The second day of February brings the wonderful feast of Candlemass. This marks the fortieth day after Christmass and originates in the Jewish custom of presenting the first-born male child as an offering to God. In principle, the child would be handed over to the Temple authorities to be nurtured and trained for service in the temple. The first-born male was seen as belonging to God. When Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus to the Temple they made an offering as a substitute for their son. The wealthy would sacrifice two doves. The poor would offer two pigeons. The fact that the latter were offered would indicate the low social status of the Holy Family.
According to the account in Saint Luke’s Gospel, Simeon, an old man who worshipped in the Temple, took up the child and uttered the words which we now know as the “Nunc Dimittis” (the opening words in Latin of Simeon’s prayer). These words are said or sun at Compline (the final prayer for the day) or at Anglican Evening Prayer, commonly referred to as Evensong. These are the words:
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which though has prepared before the face of all people.
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.
It is the reference to light which caused the commemoration of the event to include the lighting and carrying of candles. This we do year by year.
In addition to the prophesy contained in the Nunc Dimittis, Simeon also predicted that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart, Jesus, himself, being a cause of joy and scandal through his preaching, actions, and presence. Anna, a prophetess, also joined in Simeon’s foretelling of the future.
Because Easter is relatively late this year, Candlemass falls some weeks before the beginning of Lent. Very often the words of Simeon about Our Lord and Our Lady’s suffering form a link to the beginning of Lent and the journey to the Cross. This year the connection is less obvious. Lent, however, is not that far away. The first of March is Ash Wednesday and the Church bids us turn from Bethlehem to Calvary.
Our celebration of Candlemass is going to be especially blessed by the Saint Cecilia Singers. They will be performing a mass setting (the bits of the service that the congregation normally sing – and that never change, unlike the hymns) by the Spanish composer Natividad. This is highly appropriate, given that Candlemass concludes the Christmass cycle and the composer’s name means birth or Christmass.
I hope that the singers will be made aware that the statue above the organ case is none other than Saint Cecilia herself. She is shown carrying a small organ and, presumably, playing it. Why she became the patron saint of musicians it is difficult to work out. Cecilia was an early Christian martyr who refused to deny the Lord and shed her blood for Him.
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 2nd
1930 CANDLEMASS PROCESSION, MASS & PARTY
The S. Cecilia Singers will be joining us in worship.
Father Paul Edward Hutchinson 1933-2017
Father Paul Hutchinson died in the evening of Sunday 15th January at Leek Moorlands Hospital. Most of his close family were with him when he died. He received Last Rites on the previous Friday evening. His body was received into Sneyd Church on the evening of Thursday 26th January and the funeral requiem was celebrated the following afternoon. His body was interred in the graveyard at Tunstall.
Needless to say, the church was packed for the funeral mass and most people stayed behind for refreshments. It was a wonderful celebrate of a good man’s life. Father Paul was not a saint but he was saintly. Luke the rest of us, he was, and is, a sinner in need of the Lord’s redeeming love.
Paul Edward Hutchinson was born in Leicester in June 1933. He has, to all intents and purposes, an only child. (He had a sister who died in infancy before he was born.) Paul’s family were stalwarts of S. Andrew’s, Jarome Street – an Anglo-Catholic stronghold then as it still is. His parents ran a grocers’ shop. He later studied at King’s College, London and S. Boniface’s College in Warminster prior to ordination at S. Paul’s Cathedral and a first curacy at S. Michael’s, Bromley-by-Bow in the East End. Meanwhile, he had met Doreen Hutchinson when she was talking to the young people of S. Andrew’s about the work of the A.Y.P.A. (Anglican Young People’s Association) They were not allowed to marry until after Paul’s priesting. It was during the time at Bromley that Michael and Andrew were born.
The family then moved to S. Michael’s Mill Hill for a second curacy (a sort of apprenticeship). Mary was born and, later, Stephen at Marshalswick. Marshalswick was a suburb of St. Albans. Father Paul was sent to establish a new parish and he became the first vicar. This was from 1966-1980.
Meanwhile, the new Bishop of Stafford, John Waller, had moved from St. Alban’s to take up his post as suffragan in Lichfield Diocese. He persuaded Father Paul to move to Christ Church, Tunstall. (The Bishop of st. Alban’s was none too pleased!) He remained at Christ Church for ten years, five of those years being spent as Rural Dean. (Bishop’s rep. And shop steward for the clergy.) It was during this time that he became involved in the appointment of Father Brian Williams as priest-in-charge and, later, vicar of Sneyd.
Father Paul and Doreen then moved to another edge of Lichfield Diocese – to the parish of S. James, Lower Gornal, near Dudley. So much on the edge that it was soon transferred to Worcester Diocese. They remained there from 1991-1998. Returning to Stoke on Trent to be near the children and their families, not to mention the various Angl0-Catholic churches which are scattered around the area.
Their new home was, and is, called “Nashdom” – “Our House or Place” in Russian – and the title of the house formerly occupied by an Anglican Benedictine Religious Order to which Father Paul was attached as an oblate. It was soon after arriving that they joined in worship at Holy Trinity – and have remained ever since. During his time at Sneyd he gave considerable assistance to parishes between priests, S. Paul’s Newcastle being a notable one. He also continued to lead the Lower Gornal pilgrimage to Walsingham, the new vicar being unfamiliar with the shrine and its pattern of worship.
During his time at Holy Trinity he attended the daily mass, preached and taught, led spiritual addresses during Lent. He continued to read a great deal. Loved listening to church music. He and Doreen went on many holidays – mostly to visit churches, convents, monasteries, and shrines! He loved wine and good food and was great pourer of G+Ts and whisky.
In 2015 he started to be noticeably forgetful and was diagnosed with dementia. He later moved to Claybourne House, a wonderful Methodist nursing home not far from Tunstall parish. He had a fall and broke his hip and, although an operation was successful, his general health wasn’t. He spent the last weeks and days in relative peace before his quiet death.
On a personal note, I can remember going for a drink with Father Paul to the Ryan Hall Catholic Club in Tunstall to talk about Sneyd and its direction and needs. At Christmass, Father Paul would invite the clergy and spouses to a party at the vicarage and Doreen would produce the most wonderful food, especially the puddings. He was always an huge asset to the church (along with Doreen) and was very generous of his time and money, not to mention the vestments he and Doreen brought back from various Italian holidays! Taking Father Paul communion was always a joy – even when he occasionally fell asleep during the prayers. At the hospital he would respond by joining in the various hymns I could remember.
His family asked me to remember him as a gentle man who liked things done right.
May Mary and the saints pray for him. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. May God bless Doreen and the family, at home and in church.