How to beat the January Blues
This time of year can feel a little bleak and depressing. It’s cold and wet and, although the days are getting longer, it’s definitely not spring yet. With the infamous ‘Blue Monday’ looming (16th January this year- supposedly the most depressing day of the year) here are some suggestions to stay joyful in this dark and cold season!
Keep you crib up until the Feast of the Presentation
In the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Calendar Christmastide lasts until the Feast of the Presentation (also known as the Feast of the Purification of Mary or Candlemas) on the 2nd February and some people used to keep their decorations up until then. You might get a reputation for being a bit eccentric with the neighbours if you keep your Christmas tree up until the 2nd February. However, keeping the crib up is a lovely subtle way to keep the joy of the season alive in your heart and to further meditate on the wonder and mystery of the Incarnation.
Celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord PROPERLY!
As mentioned above this beautiful feast celebrates the moment that Jesus was bought to the temple to be presented to the Lord (Luke 2:22) This is the dramatic scene in which Simeon the prophet takes infant Christ in his arms and praises God calling Jesus ‘a light of revelation for the gentiles and glory for your people Israel’ (Luke 2:32).
Jesus is the Light of the World and the Church reminds us of this fact by blessing the candles to be used in the liturgies and in people’s homes on this feast. In France the day is celebrated by eating crepes and I see no reason why we can’t extend the tradition here!
Another way to mark the feast is to collect snowdrops to display in your house. Snowdrops are symbols of purity and hope and remind us of Christ and Our Blessed Mother. Finally there is a beautiful old carol
written in the 15th Century by a Franciscan Friar, called ‘I am Christmas’ which speaks of the passing of the Christmas season to give way to Lent. Go to a Candlemas service and then come home, read this poem out loud whilst you munch on crepes surrounded by candles and snowdrops!
Pray the mysteries of Light
In this season it is a good idea to meditate on Jesus’ public ministry, as put before us in the Luminous Mysteries of the rosary, as a preparation for the season of the Passion of Christ. These are all mysteries in which Jesus’ glory is revealed as he works miracles and wonders and proclaims the Gospel.
This is seen most clearly in the final mystery of Light, the Transfiguration. Pope Benedict XVI reflected in his March Angelus address in 2011 that the apostles were ‘ready to face the scandal of the Cross’ because they had first contemplated His glory in the Transfiguration. He writes:
“Peter, James and John, contemplating the divinity of the Lord, are ready to face the scandal of the Cross, as it is sung in an ancient hymn:
‘You were transfigured on the mountain and your disciples, insofar as they were able, contemplated your glory, in order that, on seeing you crucified, they would understand that your Passion was voluntary and proclaim to the world that you are truly the splendour of the Father’ (Κοντάκιον είς τήν Μεταμόρφωσιν, in: Μηναια, t. 6, Rome 1901, 341).”
Prepare for Lent
Lent can sometimes come as a bit of a nasty shock to us if we haven’t prepared for it! Spending a little time reflecting on how and to whom we will give alms, what our prayer life will look like and what we will be fasting from will bear much fruit in the season to come as it will have had time to take root in our souls and minds. This season stretching from Epiphany to Lent shouldn’t be divorced from the journey to Easter. As Fr Ivano explains in The Meaning of Lent:
“were you asked- as I have been- to write about Lent where would you start? From Epiphany of course! Are you surprised? Yes, Epiphany, not Ash Wednesday!
According to a very ancient tradition of the Church, on the feast of the Epiphany a deacon would announce the dates of the major feasts of the New Year…On the night of Epiphany, amongst many bright stars, the Church- like the “wise men from the East” (Mt 2:2) points out to us the “Morning Star which never Sets”, Christ risen from the dead, and doing so sets us out onto a journey the Paschal journey…towards Christ.’
Celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes
February 11th marks the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World day for the sick. Given that January and February are times that are particularly hard for those suffering from depression this is a wonderful opportunity for us to offer up prayer and sacrifice for those who suffer from mental illnesses.
If we, or those we love, suffer from anxiety or any form of mental illness we can ask Our Lady of Lourdes to pray for our healing and the grace to face the trials of life. Why not pray the novena to Our Lady of Lourdes this year?
New Companion to Advent & Christmastide – Rediscovering the richness of the Church’s seasons