Something quite odd is happening in February this year which I don’t recall ever having happened before in the time I’ve been ordained. Ash Wednesday is on 14th February, Valentine’s Day.
Well, there’s a weird juxtaposition!
St. Valentine was reputedly a Saint in Rome in the 3rd Century, supposedly martyred on 14th February. Beyond that, nothing at all is known about him, and in 1969 the Roman Catholic Church actually downgraded the observance of his feast day. The association of Valentine with lovers is, it has been suggested, actually a tongue in cheek invention of Geoffrey Chaucer in the 14th Century, incorporating in his stories the myth that birds paired in mid-February.
At any rate, Valentine’s Day in our own time is now big business & woe betide the husband or boyfriend who forgets the card/chocolates/present. I do wonder if, rather like Halloween & suchlike, Valentine’s day has been commercially hijacked for the benefit of the Card manufacturers, but I suspect I’m just being grumpy!
But this year Romantic love is being overlaid by something much more austere and searching, the story of how Divine love saves humanity from itself. God’s self-sacrifice is demonstrated in the person of Jesus, in the account of his death and resurrection. In stark contrast to the hearts and flowers of Valentine’s Day, we will be marking our foreheads with ash crosses as a sign of penitence and preparation for the Lenten journey to come. We celebrate human love on Valentine’s Day (and all right, that’s a good thing to do!), but this year we will be reminded of God’s love & the response to it we are called to make willingly and with joy.
Love Fr. John (Ps. Don’t forget to enjoy Shrove Tuesday Pancakes!! )
I saw my first flowering celandine during the last days of December! This is amazing as these little yellow star-like flowers do not usually appear before March. I have also seen countless expanded hazel catkins during early January. If you look closely at the hazel twigs, you can see the beautiful tiny deep red female hazel flower, which, if fertilized by the wind-blown pollen from the catkins, will become a delicious hazel nut later in the year. The fact that hazel has the male and female flowers (organs) on the same plant means that they are monoecious or hermaphrodite, meaning also that they can fertilize themselves or other individual plants (trees) of the same species. Other plants such as Holly, our only native broad-leaved evergreen tree, are dioecious, meaning that they have male and female plants. Only the female holly plants (trees) bear berries, which of course contain the seeds that can go on to become new holly trees. Many birds, such as members of the thrush family, love to eat holly berries, but the birds do not digest the seed within the berry. The seed passes through the digestive system of the bird and passes out with the faecal droppings, often at night while the bird is roosting. Consequently, it is often possible to see where birds roost by finding young holly or elder seedlings a long distance from the nearest parent tree. This is known as a dispersal system that has evolved because it is a successful strategy for procreation and the colonisation of new areas.
A totally amazing six thousand, three hundred and ninety-nine visitors came to The Church of the Holy Cross to see Tenth year of the Festival of Christmas Trees, and it is doubtful whether anyone left disappointed, because there were an incredible ninety-eight decorated positions to be seen and admired. The Church welcomed visitors from as far afield as Yorkshire and Hampshire and a considerable number from across the country boundary with Kent. This Festival retains the traditional methods of tree decorating, but the Sponsors are very much encouraged to be creative and innovative, and this year they certainly excelled. One very special display was titled “Santa’s Workshop” which had been several months in development while another display was a tree that had been decorated to represent a full length dress. Photographs of the Trees featured in this year’s Festival can be viewed in the Church’s website Photo Gallery, which can be accessed via the main Menu Bar at the top of this page, or see the link below. The ninety-eight displays had been sponsored by a cross section of Uckfield’s community – schools, businesses, voluntary organisations and associations, community support groups as well as individuals and families. During Friday afternoon visitors were entertained by Margaret Watson,harpist,and John Pontefract a singer and guitarist. Children could have their face painted by Pretty Fantastic Faces on both the Friday and Saturday afternoons.
All the bells were purchased from the Whitechapel foundry of William Mears and bear the company’s name, the date 1779, and inscriptions.
Church Clock Restored – 10th November 2011.
|4th Jul 2011||
Five months after the Clock was removed (on the 4th July 2011) for cleaning and overhauling, the mechanism was reinstated, and together with the repainted, and re-gilded, clock faces the town has its landmark timepiece back in action.
|12th Nov 2011|
The clock was made in 1883 and although on the clock’s ‘setting dial’ it bears the name of a local man and the word Uckfield, it was, in fact, made by Thwaites and Reed of Clerkenwell in London. It is typical of their design at that time and very similar to their clock in the Knightsbridge Barracks in London. The clock features dials that are unusually placed, being on the out-built mountings on the four sides of the spire. Likewise the clock itself is also unusually mounted because it is above the bell-frame in the belfry and on a level with the base of the spire.