March, memories and miracle

  THE REV. 

  DEBRA BLAIR

  looks at

  the special days

  we mark in March

 

 

 

March, memories and miracle

The year is moving on now, away from winter and heading swiftly into spring. March, though, can be an unpredictable month, sat on the cusp of the seasons.

The church calendar and the liturgical year are moving ahead, too, as we are now in Lent, a time for reflection and remembrance. And March has many dates that are significant in relation to remembering.

1st March is St David’s Day. St David was a monk and a bishop. He led a life devoted to God and was known for his kindness and compassion towards other people. And on 2nd March we remember St Chad, a former Bishop of Lichfield. He was a monk and a priest, and began his monastic life on Lindisfarne. He became Bishop of York briefly, but humbly stepped aside with the arrival in Britain of Theodore. Chad eventually became Bishop of Mercia, and was loved for his wisdom.

Then, later in March, we remember St Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. He had a very difficult start in life. He was born in Cornwall, but was captured by Irish raiders when he was 16 years old and taken to Ireland as a slave. He managed to escape and fled to Europe, but eventually returned to his home and became a priest. Then, in his early 40s, he became a Bishop at Armagh in Ireland. He evangelised the people by travelling all over Ireland, preaching the gospel.

There are many other special saints celebrated and remembered in March: each one has a unique story, as each one of us does, too. All have one thing in common: they follow Jesus’ teaching that: 'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.' (Matthew ch. 16: v. 24)

Each one of us can follow Jesus. We all have different skills, gifts and talents, and we should use them to 'perform your tasks with humility,' as Ecclesiasticus ch. 3: v. 17 says, and as all the special saints did in their lives. We should follow Paul’s advice to 'Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness; fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you are called.' (1 Timothy ch. 6: v. 11)

This month, as well as remembering many special saints, we are also remembering the first official day of last year's lockdown. A National Day of Reflection and prayer is being held on 23rd March. We will all have our own memories of those first few weeks last year. None of us envisaged that a year later this virus would remain. In the initial few weeks it was a very frightening and confusing time. The news and data released each day got worse. We watched as the number of people infected and dying grew. Shops ran out of essential items, and people were losing their jobs and income. People soon began to suffer from the effects of isolation, but as Christians our constant source of help was, and is, in God. Many turned to him and realised that 'Happy are the people whose strength is in you' ( Psalm 84: v. 5)

We all need God’s strength. On the 23rd, we can draw together as a nation and remember those who have lost their lives to Covid, those who mourn them, and the many people with long-Covid who are struggling on the road to recovery. We will also pray for all the front-line workers who have daily put their own health at risk in order to continue working, as they have essential jobs. The battle is not yet over, but the light of hope is here.

The light shines with certainty, and on 25th March we can celebrate this on the festival day of the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the day that marks the conception of Christ. Every new life is a cause for celebration, but the story of the announcement of the coming of Jesus, God’s own Son, is a major cause for celebration. We know that by the coming of Christ into the world we have hope and the promise of salvation.

March, then, is truly a month of change: a month of remembrance, and also of celebration of the hope of the months ahead. Spring is knocking on the door. The country may slowly return to some semblance of normal. We have the hope of being physically together to worship this Easter.

There is a change ahead, a change in the year, and in the country. The words of William Wordsworth come to mind (it being the time for daffodils):

It is the first mild day of March:
Each minute sweeter than before,
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door.

There is a blessing in the air,
Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees, and mountains bare;
And grass in the green field.

In March, we remember and we look forward with hope. There is 'a blessing in the air'.

 


A time to mourn?
GRAHAM SMALLMAN invites us to think about mourning, lamenting and comfort