Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve

Tomorrow is February 2 – Groundhog Day!  But more importantly it is the feast of the Meeting of the Lord in the Temple – basically, Jesus’s and Mary’s 40 day blessing.  Being the 40th day after Christmas it marks the true end of the Christmas season and, liturgically, we start looking ahead, ultimately, to Easter.  We will have service in the morning and, at the end of liturgy, bless the candles in the narthex.  This practice, which comes from the elder Simeon calling Jesus “a light to enlighten the Gentiles”, lends the alternate name “Candlemas” to the feast.  Some thoughts:

-You will notice in church tomorrow the Christmas colors and flowers are gone, which reflects the end of the Christmas season.

-With this turn toward looking to Easter, there are traditional practices of figuring out when the weather will start changing.  Groundhog Day comes from a German Candlemas tradition.

-In some Western Candlemas traditions there is a notion that bad luck will strike the house or church that leaves up Christmas decorations past February 2 (I personally believe it is prudent to leave up Christmas lights year round but that is me).  Since I am writing this on the eve of Candlemas, I thought I would share a favorite poem concerning the above tradition.  It is by Robert Herrick, a 17th century English Poet.

Ceremony Upon Candlemas Eve

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe;
Down with the holly, ivy, all
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas hall;
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind;
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected there, maids, trust to me,
So many goblins you shall see.

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February 1st, 2018 by Fr. Greg

The Mighty Chicken

I owe that fun subject title to Fr. Peck – he coined that for today’s blogging assignment.  His post has some cool facts about chickens – please check it out there.  As he points out at the very bottom, chickens and other birds had some interesting ancestors – dinosaurs like Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Some years ago Douglas Preston wrote a wild page-turner called Tyrannosaur Canyon.  The book is an adventure story set in the modern-day Southwest of the United States, but the main story is interrupted at several points with narrative about a female T-Rex back in the day.  There are speculative but scientifically up-to-date descriptions of her feeding and mating and ultimately her demise along with the rest of the dinosaurs.  There is a rather terrifying scene where two male (and therefore smaller) T-Rexs fight over who gets to mate with her.  Her instinct would normally be to devour both of them but the drive to breed just barely wins out over the instinct to kill and eat every living thing she encounters.  A great read, as are all of Preston’s books, both solo and written with Lincoln Child.

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November 17th, 2014 by Fr. Greg

Harvesting Fennel Seeds

We are approaching mid-November and the garden is pretty much done for the year.  Except for some celery that is still going strong, the other fruits, vegetables and herbs have been harvested.  This doesn’t mean the work has ended – I have to get everything ready for winter – but the joys of picking stuff and just in general playing around in it have finished.  Today we had a final major gathering – I took in our fennel plant, and Prez and Vaia took out and collected the seeds.

You can read about fennel here and here.  The Greek word for fennel is marathos, so Marathon in Greece – the place where the epic battle took place and that gave its name to the road race – was named after the plentiful fennel found there.  Here is a picture of Prez and Vaia and then one of the final collection:

photo 1-3

photo 2-2







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November 11th, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Sprouting Celery

Today is the third day of spring, but who’s counting?  I grew up in New England until the age of 18 and then spent ten years in Virginia; my body has never adjusted back to the weather up here.  After picking up gardening a few years ago I found a new frustration – the seemingly endless winter compounded by the desire to get back out there and garden.  My coping mechanisms this time of year include planning the garden as well as sprouting seeds or roots with the hope of planting them in May.  The picture below features one of these sprouting attempts that doubles as a project for the girls – the bottom of a celery plant, normally discarded, was put by the girls in a shallow plate with water.  You can see the results; our next step, once the sprouts have grown, will be to plant it in a pot and then ultimately transfer it outside, perhaps in a cloche before the weather truly warms up.  The picture also shows a ginger root (on the left) which is also starting to sprout.  Just out of the picture on the right are lemon seeds that have sprouted, and by the window in the garage I have an onion which we discovered with a shoot coming out of it.  I planted the onion and put it by the window, and after a day or two of sun the shoot turned green.  As always, stay tuned…


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March 22nd, 2013 by Fr. Greg

Celebrating Persian New Year – Twice

Sunday evening Prez and I went over to Mishana’s ‘rents to celebrate Persian New Year and had a wonderful time.  Sunday was the first day of spring, although you certainly wouldn’t know it here in New England, and many cultures have this time as a holiday.  It was traditionally the start of the Assyrian new year, which is now celebrated April 1, and it is of course Purim.  This was our first time celebrating the holiday in the traditional manner.  Mish and her family coached us through the various parts.  A highlight was the attempt to balance an egg on its end at the very moment of the equinox – 7:20pm.  Here is a picture of Mishana and her cousin trying it.  We filmed it but alas – this year it was not meant to be:

Here is a gathering of many of the traditional items – you can read the Wiki article to get details on each.  The items have all been part of it for many years – only the Qur’an is a later addition:

The bushy thing in the foreground is sprouted lentils.  In Iran the thing to do would be to float them down the river to, as I understand it, send bad things away.  If there is no river nearby you just put them outside for the rain to take.

Of course there was food.  Again, the Wikipedia article breaks it all down.  Everything was delicious and we were able to keep the lenten fast – there was fish and rice and vegetables.  After I gave the blessing Eleni and I ate – believe me – and we were full but not stuffed unlike, say, at a typical Greek event.  The food was all light and fresh, and there was no cheese or bread, which of course are huge in Greek meals, so maybe that was it:

Again, it was a fabulous evening, and the best part of it was the company – what a joy to be with everyone for this celebration.

I mentioned in the subject celebrating the New Year twice.  Earlier in the day, Jasmin, who is Persian, was baptized in our church.  Adult baptisms are always special, but this one had an interesting twist – Jasmin chose to enter the faith on this day because it is Persian New Year and therefore a fortuitous time for the new life that comes not just with spring but also baptism.  So this joyous event was in a way our first celebration of the holiday on Sunday.

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March 21st, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Snow Chronicles

Here in Worcester we have received a ridiculous amount of snow with no mild days in between – everything that has fallen is still around.  We have actually had to truck snow out of the Cathedral parking lots since there is no more street parking, there is so much snow talking up spaces, and the construction has temporarily made some spots unavailable.  This is the first time in my 5+ years here that we have had to remove snow.

He is not going to like this, but Chris Fourkas deserves a huge shout-out.  Chris, among other sterling service to our church, plows us out each year at no cost.  This saves us, I imagine, 20-30k annually.  Chrysostom not only plows but has been coordinating the removal.  He also turns up at the Cathedral at odd hours to move snow.  Last week I received the thrill of my life when I got to drive his Bobcat around:

In other Cathedral snow news…we had the flat roofs – the auditorium and the office/Tonna Room/hallway link –  cleared yesterday of snow.  I had been thinking about this after seeing reports of up to 100 different roofs collapsing in Massachusetts in the past few days.  We kind of hemmed and hawed on whether to clear the snow, and then on Friday the engineer for the building project strongly suggested we do it.  So yesterday a team of 19 guys got up there and shoveled all the snow off.  This was packed, heavy snow which only would have become heavier with tonight’s freezing rain.

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February 5th, 2011 by Fr. Greg

Hike Part II

So, back to the hike.  There were 14 of us in our group with an age range between 7 and 80.  All made it to the top and, more importantly, to the bottom safely.  The group has its origins in a scout troop back in the day, with the old scout master and several of his former scouts, now adults, making up the nucleus of the group.  Everyone else is a neighbor or someone like me who has received a special invitation to join the fraternity.  We are men of tradition, and several were followed yesterday.  The morning began at the meeting place in Shrewsbury.  From there we went to Nik Rylee’s, a diner in Winchendon, for breakfast.  And this was a breakfast.  They have something called the lumberjack special, which has pretty much every common breakfast food, and a bunch of the guys ordered it.  I stuck with an omelet and home fries.  We lingered a bit there – I think everyone was enjoying the toasty (harf harf harf) atmosphere and a bit hesitant to go back in into the cold, which was between -5 and 5 depending on where in town we were.  Once we got our crampons on and were all kitted up we started hiking, and all thoughts of the cold pretty much disappeared.

And it really was a beautiful day – sunny with no wind.  The parking lot at Monadnock was full, and there was everyone from snowshoers to people jogging -really – up and down the trails.  In years past when it was this cold and windy there were maybe one or two other groups climbing, but lack of wind made this a popular day – there were actually traffic jams on the mountain in a few places.  We spent more time than usual at the summit and took some pictures, then descended a bit until we found a good place to have our lunch.  From there it was a pretty quick but cautious descent – going down is when most injuries happen.  We then repaired to George F’s house, where Sophie had her usual delicious spread for us and we celebrated with the traditional Harvey’s Bristol Cream toast.  We are especially proud of Alexander and young George, who at ages 7 and 9 proved to be true warriors.  Bill, who is a young 80, also conquered the mountain in style.

Many people think were are batty for doing this but it is truly fun and a satisfying accomplishment.  There is also the camaraderie; many of us only see each other this once a year but there is such a special bond  between us that it is like no time has passed.  It is also great exercise and a chance to do winter climbing without worrying about avalanches, pulmonary edemas, and other not-so-fun stuff associated with climbing big mountains.  Can’t wait until next year!

Here is a picture George S. snapped of me on the summit – soon to be my Facebook profile picture:

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January 16th, 2011 by Fr. Greg