Some of our Christian traditions
The Advent Wreath
The Advent wreath is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent. Advent wreaths are circular, representing God’s infinite love, and are usually made of evergreen leaves, which represent the hope of eternal life brought by Jesus Christ
The wreath has four candles around the outside and one in the centre. The four outer candles (three purple and one rose) are lit – one at a time – on the four Sundays of Advent. The rose candle is lit on the third Sunday – Gaudete Sunday, the Sunday which signifies the nearness of the Lord’s coming and symbolizes the joy and gladness in the promised Redemption.
The white candle in the centre, is lit on Christmas Day.
The Epiphany Chalk
The Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the showing of Christ to the Magi – the Wise Men who came from the east, following a star that led them to the birthplace of Jesus. This feast has been associated with many customs and traditions; one of these is the blessing of our homes.
At the end of the Epiphany Mass, the chalk is blessed: –
Lord God, as you guide our journey here on earth by the light of your gospel, grant that the same light may rest upon our homes and on those whom we love. We call on your holy name to bless these pieces of chalk. May those who take them and write with them on the doors of their houses the names of your holy wise men, Casper. Melchior and Balthasar, be supported by their wisdom, enriched by their gifts, and share with them the glory of your only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
This is an ancient practice which originated in Germany. You can visit the tomb of the Magi in Cologne Cathedral, so the German church has a great devotion to them. The blessed chalk is used to mark the entrance to our homes and even our Churches.
At the end of the service the chalk will be used by the priest to mark the entrance door of the church with the inscription:
20 + C + M + B + 21.
It will remain there for the whole of this year.
The C M B represents the names of the three Magi – Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. By marking the names on the entrance of our homes we recall that we, like the Holy Family, need to welcome in those who travel and who seek hospitality. It is also a way of blessing our homes so that they might resemble that home in Nazareth. We pray that our lives and our families might be modelled on the Holy Family and that, like the Magi, we might declare the love of God to the whole world. In a secular world this is a good way to set out our homes as a Christian home.
The 20 at the beginning and the 21 at the end marks the year (2021).
After the service, members of the congregation are invited to take a piece of the chalk away with them, together with a copy of a special prayer, so they can write the inscription above their front doors, entrusting their home to God’s protection for the new year, and to ensure all who enter or leave may enjoy God’s blessing.
At All Saints’ we traditionally make a Simnel Cake for the fourth Sunday in Lent, also known as Laetare Sunday, the Refreshment Sunday of Lent (when the 40-day fast would be relaxed).
The cake itself is a light fruitcake, distinguished by two layers of almond paste or marzipan, one in the middle and one on top. The top is lightly browned under a grill.
Eleven, or occasionally twelve, marzipan balls are used to decorate the cake, with a story that the balls represent the 12 apostles, minus Judas.
Simnel cakes have been known since at least medieval times.