From the Vicar of Cuckfield
Revd Canon Nick Wetherall
HOLIDAYS AND HOLY DAYS
May is a month of Holidays and Holy Days; we have two Bank Holiday weekends, a Half Term school holiday and a number of Holy Days including Ascension Day, Pentecost and Trinity Sunday.
THE ASCENSION celebrates the day that Jesus Christ, in the presence of His apostles, ascended bodily into Heaven. The Ascension occurred 40 days after Easter Sunday, so it falls on a Thursday, this year it will fall on the 9th May. According to the accounts in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus appeared to many of his disciples during the 40 days following his resurrection. On the 40th day, he came again to the Apostles and led them out to the Mount of Olives where he instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit. Then, as they were watching, he ascended into clouds.
Ascension Day is also the day for Beating the Bounds, or Boundaries, of the church’s parish. The custom was once found in almost every English parish, but now is only carried out in a few places. One of the reasons for the custom of Beating the Bounds was to establish one’s actual boundaries and to check the land in general, as maps were scarce and many parishioners could not read or write.
There are a number of Ascension Day Superstitions including the belief that eggs laid on Ascension Day are said to never go bad and will guarantee good luck for a household if placed in the roof. Also, if the weather is sunny on Ascension Day, the summer will be long and hot; but if it rains, crops will do badly and livestock, especially cattle, will suffer from disease.
Let us pray that at least Spring, if not Summer, has arrived by the 9th of May!
Ten days after Ascension Day, 19th May, is PENTECOST (Whitsuntide) which commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit to the disciples.
Pentecost is the great festival that marks the birth of the Christian church by the power of the Holy Spirit and the start of the church’s mission to the world. Pentecost means “fiftieth day” and is celebrated fifty days after Easter.
The main sign of Pentecost is the colour red. It symbolizes joy and the fire of the Holy Spirit. The clergy wear red vestments, and in some places, the custom has extended to the people of the congregation wearing red clothing in celebration as well. The symbols of Pentecost are those of the
Holy Spirit and include flames, fire, wind, and a dove. For some, the nine days between Ascension Day and Pentecost are set aside as a time of fasting and world-wide prayer in honour of the disciples’ time of prayer and unity awaiting the Holy Spirit. A tradition of some churches in ancient times was to baptise adult converts to the faith on Pentecost. The newly baptised would wear white robes on that day, so Pentecost was often called “Whitsunday” or “White Sunday” after these white baptismal garments.
On the Sunday after Pentecost, the 26th May, we celebrate TRINITY SUNDAY: also known as Holy Trinity Sunday, in honour of the most fundamental of Christian beliefs – belief in the Holy Trinity. We can never fully understand the mystery of the Trinity, but we can sum it up in the following formula: God is three Persons in one Nature. The three Persons of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – are all equally God, and they cannot be divided.
Thomas Becket (1118–70) was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on the Sunday after Whit Sunday, and his first act was to ordain that the day of his consecration should be held as a new festival in honour of the Holy Trinity. This observance spread from Canterbury throughout the whole of Christendom. This day is known for being the only major Christian festival that celebrates a church doctrine rather than an event in its sacred history.
For us in Cuckfield this an extra special occasion as it is our patronal festival when we celebrate the dedication of our church building to the Holy Trinity. Why not join us to help us celebrate; you would be more than welcome.Nick Wetherall