The Romans had gods for pretty much everything, from harvest and rainfall to childbirth and footwear.
One of the more arcane (and scary) ones was Hecate, the shadowy goddess of witchcraft and – seemingly oddly – of crossroads. I think maybe there was a feeling that crossroads were dangerous places, where choices were to be made, irrevocable decisions to be embraced, and maybe a sense of a deity watching over these liminal moments was a comfort. I think something of this resonates in Robert Frost’s most famous poem, “The road not taken”
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Why am I talking about witches, goddesses and melancholy remembering?
Well, February is a mercurial month, very much the crossroads in the Christian year. Candlemas, which this year falls on 2nd February, is the focal point of this crossroads between the two great Liturgical cycles of Advent and Christmas and Lent and Easter, the cycles of Incarnation and Redemption. We take a last look back to the crib (I’ll finally, to my neighbours relief, take down my tree and decorations) and start looking towards the preparation for the events of Holy week.
We turn away from the Manger and look towards to the Cross.
As individuals, it is a time to look back on the past we have known, remembering family and friends, our childhoods and life journeys to this point, then looking forward to the path before us, and where it will lead.
A big difference from our Roman forebears is that instead of invoking a shadowy goddess with incantations and muttered spells to protect our choices, we have a God who knows us & who loves us & in whose gentle arms we are safe, who knows our path and answers prayers before we even ask.
As we look towards the future at this crossroads of the Christian year, know that the Child of Bethlehem is the Man of Sorrows who will be with us every step of the Way.Happy Candlemas! Love, Fr. John
One of the most puzzling biological things to me is the bizarre variation in the longevity of individual animals. We humans regularly live to 70 years these days, and often much longer such as the dancer recently featured on the news who was 98 and still winning dancing competitions. However, our dogs (genetically, tame wolves) only live to about 14 years, but seem to have healthy lives. Tortoises regularly exceed 100 years before dying, but adult mayflies only live for one day, and do not even have mouths or any other means of eating or securing energy. Herring gulls and other seabirds frequently live longer than 30 years, but blue tits are lucky to make it to one year. Slow worms can also live to 30 years or more and breed for most of those years, but pacific salmon all die after their first attempt at breeding.
Why is there so much variation in the length of time an organism can live. A yew tree such as the one in the cemetery of St Margaret’s Church in Buxted park can live to excess of 3,000 years old and produce hundreds of seeds every year if it is a female, but if you plant a grain of wheat, it will grow and produce about 22 seeds per head and 5 heads (110 seeds) per plant which will die in less than one year.
We all hope to live as long as possible and have a productive life, but why don’t all organisms try to live as long as possible, some clearly do, but others are programmed to die after a very short time. The pyramid of numbers in the trophic levels within an ecosystem makes a fascinating study. For example, I have been studying blue tits recently, and I found that the caterpillars of several moth species can almost completely defoliate (eat all the leaves) of a mighty 300-year-old oak between April and June. However, one family of blue tits can consume up to 1000 caterpillars on a single day for 18-22 days before the young birds leave the nest, they will carry on eating them after that as well. However, one family of sparrow hawks can consume the equivalent of 40 blue tits per day for 24-30 days in the nest before fledging.
The perpetuation of life on planet earth depends on the rapid reproduction of many organisms and consumption of others to support a complex ecosystem and the beautiful diversity of life that we all see.
Dr. Martyn Stenning
The Church of the Holy Cross was transformed into a forest of Christmas trees over the course of December 6th, 7th and 8th for the twelfth annual Festival of Christmas Trees. A wonderful starburst of brightly decorated Christmas trees attracted people from all over Sussex, as well as from further afield, to visit and enjoy the splendour of the magnificent display of over one hundred Christmas trees. Visitors were amazed by the wonderfully creative and stylistic hand crafted decorations.
This year was very much a magical display and the wonderful array of different decorated trees made it a very special event. A complete cross section of Uckfield’s community was represented by local businesses, charities, Church communities and schools, as well as individual people and families.
ITV Meridian came to carry out a recording on the Friday afternoon and it featured on that evening’s local evening news. Also included in this year’s Festival was live musical entertainment with a strong seasonal bias. Friday evening featured Uckfield’s talented entertainer Bernard Tagliavini. During Saturday morning Jimmy the Juggling Jester made his customary appearance to entertain the younger visitors. In the afternoon John Pontefract sang and played guitar, Tim Guntrip (the Church organist) played the organ and Uckfield Concert Brass followed playing a selection of popular Carols.
Click here to see the gallery of photographs.
In the Belmont Centre refreshments and hot lunches were available, and visitors could also purchase from stalls selling a wide variety of made hand seasonal gifts and home produce. Children could be kept busy with Face painting (by Sarah Moxon) and be creative with a number of craft activities.
I’ve just come back from a week in Venice & it was Fab.
For me, as for so many people, Venice is a really special place, and it has been ever since I first went as a child. My last visit was three years ago, when I had a glorious sabbatical studying Titian and Veronese, and it was good to “touch base” with the place again. It was as beautiful as ever, with autumn sunshine on the faded facades of the palaces and with the reflections from the water in the canals glittering on the undersides of the bridges as we passed. I can well understand Peggy Guggenheim’s rather chilly comment on the city: "It is always assumed that Venice is the ideal city for a honeymoon, but it is a serious mistake. Living in Venice, or just visiting it, means falling in love and in the heart there won't be room for anything else."
I recently heard a talk by the Historian and Television Presenter Bettany Hughes, and very good it was too. At one point she was talking about myths and history: and off the cuff she remarked that in the opinion of some neuroscientists, we can’t as individuals have a future thought without accessing a memory. In other words, in our minds the past not only roots the present but in a concrete way embodies the possibilities of the future. This resonated with me, especially in terms of prayer life.