Long after all traces of Christmas have disappeared elsewhere, the Cathedral and at least one house in the Close are still rejoicing in their festive decorations. As our Precentor, Canon Tom points out, Christmas is not ‘over’ on Boxing Day or even Twelfth Night. The Christmas-Epiphany season in the Church runs for 40 days up until Candlemas, the service that marks Jesus’ presentation in the temple.
One of the oldest feasts of the Christian church, Candlemas, has been celebrated since the 4th century AD and is celebrated in the Cathedral with candlelit Choral Eucharist at 17.30 on 2 February.
“Candlemas is a beautiful service" says Canon Tom, "and is a chance to give thanks for the infant Christ. It is the turning point in our calendar, when we start to looking towards Lent, Easter and Christ’s death and resurrection."
Until Candlemas the nativity and crib and the 'Star of Bethlehem' installation remain in place at the heart of the Cathedral, though Tom has made one small concession. The Christmas tree comes down in mid-January. “We take the Christmas Tree down for practical reasons really," says Canon Tom. "Our big West End tree goes up in mid-December so by mid-January it is starting to drop its needles. Given that it is over 30ft that means there is quite a big daily cleaning job for Cathedral staff. I suspect that if we left it until February we might be looking at bare branches - but we do try to hang on until after the Epiphany Procession.”
The Epiphany Procession takes place at 17.00 on Sunday 15 January and is the last of the three popular processional services celebrating Advent, Christmas and Epiphany at Salisbury Cathedral.
Commemorating the journey of the Magi travelling from the East to worship the infant Jesus, and then following His life through to adulthood, the Epiphany Procession moves from East to West in the Cathedral, the reverse of the Advent Procession. Canon Tom explains the symbolism:
“The Epiphany Procession celebrates the revelation of the Christ Child not just to friends and family but to the world, and is marked with a moving service of words and music including congregational carols and choral work by Poulenc, Messiaen and Taverner. It marks a moment of hope and lightness for the world.”
On Friday 27 January, however, the celebratory mood is set aside as the Cathedral marks a dark moment in world history with a Choral Evensong for Holocaust Memorial Day.
The first anniversary of the Eco Church award scheme, created by A Rocha UK, a charity committed to helping Christians in the UK to care for the natural world, takes place on Sunday, 5 February at 10.30. Run by the charity, A Rocha UK, Eco Church is an online survey by which churches can monitor their sustainability and social contribution. In October the Cathedral received a Bronze Award and is working towards a Silver award.
Three levels of award are available via the Eco Church survey – Gold, Silver and Bronze. Almost 400 churches have already taken part and Salisbury is one of five Cathedrals to been awarded Bronze, alongside Leicester, Portsmouth, St. Paul’s and York Minster. For those interested in learning more about becoming an Eco Church, all you have to do is register at ecochurch.arocha.org.uk