Christmas and the feasts of St Stephen, St John the Evangelist and The Holy Innocents

SUNDAY 25th December – Christmas Day

We go to Midnight Mass at Holy Rood. I am surprised it is not fuller but it is one of Father Robert’s five masses. He sings it beautifully in Latin and our small congregation does its best to keep up. The Gloria falters and fights on to the end. The church is beautifully lit with candles.

I do a reading at the 9.30 service of readings and carols at the village church, which is packed. Luke 26-28, the Angel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary.

We went for a walk from Otby to Walesby in bright sunlight, the Lincolnshire plain a dazzling light green and blue in the clear, translucent winter sunshine. Arriving at Walesby’s old church at 3pm we listened to the Queen’s broadcast, her words accompanying views of twenty or thirty miles stretching to Lincoln Cathedral. The Queen is the only top person prepared to mention religion. I was profoundly moved. She actually says she believes in Jesus Christ.

St John’s Prologue, 1:1-18
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God. He was with God in the beginning …”

MONDAY 26th December – St Stephen

When we are in London, I go to the 10.30am Mass; the church and its great Christmas trees still ablaze with light. Here, I just go and read a Psalm in the village church.

The King James Version is so much more poetic than the ones we use at Mass.

We walk to Tealby – again, an extraordinarily clear light. As we walk back from the pub, the whole West is bathed in orange.

Psalm 30
“In to your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit;
… Be a rock of refuge for me, a mighty stronghold to save me”.

TUESDAY 27th September – St John the Evangelist

We walk to Rothwell where the pub is full of shooters and cyclists.

Psalm 96
“Rejoice, you just in the Lord
… The Lord is King, let earth rejoice”.

WESNESDAY 28th December – The Holy Innocents

I walk in a deserted valley on the footpath to Tealby in deep fog, the country empty, and find a new lake.

Psalm 123
“Our life like a bird has escaped from the snare of the fowler”.

The Holy Innocents is a feast barely celebrated in today’s syrupy Christmas season, but it is a good time for reflection; for many lonely, old and ill, Christmas is not such a happy time.

I am reading two contrasting books: A Beevor’s ‘Ardennes’ and the Dalai Lama’s spiritual autobiography. A contrast, the terrible, pointless horror of war, and it’s going on now in Syria although I hope fully for a ceasefire, and the emphasis on the importance of the mind, of being happy, of showing compassion to all, not just to friends and relatives, and an awareness of the whole human race. We all have the same wants.

THURSDAY 29th December

This is the last day everyone is here. Once again it is bright and we walk from Walesby to Normanby le Wold and back. The East yellowing gradually towards 4pm, when it becomes like a vision of heaven: the yellow light even entering and softening the pictures in Normanby church. A wonderful walk.

FRIDAY 30th December

A grizzly day of fog. All the children are leaving one by one. I walk with Nicky around the block and then drive him to Barnetby.

In the evening, ‘Les Miserables’ as usual reduces me to tears. It is quite a powerful resurrection piece. The scene of Jean Valjean dying and being welcomed home by the priest who saves him is as powerful as any image.

SATURDAY 31st December

I walk Monti around Wold Newton. At first, looking West, I can see five miles across Swinhope to the edge of the Wolds at Normanby le Wold where we were a couple of days ago. A quiet evening at home with a couple of fireworks. We finish the entire series of Harry Potter.