Sunday, March 27, 2011

Angel Wing Cakes

I like to bake on Sunday afternoon and was inspired to make Angel Wing cakes yesterday in honour of Lady Day. Actually, they are Butterfly cakes with the wings turned up right to look more like angel wings!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lady Day and New Beginnings

I discovered - late - that yesterday was the Feast of the Annunciation. In England it is known as Lady Day and it used to be the start of the new year until the Gregorian calendar was adopted. It is still a quarter day in Great Britain. It is interesting to me that this feast falls in Lent, I have thought of it as part of Christmas but in fact having it fall during Lent demonstrates the link between Christmas and Easter.

'In my beginning is my end'   (T.S. Elliot. Four Quartets . East Coker.)

The Annunciation  Henry Ossawa Tanner.

'The two cycles are never truly separate. However, they are distinct and the distinction may lead us to lose sight of their fundamental unity. In fact, both cycles are about beginnings. The Christmas cycle is about God's life among us as a man. That life is the life of the new Adam, born of the new Eve, a new beginning for all mankind, and that cycle begins with the Annunciation. The Paschal cycle is about the new Passover, the new springtime of redeemed humanity who, through the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, is raised from the death of sin to new life in the the risen Lord.' 

The above quotation from the website Fully Homely Divine puts it well and better than I could. I admire Mary greatly , she was a remarkable  young woman and her words to the angel never fail to inspire and challenge me.

'I am the Lord's servant ' Mary answered 'Let it be to me as you have said'


I was too late to plan a real celebration at home but I thought that tonight , before bed, we would read the story of the Annunciation and the beautiful song of Mary - The Magnificat. There is some beautiful music and art work inspired by this event. I found a meditation on the stunning painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner at this site

Next year I aim to be prepared ahead.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Update on Lent Reading.

I have started my Lent reading but changed my plans - I was intending to read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's 'The Cost of Discipleship' but on Wednesday I came across an online reading group who are reading Dante's 'Purgatorio' from 'The Divine Comedy'. You can find the site  at Daily Dante. I was a bit daunted , the others all seem very erudite ,but decided to join , at least reading along and I may make comments. I am loving the poetry.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ash Wednesday.

 Ash Wednesday derives it's name from the ritual of burning palm crosses from last years Palm Sunday and marking a cross on your forehead as a public sign of contrition. Ashes are a biblical sign of repentance. In our house we mark Ash Wednesday a little differently - we make ashes, burning our crosses from last year, the boys thoroughly enjoy this part of the ritual as the dry, brittle palms make a really good blaze! We then mix the ashes with soil and plant wheat berries. They grow quite quickly over the weeks and serve as a fresh , green reminder that, as we commit ourselves to discipline during Lent, God will produce new growth in us.

From repentance comes new life.

'....unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies it produces many seeds.' John 12:24.

Shrove Tuesday.

Pancake Day - it is amazing how such simple food can create so much excitement, my kid's could not wait to get home from school to start cooking and eating. They do epitomize pre fasting festivities for me - the smell, as they sizzle in soon to be forbidden butter and the taste, sprinkled with lemon and sugar.

After  the tossing and the eating was over and friends had left,  we turned our thoughts to the start of Lent and the weeks to follow.

Traditionally in some churches Alleluia is not sung during Lent and , although the church we attend does not follow that tradition, I find it a good way to transition from festivities to the more rigorous observance of Lent. In the centre of our dinner table is our Alleluia , at the end of the evening it is hidden away in a plain brown box until Easter Day when it is again appropriate to shout a victory shout of praise.

Monday, March 07, 2011

'The time is Now'

This weekend the kids and I made a ‘now’ cross.  On Saturday I spent time tiding up and putting away some of our ornaments and decorative items in order to simplify and prepare the house for Lent. The now cross serves as a visual reminder in our barer looking house of what Lent is about and of  the quest for spiritual renewal that we will focus on over the next few weeks.
           ‘Indeed, the right time is now. Today is the day of salvation’ 2 Corinthians 6:2
Not tomorrow. Or next month, or next year but NOW.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Spiritual Reading

'Let us imitate the bees, that pass not from one flower to another until they have gathered all the honey found in the first' 
St Alphonsus Liguori

This year I have decided to do some Lenten reading. I am an avid reader so reading in its self is nothing new but I want to make my reading over the next few weeks something more significant. It is easy to race through a good book and not really think on what one is reading, allowing  those thoughts to penetrate and transform.

St Alphonsus Liguori , a 17th century Catholic  bishop and theologian suggests these points for the discipline of spiritual reading.
  • pray before reading
  • do not read simply to gain knowledge or from curiosity but to grow in the love of God.
  • read slowly and with attention 'masticate and ponder well'
  • when something strikes you read it a second time
  • pray again
  • When you have finished reading select a thought to take away with you. 'as you would carry a flower from a garden of pleasure'
Now I have to decide what I am going to read , I have a couple of ideas.

With the children I am thinking of reading Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard.
Another good suggestion for children's Lent reading is Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis.

This is, of course, in addition to regular bible reading so it's going to take a bit of discipline.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Lent begins on Ash Wednesday in one week’s time, on March 9th. So, I have been thinking how we are going to observe it this year. Lent is the period of preparation before Easter, it last for 40 days (excluding Sundays) to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness.  The name Lent comes from the old English word for Spring, referring to the gradually lengthening days of spring.
Traditionally it is a time of prayer, charitable giving and confession and provides an opportunity for the renewal of spiritual disciplines, meditation and reflection. Actually, although I enjoy contemplative prayer and meditative worship I don’t always find Lent an easy time to observe, especially  within our family, which is perhaps why it is good for us to persevere. It takes a commitment on all our parts to persist in our chosen disciplines and to carve out time in the schedule on a regular basis. My boys are not naturally quiet meditative types, neither is my husband and so we must try to find a balance between stillness and activity.
My plans for Lent so far include using Count your Blessings resources from  the Christian Aid website.This excellent resource suggests practical actions that encourage thankfulness and generosity which I find puts a positive spin on giving something up – my kids are not quite ready to fast yet.  To satisfy my need for meditation and because I want to teach my kids the value of stillness and quiet in prayer we will do the Stations of the Cross using some beautiful meditations by the artist Carol Douglas. A Lenten Pilgrimage  
The Stations of the Cross is a meditation that follows the journey of Jesus from his arrest to his burial. It originated in the pilgrimages that early Christians made on the streets of Jerusalem following the final steps of Jesus to his death.
We will also make pretzels one weekend which are shaped like arms folded in prayer to remind us of the purpose of Lent, they are delicious warm from the oven and an activity we can do together. On Ash Wednesday I plan to plant wheat grass with the children, we did this last year and they thoroughly enjoyed it and are keen to do it again, my oldest son particularly because it involves burning things up. More about that and other ideas will follow.
How do you plan to observe Lent? I would enjoy hearing your ideas and thoughts.