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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

No holidays, no December??? Huh?

Hello! I'm Connor Wright. There are no holidays and very little celebration in I Lift Up My Eyes To The Hills my latest release from Dreamspinner—Wait! I promise that it's not a depressing story!
One of the supporting characters of I Lift Up My Eyes To The Hills is The Church of Greater Anglia, and as a Western liturgical church, it has a calendar full of holidays and feast days. Below, I've explained the major church seasons with a little help from the protagonists of ILUMETTH, Justinian and Ezekiel. As a bonus, I've also included a few links to music that sort of encapsulates the season in question.

"I hate Aberystwyth."
Justinian frowned at Ezekiel, who was scowling at the hymnal in his hands. "I thought you said you've never been to Wales."
"Hm? No, the tune," Ezekiel said, lifting the book.
"Oh." Justinian's frown—and attention—moved from the man beside him to the organ off to their left. "Um."
"Um?" Ezekiel raised his eyebrows, but whatever he was going to ask had to wait until after the song.
"That was...That was possibly the worst version of Watchmen, Tell Us Of The Night I've ever heard," Justinian whispered, expression pained. "It's supposed to be excited, not, not, not a funeral dirge!"
Ezekiel had to pretend to cough to keep from laughing.

Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation, full of prophecy: the Son of God is coming! Unfortunately, it's also full of songs no one knows. Of course, Advent is only four Sundays long and everyone's looking forward to Christmas (at which point we can finally sing songs we know), so maybe it's not much of a surprise that Advent songs are more muddled through than lovingly performed.">Watchman, Tell Us Of The Night">Creator of the Stars of Night

"You know, I think this was the best Christmas I've ever had," Ezekiel said. He followed the statement up with a coughing fit that left him with watering eyes and labored breathing. 
"How?" Justinian passed him a glass of water.
Ezekiel's smile was small and smug. "I got to miss Gladwyn's midnight sermon."
"I could get a copy of it from Hezekiah and read it to you, since you did miss it," Justinian said, doing his best to maintain a bland expression.
"No, thank you, that's quite all right," Ezekiel said, waving his free hand.

Christmas is actually a very short part of the liturgical year—it's the twelve days from the 25th of December to the 6th of January. Break out the carols!
/">A lovely Norwegian soprano version">O Little Town Of Bethlehem, as arranged by Willcocks">Angels We Have Heard On High
(Episcopal version – slightly different words in the first verse, same tune.)

Justinian looked up from the book he was reading as Ezekiel joined him at the table. "I finally remembered what I was going to tell you," he said.
"Oh, good. What was it?" Ezekiel stirred his soup, ignoring it in favor of Justinian.
"One year, a man from the Grand Duchy of Finland came to Saint Catherine's...I think it he was there for the second Sunday of Epiphany. He talked about how dark the winters are, and that Epiphany for them was a celebration of the return of the light. It was one of those things that stuck in my head, and I've appreciated Epiphany a bit more since."
"Hm," Ezekiel said. "That's an interesting way to think of it."

Epiphany covers the arrival of the Magi and the baptism of Jesus. The most famous Epiphany song—We Three Kings—is another song that covers the three major parts of Jesus's life: birth, passion, and resurrection. One of the more interesting parts of the liturgical year is the way the different stages of Jesus's life overlap: He was baptized as young man, which is discussed in the same season as the kings visiting Him as an infant.">When Jesus Went To Jordan's Stream

"Brothers! Oh, I'm glad you made it! It's tomorrow!"
Ezekiel grinned and waved at the woman behind the counter. "Excellent! Has the courier already come?"
"She's in the tap-room, having her supper," she said.
"Good." To Justinian, Ezekiel said, "I always try to be in town for Lent, because they put on an abridged Messiah—costumes, scenery, even actual sheep."
"Oh, yes. One year, the chorus went out into the audience for All We Like Sheep... And we—the audience—all ended up chasing down the sheep that had gone astray among the people. It was the best performance ever."

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent. Lent is something of a mirror of Advent – an ending and death instead of a beginning and birth. It's a time of reflection and penitence; as it's meant to reflect the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness, people often choose something to give up for the duration.
Since By Man Came Death
Not a traditional Anglican tune by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm willing to bet that Ezekiel and Justinian would like it. 

Justinian looked around the small crowd at the back of the sanctuary, then made his decision. He walked over to Thomas Barrett, gestured to the row of chairs to their right, and waited.
Thomas looked at Justinian, then Ezekiel, then the chairs. After a minute of consideration, he nodded once, then took a seat in the nearest chair.
"Thank you," Justinian said, as he knelt beside the basin at Thomas's feet. It was the only thing that either of them said as Justinian washed the other man's feet.

The last week of Lent is Holy Week, and it begins with Palm Sunday, the day on which Jesus entered Jerusalem. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are relatively quiet... Maundy Thursday is the night of the Last Supper, the source of Communion. Good Friday is the day Jesus died and was buried; Holy Saturday is a day of waiting...

(Jesus Christ Superstar, 1970) Another song that is absolutely not Anglican, but fitting for Palm Sunday.">O Sacred Head Sore Wounded

Easter Sunday morning was grey and wet beyond the windows of the caravan Justinian and Ezekiel occupied. Justinian poured out tea for them, then picked up his prayer book. "Oh, you've turned to the proper page. Thank you."
"I thought I'd make myself useful, beyond stirring up the fire and slicing bread," Ezekiel said, adding a lump of sugar to his cup.
"Mm. Let me see... 'Christ our passover is sacrificed for us, therefore let us keep the feast. Not with the old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.'" Justinian slid the book across the table to Ezekiel and took up his own teacup.
"Alleluia," Ezekiel murmured, pulling the book closer and peering at the page. "'Christ is risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam, all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.'"

Celebrant: Christ is risen! Alleluia!
People: Christ is risen indeed, alleluia!
Wonder, joy, fear, relief – these are all part of Easter Sunday. The waiting is over, but behold, I tell you a mystery... He is not here. O grave, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?
Christ died, Christ rose, Christ will come again in glory: Easter is a promise that we shall not all sleep; but we shall be changed.">Behold, I Tell You A Mystery

Ezekiel glanced at Justinian and said, "Tomorrow is Whitsunday, isn't it?"
"I think so..." Justinian counted back through the Sundays, then nodded. "Yes, it is."
"Good. Means I get to show off a little."
"Reverend Abernathy likes to have a lot of different languages for her Whitsunday service—I'll get to dust off some of my French."

Whitsunday/Pentecost is the day when Jesus appeared to His disciples and told them to spread the word throughout all the Earth, being sure to translate it into whatever languages they might encounter. This particular point was probably recited ad nauseum by>Wycliffe while working on his translations
.">Glorious Things Of Thee Are Spoken">Eternal Ruler of the Ceaseless Round

"Some day, I'll know why the weird things happen in Kingdomtide," Ezekiel said, surveying his torn trousers with an air of disgust.
"People have more time to get into trouble?" Justinian toyed with a dangling shirt button. "I thought the dogs were supposed to be friendly."
"No, we weren't supposed to have any trouble with the dogs, which is a different thing entirely."

Ordinary Time or Kingdomtide is the longest part of the year, stretching roughly from the start of summer into the middle of fall/the end of the harvest—it runs to twenty-four Sundays after Pentecost. The fourth Sunday after All Saints (the 1st of November) is the first Sunday of Advent and the year begins again. (I Lift Up My Eyes To The Hills is set during Kingdomtide, which is why there are no major holidays in the book.)
(The tune is actually The Ash Grove.)
Thanks for reading!

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  1. Fascinating topic. Having grown up in the church myself, it's so nice to see such in M/M romance. Not all of us are haters, after all. ;)


  2. I really like the premise!

    Trix, vitajex(at)Aol(dot)com