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Magazine May 2020

Unfortunately another copy on line. Please feel free to copy it, or print it off, and pass it on to others.

This magazine focusses on the month of May. May 1st is a day of celebration and revelry and much has pagan roots. The month ends with two Christian festivals, Ascension Day and Pentecost and features extracts from the church magazine 100 years ago. Two light hearted articles include an imaginary conversation between God and Adam, with whom we can sympathise, and Charlie’s musings about the present situation. Finally there is a translation of the Latin anthem sung in Oxford on May Day.

Any thoughts about the June magazine would be welcome and hopefully it will not be just on line.

Keep safe and healthy. Eva.

The month of May – Mary’s month.

The month is possibly named after the Greek goddess, Maia, the goddess of fertility. The Roman goddess of fertility was Bona Dea. The Roman poet, Ovid, said the month was named for the ‘elders’ i.e. ‘maiores’.

The month’s stone is the emerald which is a symbol of love and success. Two flowers are liked to May. Firstly the Hawthorn or May. This second name is linked to the way it was the main flower used in the garlands made on that day in many parts of the country and for the crowning of the May queen. Secondly the Lily of the Valley is a symbol of sweetness and love.

Like most months there are two signs of the Zodiac ; Taurus up to the 19th and then Gemini. Taurus is ruled by Venus and so has traits of beauty, artistry and love of luxury and comfort. They are stubborn and can be a bit of a ‘dark horse’. They as practical, determined and ambitious. Gemini, whose sign are twins, are more like ‘social butterflies’ and are apt to flit from hobby to hobby, between careers and groups of friends. They are playful, intellectually curious and quick witted. My mother blamed this, her sign, to the fact she had twins and so did her cousin.

Two meteor showers occur this month. Eta Aquarieds up to the 20th and the Arietids from the 22nd.

What birds can be linked to May? One is obvious as ‘the cuckoo comes in April and sings his song in May’. Yet so few are heard now a days it does not seem appropriate. The one I always associated with the month was the swallow as I watched for the first one and like the cuckoo is not so frequently seen around here. As I watch a blackbird each morning collecting nesting material and hear it singing so sweetly at daybreak and dusk this seems a fitting choice. By May it will be searching for food as it feeds its brood in the nest it builds next door. The male and female are very different. The male is a shining black with a distinctive orange beak while the female is a dull brown with a less colourful beak. It will be able to sit on the nest and be less conspicuous as it blends into the colours of the nest. You might select a different one.

Traditions associated with May.

May day celebrations possibly replaced the pagan festival marking the beginning of summer. This was a form of sun worship and signified the fertility of the land. Branches of trees in leaf and wild flowers were used to decorate the houses and in doing so brought the fertilising power of nature into the community. Then sycamore trees were often called ‘may trees’. The Celtic word for this festival was Beltane. Often bonfires were lit during the night before and this custom is observed in parts of Europe today where festivals welcome the coming of spring.

Today fewer places mark May Day in the traditional way. Now called Labour Day is it is longer a time to focus on the beginning of spring. However tradition continues in many places although not nearly as widespread as they were. Looking back many years I can remember these celebrations happening in the area around Oxford involving the whole of the people in villages around.

Many of you will be familiar with the May day events in Oxford although they have changed over the years. Singing starts at the top of Magdalen College tower at 6 am. This tradition began years ago to celebrate the completion of the tower. Then folk songs were sung. Now it begins with the singing of Hymnus Eucharisticus written by a graduate of the college and set to music by B. Rogers. {A translation from Latin will be found at the end of the magazine.} The singing was followed by the bells ringing for about 20 minutes but I understand this does not happen so frequently now. Morris dancing takes place in Radcliffe Square near by. The jumping off the bridge into the river has been stopped since a man paralysed himself when he broke his back. The river is not as deep as it used to be. Today these celebration follow a night time of revelry which did not happen until recently so the May day celebrations mark the conclusion, not the start, of the festivities.

Other traditions, which seem to have sadly disappeared from many places, included the crowning of the May Queen. She was a child from the village school, chosen by pupils, to lead the procession, with her maids of honour, to be crowned by a wreath of spring flowers. All the participants would have made garlands of flowers or carried sprigs of May blossom as they followed the Queen of May to the Morris dancing and folk dancing by everyone. A May pole was often found. Children would then weave the ribbons as they danced until the pole was covered from top to bottom with a blaze of colour. There are four different dances that can be performed. Maypole dancing continues to occur in Worcester at Offenham. It was banned by the Puritans at the Reformation but has since been revived.

In Cornwall there are two celebrations of note; the ‘Obby ‘Orse in Padstow and the May Horns in Penzance.

There is also a celebration whereby a model boat is decorated with greenery and after leading a procession round the village is taken to the beach. Here it is launched when the tide is favourable so the sins and the devil can be sent away. [I have seen it over 50 years ago and I have forgotten the name of the beach and do not know if it still happens. I know the others do.]

The ‘Obby ‘Orse leads the dancing through Padstow. This is combined with folk singing. The May Horn in Penzance celebrates an older tradition whereby sycamore trees were stripped of the branches for the making of whistles, some form of musical instrument. Now a pole surmounted with a wooden horn and flowers are paraded round the town accompanied with dancing and singing. [I have not seen either of these.]

A number of traditions link this month to Mary; hence Mary’s month. In the 13th century Alfonso wrote about honouring Mary on certain days of the month. The origin of these Mary devotions is unknown. Herbert Thurston records that the earliest instances of special observances was in the 17th century. In about 1739 Marian devotions were seen in Grezzano near Verona. The Archbishop of Genoa recommended May devotions to Mary in the home in 1747. By 1838 specific prayers were promulgated in Rome.

The present form of Mary devotions, according to Frederick Holweck, began in Rome when Fr. Latomia of the Roman College of the Society of Jesus sought to counteract infidelity and immorality among the students in the 18th century. By 1813 May devotions were held in 20 churches in Rome and soon spread to France. Private devotions were practised in Belgium as early as 1803. By the 19th century the month long May devotion was world wide. Pope Paul VI supported the devotions in his Mense Mario in 1965.

One practice, possibly stemming from Southern Europe, is the May altar decorated with pictures of Mary, candles, and flowers in homes and churches. The altar is the focus of the devotions including saying the Rosary, reciting Hail Mary, and singing songs focusing on Mary. e.g:-

“Hail Virgin, dearest Mary! Our lovely Queen of May! O spotless, blessed Lady, Our lovely Queen of May.” “Mary. Queen of May, we come and greet you. Look at us at your feet.” “O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today! Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May. O Mary we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.”

In Eastern churches, crowning Mary was popular. An icon of Mary was decorated with flowers or with just a golden ribbon.
Many of you will be aware of the celebrations at Fatima in Portugal beginning on May 13th.. This marks the final appearance of the Lady of the Rosary to the 3 peasant children.

Noah’s excuses for not completing the ark on time.

And the Lord said to Noah; “Where is the ark which I commanded thee to build?”

And Noah said unto the Lord, “Verily, I have three carpenters off ill. The gopherwood supplier hath let me down – yea, even though the gopherwood hath been on order for nigh upon 50 years. What can I do O Lord?”

And God said unto Noah: “I want that ark finished even after seven days and seven nights.”

And Noah said: “It will be so.” And it was not so.

And the lord said unto Noah: “What seemeth to be the trouble this time?”

And Noah said unto the Lord: “Mine subcontractor has gone bankrupt. The pitch Thou commandest me to put on the outside of the ark hath not arrived. The plumber has gone on strike. Shem, my son who helpeth me on the ark on the ark side of the business, hath formed a pop group with his brothers Ham and Japheth. Lord, I am undone.”

And the Lord grew angry and said: “And what about the animals, the male and female of every sort that I ordered to come unto thee to keep their seed upon the face of the earth?”

And Noah said: “They have been delivered to the wrong address but should arriveth on Friday.”

And the Lord said: “How about the unicorn, and the fowls of the air by seven?”

And Noah rang his hands and wept, saying:”Lord, unicorns are a discontinued line, thou canst not get them for love nor money. And the fowls of the air are sold only in half-dozens. Lord, Lord, Thou knowest how it is.”

And the Lord in his wisdom said:”Noah, my son, I knowest. Why else dost thou think I have caused a flood to descend upon the earth?” {Source unknown.}

Hi! It’s me again.

“Hello, My Beauty.” That’s what I’ve been called from the beginning. I had to insist that I’m not a girl – I made sure he understood. Surely I should have been “My Handsome! Now I know its a greeting from Devon.

Oh! There’s a black nose pushed through the gate. I must go! It’s Jake, a spaniel, wanting his walk. Write later. Woof! Woof!

Yes! I’m back: I’ve had a good run, a welcome drink from the pond and a good sleep. Like you all – my life has changed.

What on earth is happening? I hear “lock down” and “self Isolating” everywhere. My simple doggie mind cannot figure things out. All I know is I see no visitors, cannot walk into town or visit people. No church! No office! No fuss from Andrew – how he must miss coming to church where his grandparents were married. I am beginning to realise I can meet my doggie friends but not their owners – it’s something to do with this “2 metre rule”.

I did manage to escape the other week, thanks to a hole in my neighbours fence. I choose the wrong time to chase around it was so hot and nothing to drink or chase – no rabbits and not even a smell of a fox. I was quite clad when I was called and saw the back gate open.

Why was I clapped the other day when I walked to the front gate? Fancy that, a celebrity! I realise now that it happens each week to say thank you to special people and I join in with a woof and a wag. If there’s a BBQ around as I have my nightly walk, I get a sausage. Lucky me!

Keep fit and well. Best wishes. Charlie.

Extracts from the Church magazine May 1920.

Sorrow turned into Joy.

“There is sorrow everywhere; and they are not our feeblest comrades, but often the our stoutest, who suffer most. They feel the pressure of evil because they live to resist it, to conquer it. –
but there are simple souls that do not wait to rejoice till they have victory, but go into battle with joy. – – Here is a lad who has lately left public school. – – He is dying now of a gymnasium accident, carried in with a hopelessly injured spine, to die in his old school. – – He knows he must die in about two days. He will see his old mates. – – He said to one of his old school- mates that he was very happy; and that he had never imagined it was possible for any one to be as happy. And this joy lit him all through the valley of the shadow: he passed out of this world in joy. – – “My joy,” said our Lord, “shall abide in you, and your joy shall be fulfilled.”

Ascension Day.

“The importance of the Ascension and of our Lord’s work in heaven is often not clearly understood. . . . What is this work which our Lord is doing now? He is ever showing Himself to the Father for us; He is ever, as it were, saying:’”See, Father, Thy Son, and remember the perfect sacrifice; look at the wounds which show the life obedient even unto death, and spare for My sake those whom I have redeemed.” Christ is our great High Priest; and His priestly intercession never ceases. When ever we say ”Through Jesus Christ our Lord” we are joining our prayers to the great priestly prayer of our Lord in heaven.”

Whitsuntide thoughts.

Spirit means breath of life. Thus the Spirit of God is that person of the ever-blessed Trinity who represents the breath or life of God. Thus “the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world.” All life of nature and all the activities of man are in the Old Testament ascribed to the Spirit. . . . Only here and there a man, or prophet or other, is recognised as possessed of the Holy Spirit. . . . The Holy Spirit is spoken of as given for the first time in the great outpouring on the Day of Pentecost. . . .

[Firstly] The Holy Spirit came down from the uplifted Christ, the head of the new and redeemed humanity, to fill the company and fellowship of men who are to carry on His work in the world. . . .

[Secondly]the other distinguishing mark of this new gift of the Spirit is that it is freely given to all members of the body. They are already, and are to continue to be, a body with different functions. There are apostles and other members, men and women. But on all alike is the Holy Spirit poured out for enlightenment and for strength, for work and for witness. “

Ascension Day.

The heavenly halls are filled with song,
The heavenly gates unbar,
swift seraphs in a radiant throng
Stream down from star to star;

As crowned with light of deathless day
The Conqueror passes on His way.
His earthly lowly life is done,
That life of toil and pain,
The Cross endured, the kingdom won,
He takes His throne again.
And watchers search with steadfast eyes
The bright pavilion of the skies.

He blessed them passing upward, now
They wait the promised sign.
Soon shall descend on every brow
the cloven flame divine:
The Sevenfold Gift, in tongues of fire,
To guide and strengthen and inspire.

Hymnus Eucharisticus.

We worship you, O God the Father,
we offer you our praise,
for you nourish our bodies,
and minds with heavenly grace.
We adore you, O Jesus,
you, the only begotten Son,
you, who did not disdain
to submit to birth in the Virgin's womb.
Driven onto the cross, you were made
the victim of God's wrath.
Through you, our only Saviour,
hope of life returned to us.
To you, Eternal Spirit
by whose breath was born
by Mary the Infant God,
be our eternal blessings.
Triune God, of all humanity
the great author of salvation,
this immense mystery
our tongues all cheer and sing.