HOLIDAYS AND HOLY DAYS
August has been the traditional month for holidays when the schools have broken up and the seaside – or a foreign destination – beckons. But the balance was shifted several years ago when the August Bank Holiday was shifted from the first Monday in the month to the last and later the other Bank Holidays were altered: Whit Monday to the last Monday in May and the introduction of another at the beginning of the same month to coincide with Labour Day. This year we have had the additional Bank Holiday for the Royal Wedding and next year we shall celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee; there has also been the call for another day off later on – perhaps linked with Trafalgar Day (21st October) – although that change is unlikely to happen until 2013.
How do you view holidays? Are they truly times of refreshment and recreation? We all need a break from time to time but they need to be used positively to ‘recharge the batteries’ and provide fresh insights. The first definition given is ‘a consecrated time’ which stresses its importance and its link with the Holy Days kept by the Church from the beginning.
The chief festival has always been Easter (not Christmas) because it is a reminder of the Resurrection of Jesus; indeed every Sunday is a weekly commemoration of that key event, described in the Prayer Book as ‘Easter Day on which the rest depend’. In 321 when the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity he decreed that Sunday should be a general holiday. Not for nothing have people want to safeguard that principle with the ‘Keep Sunday Special’ campaign even though it has since been eroded with Sunday shopping and countless other activities.
Nevertheless, we would do well to reclaim our Holy Days and rejoice in our name days (if we are fortunate to be named after a saint commemorated in the Calendar). In our local churches we have always been glad to keep our Patronal festivals (at St Mary’s we have usually observed the Nativity of Our Lady on 8th September - or the Sunday following - and at St Andrew’s we have kept 30th November). More details will be given next month about the Gift Day on Saturday 10th September and the special service the next day. There is a rhythm in the liturgical year,
In the meantime, I wish you all a good holiday which will bring inspiration and the opportunity to discover new places and bring illuminating ideas to bear. And if any have ‘Significant Birthdays’ let them be occasions of celebration! Next month will see the end of 10 happy years as your parish priest.