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  • Writer's pictureM. Virginia Southworth

The "Triduum of Fire" and My Tree Must Come Down

Call me old-fashioned, call me traditional, or even call me the late M. Virginia LaPointe Southworth, but my Christmas tree is still up. I overheard a guest at the restaurant say that he had gone into mourning as he had just taken his tree down this week. I told him that I could resonate with that.

I was tempted to do what my mother has done and that is have my tree go into hiding - or incognito. She would simply drape a sheet over it. No muss, no fuss and voila, you are ready when next Christmas rolls around.

Growing up we always had our tree up until February second, or 'Candlemas Day'. This is the day when those beeswax candles would get blessed. On the following day, we would also get our throats blessed with two of these candles crisscrossed symbolizing Saint Andrew's death on a cross shaped like an "X". These candles are fastened with a red ribbon representing the blood of the marytrs. On February 3rd we honor one in Saint Blaise.

Well, firstly, today, February 1st, is the Feast Day of Saint Brigid of Ireland. St. Brigid is the "Mother Saint" of Ireland. The other two patron saints are St. Patrick and St. Columba. Brigid came from Kildare (c. 451 - 525). There are many miracles and folklore and legends associated with her. She was born of a noble father and an enslaved mother. Brigid was sold to a Druid whom she later converted to Christianity. Once set free, Brigid returned to her father who arranged to have her married to the King of Ulster. However, he exonerated her from her father's control as he was so impressed with her piety. St. Brigid went on to found the first abbey for monks and monastery for nuns in Ireland.

Now my husband Jim and I received a beautiful St. Brigid's Cross as a wedding gift when we got married. It is made from rushes, reeds, or straw. Ours is hanging above our door as is typical and as a sign of welcome to St. Brigid who offers protection over the home. These crosses with four arms tied together are made the night before and blessed with Holy Water. In fact, they were making them last night at the Irish Cultural Center in Utica.

In Western Ireland, the little girls weave straw dolls in honor of St. Brigid. These are called "brideogs". There are also many wells dedicated to St. Brigid in Ireland. These are usually near churches and they have become popular pilgrim sites.

One of the most notable legends associated with this saint, is that of a blind nun named Dara whose sight was restored through Brigid's intercession. Upon receiving her eyesight, Sister Dara realized that the beauty of God as seen through her soul was blurred. She begged to be restored to darkness so that she might see God more clearly.

Saint Brigid is said to have turned water into beer for a Leper colony providing enough beer for eighteen churches from a single barrel. Thus, she is the patron saint of beer along with that of dairy farmers, cattle, midwives, babies, computers, and blacksmiths.

Tomorrow, on Candlemas Day, we celebrate The Light of the World - as this Feast of The Presentation brings illumination. Traditionally, this marks the end of the Christmas season - hence, my tree will be taken down.

Then, on Sunday, completing the "Triduum of Fire", we celebrate the Feast of St. Blaise who was a fourth century bishop from Armenia. He is credited with saving a boy who was choking on a fish bone. He was scourged and tortured under the emperor Licinius who did not uphold the Edict of Milan. Initially, he avoided arrest by living in caves in the hillside. Many wild animals were drawn to him much like St. Francis. One woman had her pig taken by wolves. St. Blaise prayed and the wolf returned the woman's pig. Eventually, Blaise died as a martyr. He was beheaded as he would not deny his Christian Faith.

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