “Hail to the Lord who comes” by John Ellerton take on new meaning. The hymn is sung to a marvelous tune by Healey Willan called “Presentation.” If you’re really interested I’ll write the words out for you.
The rest of my week has been spent composing music to winter words (a poem by my sister is top on the list right now), playing the piano for Verdi Requiem rehearsal, worrying about Egypt, and attending Debussy’s opera “Pelleas et Melisande.”