The Swelling Year 2019

Dear friends, If you have been hanging around The Consolations of Writing for a while, you might have noticed that I love using the church’s liturgical year as inspiration for my writing. Well, this interest has been going for some years now – six, in fact – and I’ve decided to put together the bestContinue reading “The Swelling Year 2019”

Epiphany: Heartshine

“What can I give him, Poor as I am?” Christina Rossetti Today is one of the most important days in the old church calendar, but also one of the most widely forgotten: the feast of Epiphany. Today we remember the wise men visiting Jesus, but we also remember what this represents, that the Gospel hasContinue reading “Epiphany: Heartshine”

Christmas 12: “The rich and poor meet together”

On this night in Shakespeare’s day, there would have been wild revelry to celebrate the twelfth night of Christmas. He even named one of his plays this, a sign perhaps that it was to be performed on the twelfth night, but also a possible nod to the ways that Christmas switches around our ideas ofContinue reading “Christmas 12: “The rich and poor meet together””

Christmas 10: Sit at my right hand

“The LORD says to my Lord…” (Psalm 110:1). These are surely some of the more mysterious words to appear in the Bible. Who is the second Lord to whom the writer, King David, is referring? Who could even be understood to be David’s Lord apart from God, the LORD? David, after all, was king ofContinue reading “Christmas 10: Sit at my right hand”

Christmas 8: Order my beginning

Another year begins, and today we have a special piece of music to see in the new year: Bach’s Cantata for New Year’s Day, Part IV of his spectacular Christmas Oratorio. This cantata takes as its theme the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, but as often happens with Bach the story is explored throughContinue reading “Christmas 8: Order my beginning”

Christmas 7: Rejoice in your new clothes

2017 is almost over, and today we have two choral pieces to conclude our year with, one early, one modern, both settings of one of the readings for the first Sunday after Christmas, Isaiah 61:10-62:4. The first is the delightfully joyous “Gaudens Gaudebo in Domino” by the 16th century German composer Philip Dulchius. The textContinue reading “Christmas 7: Rejoice in your new clothes”

Christmas 4: Lully Lullay

Today is perhaps the hardest day of the Christmas season, the day that remembers the story found in Matthew 2 of Herod ordering the murder of all boys under the age of 2. While this is not an aspect of the Christmas story that is often told, it finds a home in an old andContinue reading “Christmas 4: Lully Lullay”

Christmas 3: Beloved

As well as being the day when my true love sent me three French hens, the third day of Christmas traditionally remembers St John the Evangelist, who contrasts with Stephen the martyr for being the only one of the apostles not be martyred. He also saw the glories ahead revealed to him when imprisoned forContinue reading “Christmas 3: Beloved”

Christmas 2: Never Faint Nor Fear

Today, as well as the day for the year’s biggest sales, is also Boxing Day and, as the mysterious carol “Good King Wenceslas” should remind us, St Stephen’s Day. Most likely the Stephen commemorated today was the one martyred in the Acts of the Apostles, so one tradition of today is to sing carols thatContinue reading “Christmas 2: Never Faint Nor Fear”

The Language of Flowers: For Christina Rossetti

As an Anglican myself, I have to say that our literary exports don’t get much better than Christina Rossetti. Granted, she’s in formidable company, alongside George Herbert, John Donne, William Cowper, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot and R.S. Thomas (why did you need to have the middle initial S in order to be a successful 20th-centuryContinue reading “The Language of Flowers: For Christina Rossetti”