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Rethinking Candlemas

Candlemas – a Northern Hemisphere winter celebration

With the temperatures in the high twenties (that’s 80s for those still using the incomprehensible Fahrenheit), sunset about 9pm, and children beginning to go back to school after the long summer holiday, candles are probably not the first things that spring to mind in this Southern Hemisphere.

It is understandable that, at this time, in the north of the Northern Hemisphere, locked in cold, dark, miserable, boring winter, that the church has lots of celebrations – people have time, and candles and processions make perfect sense. The Church of England can stretch out Christmas with the Naming of Jesus, Epiphany, all the way for forty days to The Presentation/Candlemas.

But here in New Zealand, the average person would understand “The twelve days of Christmas” to be the 12 days leading up to Christmas Day. After Christmas Day, the tree comes down and it’s off camping at the beach as long as possible, with a New Years’ Eve party thrown in for good measure. Clergy are away on holiday also with a skeleton staffing in churches reduced from a full run of services all week to maybe one on Sunday. Congregations are at their lowest as people worship the God of nature in nature. The last thing we need to be doing is aping mummy Church of England.

So A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa (ANZPB 1989) sensibly had The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple as a Feast of our Lord “in light type” (page 7). It was celebrated on 2 February. Roman Catholics, and Northern Hemisphere Anglicans (CofE, USA, Canada) had, if February 2 was on Sunday, it taking precedence over the Sunday – that option was allowed. Simple. End of story. [See Table ANZPB page 939 – not as incorrectly given on page 7 – 944]

But then came The Promise of His Glory (1991), a tarting up of an extended “Christmas/Epiphany Season” in the Church of England – perfectly appropriate there, as I indicated above. It’s a thick book of ideas to get the English through the winter – the book goes all the way to Candlemas. And those anglophiles in NZ, who love adding ever more and more options onto a baroque Church Year, gave birth to the Anglican Church of Or, and, looking lustfully at what England had, just glued, without any attempt at inculturation, their ideas to our beach context.

Candlemas has now shot here all the way from being a Feast of our Lord “in light type” to a PRINCIPAL FEAST in BOLD CAPITALS which “is to be observed” – and not just on the day it falls, (with the option that if, once in seven years, it falls on Sunday, you are allowed to celebrate it rather than the Ordinary Sunday). No – in The Anglican Church of Or we can now move it if it falls on a weekday (as it obviously mostly does) and celebrate it “on the Sunday falling between 28 January and 3 February”.

Furthermore, in The Anglican Church of Or, if General Synod Te Hinota Whanui has its way, we now intend to count our Ordinary Time as starting from this celebration. In ANZPB we just count Ordinary Time starting the Sunday between 7 and 13 January like all Christians who use the Ordinary Time counting system (page 707). But now there is a confused and confusing statute before this years General Synod Te Hinota Whanui that will make our church’s counting independent from others. This coming Sunday for all others who use Ordinary Time is the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. We in NZ, only just beginning our own Ordinary Time, will call Sunday 7 February “The First Sunday in Ordinary Time”.

Someone will have to explain to me what happens when 2 February is a Saturday. Those who celebrate Candlemas on Saturday will call Sunday 3 Feb “The First Sunday in Ordinary Time”. And for them 10 Feb will be the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. While, for those who celebrate Candlemas on the Sunday (3 Feb) 10 Feb will be “The First Sunday in Ordinary Time”. And so on, communities numbering Ordinary Time one Sunday difference, throughout the rest of that year.

I guess, being The Anglican Church of Or, having two completely different numbering systems (one out) fits in with the philosophy. I guess that will be accompanied by different readings for those different communities. Presently we only devote four pages of our lectionary booklet to the two different options for Epiphany. It’s certainly going to be an increasingly fat booklet.

What I would have: Return to the well-thought-through approach of ANZPB which holds with the majority Western position of celebrating Candlemas/The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple on 2 February. If that happens (once in seven years) to fall on Sunday, you are welcome to celebrate that on Sunday. Return to the well-thought-through approach of ANZPB of counting Ordinary Time, with the rest of the world’s churches that use that counting system, of counting Ordinary time starting the Sunday between 7 and 13 January. I got up this morning and prayed Morning Prayer for the Feast of The Presentation. We need to see all the liturgical statutes returning this year to General Synod for confirmation to be lost. And we need to reboot our liturgical life at least back to the usually well-thought-through approach of ANZPB 1989 with some slight improvements on that (remove the Two Year cycle; update the Three year cycle to the Revised Common Lectionary; standardise responses).

Here is a Candlemas collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,
clothed in majesty,
whose beloved Son was this day presented in the Temple,
in substance of our flesh:
grant that we may be presented to you
with pure and clean hearts,
by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

(Gregorian Sacramentary, Sarum Missal, 1549 BCP)

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New Zealand Lectionary 2016

New Zealand Lectionary 2016Available now online is New Zealand’s Lectionary Te Maramataka 2016 PDF (1.54 MB – click link to download). [Note – page numbers of the printed booklet may differ from the online version referred to here.]

This is just a splash of comments from a quick first glance. There is much in a publication such as this that is good and is of value, helping connect to the world-wide church, and back through the traditions of the centuries, while grounding us in this place in the South Pacific, at this time. Those tend to mostly be when the lectionary booklet expresses what we have agreed together – including celebrations of days that are international and ecumenical, as well as of persons who have expressed God’s love and life on these shores. Other areas in the lectionary booklet can be improved upon.

In the 2015 lectionary booklet 6 December 2015 is called “2nd Sunday IN Advent”. This is obviously the traditional Anglican, BCP terminology, present in all our church formularies, including in all options provided in our NZ Prayer Book. But in this 2016 lectionary booklet, the same Sunday (6 December 2015) is now called “2nd Sunday OF Advent” (traditional Roman Catholic terminology).

Sunday January 10 is called “1st Sunday OF THE Epiphany”. I do not know where this title originates, but four Sundays reflect this titling. Our Prayer Book (a formulary of our church, which we sign up to) has options of referring to Sundays either as “The Xth Sunday after the Epiphany” or “The Yth Ordinary Sunday”. This lectionary booklet adds a variety of other options including this “of the Epiphany”.

As it as last year, the “3rd Sunday OF the Epiphany” is followed by the “4th Sunday AFTER the Epiphany” is followed by the “5th Sunday in Ordinary Time”. Furthermore, this 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time appears out of nowhere – there is no indication of the 1st to 4th Sundays in Ordinary Time.

Of course, if Statute 713 passes at General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW), then 7 February will become, unique only to NZ, the First Sunday in Ordinary Time (rather than the “5th Sunday in Ordinary Time” held universally). That is the first Sunday after Presentation (Candlemas). According to Liturgical Precedence (see 2016 lectionary booklet page 129) “Ordinary time is the period after the feast of the Presentation“. I am still hoping GSTHW comes to its senses, does not vote to pass Statute 713, but instead sends Statute 713 together with Liturgical Precedence (updated 2014) to be simultaneously reworked to a consistent approach and that is not totally different to every other church on the planet.

Without explanation, there are “Proper” numbers for Sundays (eg. June 5 is “Proper 5”). These arrived last year without explanation. [They are TEC’s way of numbering Sundays. Canadian Anglicans also number by Propers, but end up with a different number still].

The liturgical colours, the lectionary booklet insists, “are not mandatory but reflect common practice in most parishes” (page 7). Often the lectionary booklet provide a variety of liturgical colours for a day (even to the extreme of Green, Red, White, or Violet for the same day!) This is the lectionary booklet admitting great confusion in the NZ Anglican Church. And reinforcing it.

On the other hand, the lectionary booklet uses language like “Note that White is the colour for the Sunday only, and not for the following week.” That certainly sounds prescriptive rather than descriptive to my ears!

Again, I would be interested to know where this lectionary booklet gets the ruling from: “The reading from Acts must be used each Sunday in Eastertide”. It may very well be a good idea – but where does “must” come from? We are only required to follow forumlaries of our church – not what is indicated by this lectionary booklet. This is an important principle. Where the lectionary booklet does not conform to the formularies, we must follow the formularies, not the lectionary booklet. Where the lectionary booklet sets requirements beyond what the formularies require, we do not need to follow the booklet.

Furthermore, as an aside, where does “Eastertide” come from in this lectionary booklet? Our formularies consistently call this “The Season of Season”.

Sunday November 6 has: “Feast of Christ in All Creation may be celebrated today (or last Sunday).” But if you look back to that mentioned “last Sunday”, October 30, there is no mention of this feast.

Then on Sunday November 13 it says, “Feast of Christ in All Creation may be celebrated today or next Sunday” and this time it is referred to on that next Sunday, November 20. So the lectionary booklet has four Sundays on which you may celebrate the Feast of Christ in All Creation. There is no indication whether the “or” is an inclusive or an exclusive “or”. The lectionary booklet, hence, provides for the possibility of a community celebrating up to four Sundays as the Feast of Christ in All Creation – a feast for which there is no provision of readings (propers). With a blank for the readings, some would even visualise 4 minutes 33 seconds of silence at the point we normally have the readings.

All the issues of the Anglican Church of Or continue
November 20 can be:
Christ the King
or The Reign of Christ
or 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time
or Sunday before Advent
or Aotearoa Sunday
or Feast of Christ in All Creation
or, of course, A Spring Festival of Praise to the Creator (see page 129).

Are there any things you notice as you skim through the lectionary booklet for 2016 – things you like; things you think can be improved?

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The Anglican Church of Or

Lectionary 8 November 2015

This coming Sunday, in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia of Or, the lectionary indicates (above) the liturgical colour is Green, or Red, or White, or Violet. This “reflects common practice in most parishes” (Lectionary page 4). First prize goes to the first person who can calculate the number of reading options… Continue Reading


New Container for The Genie


[Update 10 October 2014: Nelson Diocesan Synod is meeting (prayers for them) and I have just received the message that they rejected Statutes 711, 712, and 713. The lack of support for these three statutes now in all seven of NZ’s dioceses not only once again highlights the need for our national church to take… Continue Reading


Advent Wreath in the Christmas Season?

Advent wreath

Recently I was asked on twitter what to do with the Advent Wreath during the Christmas Season. I asked the community on facebook and twitter and was so interested in the variety of good ideas that I am making this into a blog post. You can add other ideas into the comments below. The origin… Continue Reading


Week starting January 30

Scripture texts Textweek resources • collect/opening prayer reflection for January 30 and week following (NZPB) BCP (TEC): Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns… Continue Reading

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010

Christmas 2010

This is a short video clip from A Charlie Brown Christmas! NB: at 0:35 seconds, Linus says: “Fear not!” At that moment, Linus drops his blanket. May this story, often repeated, and those words in particular, repeated beyond this story, be comfort enough for each of us… Blessings to you and yours for the Christmas… Continue Reading