July 2018

My dear friends,

The usual thing to write about at this time of year is the holiday season, and, of course, I do hope that everyone from young to less young enjoys some refreshment during this summer season. We all need such periods of a chance to unwind and reflect – to enjoy ourselves.

The word, ‘holiday’ gives the game away about its etymology, originating as it did in connection with religious observances – holy days. In our country, as well as in many predominantly Christian nations, holidays were celebrated to commemorate festivals and saints’ days. This is still the case in much of Europe, where Whit Monday is still a bank holiday, together with the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on 15th August. Corpus Christi (the Thursday after Trinity Sunday) is also widely observed as a public holiday.

During the period of the Reformation it must have been a considerable shock when so many observances were cut out of the English way of life, particularly for those of lowly employment, as so many of these holydays were part of the rhythm of life. When Elizabeth I came to the throne, the ‘Elizabethan Settlement’ meant that several observances were reinstated. However, during the period of the Commonwealth, in January 1645 a group of ministers appointed by parliament produced a new Directory of
Public Worship, which made clear that whilst Sundays were to be strictly observed as holy days, for the worship of God, there were to be no other holy days – ‘festival days, vulgarly called Holy Days, having no warrant in the Word of God, are not to be continued.’ Thus, even Christmas Day became a working day! People soon tired of this dreary approach, and the Restoration of the monarchy brought back many traditional celebrations.

Our nation has in recent years followed a secular agenda, turning the Whit Monday holiday into the drearily named ‘Late Spring Bank Holiday,’ and many will know of the proposal (promoted by Archbishop Justin) to ‘fix’ the date of Easter itself. I strongly disagree! Do we really need to regulate such things so that there is no unchanging pattern to the year? The fact that the date for Easter ‘moves’ reminds us of our rootedness not just in time-hallowed religious observance, but also in the rhythm of
nature itself.

End of rant – I must need a holiday! Have a great break when you reach that time!

With love,

Michael