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The Rector The Revd Rob Farmer writes:
“Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot.
We see no reason
Why gunpowder treason,
Should ever be forgot!”
Those words always echo around my head as we approach Bonfire Night - a nursery rhyme immortalising the plot by Guy Fawkes and other conspirators to blow up the Houses of Parliament and the King. It is a memory that still lingers on in tradition for our country, in the firework parties and displays we encounter, and in other traditions too. The Queen, you will notice, only enters the Houses of Parliament once a year for the State Opening, and custom still dictates that the Yeomen of the Guard search the cellars of the Palace of Westminster for gunpowder. Thus the one visit and the search reduce the chances of Her Majesty being blown up.
The memories that are evoked in me are of being in Primary School at this time of year. More often than not we would be given a blank piece of black card to create a firework or bonfire picture using coloured chalks which we would smudge to create a smoky coloured effect, or grated wax crayon scattered at random and melted with a hot iron to make a similar effect - all great fun.
It seems like November is a time for remembering many things. In the Church we have a lesser known triduum (a religious observance lasting three days) than the rather more well known one at Easter from Good Friday to Easter Day. This triduum can be broadly described as All Hallowstide and encompasses the observances of All Saints Eve (Halloween), All Saints Day (All Hallows), and All Souls Day which last from 31st October to 2nd November annually.
Despite the more dubious practices around Halloween these days, it is traditionally observed through a vigil when worshippers would prepare themselves with prayers and fasting prior to the feast day itself. All Saints Day - a principle feast in the Christian calendar - is a holy day to honour and remember all the saints and martyrs of our faith, both known and unknown.
And finally All Souls Day, also called the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, when we honour and remember all those we knew and played an important part in our life and faith journey who are now at rest with God. In the past a priest would often go into the churchyard and bless the graves and family members would light candles and place them on the graves. These days the candles are lit in church and the names of the departed read out as we do at our annual All Souls services.
Hot on the heels, so to speak, of the triduum of All Hallowstide, comes Remembrance Sunday - a national time of remembering those who have paid and continue to pay the ultimate price in conflicts past and present. This year in particular our thoughts turn perhaps to the 100 year anniversary of the end of the First World War - a war, it was said, to end all wars - a salient reminder along with the words of King George VI at the end of World War II, “Please God, over for ever” - that we must continue to strive for the cause of peace always, and we can best do that, not by glorifying war, but by remembering the great cost paid by so many.
So, lots of remembering to be done in November. As a Church, of course, we remember something vitally important to our faith every Sunday of the year - and at these special feasts of All Saints and All Souls - in our Eucharist or Holy Communion services.
At the altar-table when the priest uses the great words of institution, “Do this in remembrance of me…” given to us by Jesus himself, once again he becomes incarnate (God with us) in our midst in the bread and wine. Very ordinary everyday things (which is perhaps why Jesus chose them) which become extra-ordinary. The altar becomes perhaps less of a table and more of a manger as Jesus Christ comes to dwell with us once again in those ordinary things.
As we take part in this act of worship we are actively remembering the great words and actions of Jesus at the Last Supper and the sacrifice that he made to make us once more ‘at-one’ with God, often called atonement (at-one-ment). So for us, each Sunday becomes a mini Easter celebration of remembering and reflecting on how those words and actions have had repercussions in our lives and in the lives of millions around the world.
What will you remember in November ... ?
Your parish priest and friend,
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