Tomorrow, Friday 8th November, brings our Martinmas festival when all the children will take part in a lantern parade using the lanterns they have made themselves in class. Here is some background to the festival.
The Martinmas festival stands between Michaelmas and Advent. The harvest is complete for another year; we have gathered in the sun’s fruits and have shared food from our tables with those who may not have our good fortune. Now we celebrate Martinmas with a lantern walk. St Martin recognised the divine spark in the poor man and gave it the protection of his own cloak. When we make a paper lantern, we may feel that we are giving protection to our own little ‘flame’ that began to shine at Michaelmastide, so that we may carry it safely through the dark winter months. It may only be a small and fragile light – but every light brings relief in the darkness. In that spirit of sharing, we gather at the end of our festival around the bonfire to share some bread, the staff of life, with our friends and family.
St Martin was a Roman Soldier who, while serving in Amiens, met a poor beggar at the city gate, shivering half naked in the cold. Drawing his sword, Martin cut his warm cloak in two and gave one half to the pauper. The following night, Christ appeared to Martin, dressed in the piece of cloak that the young officer had given away, and said: ‘Martin has covered me with his garment’.
The Autumn season can leave us bereft, solitary as the trail of wood smoke rising in the November air, yet aware of a spark within that is ready to kindle new fire, to light a new star to be our companion and guide. The flame of our own being, so easily lost to sight in the glare of the summer sun, begins to shine against the darkness of approaching winter. As Nature dies, we come to life. We stand as paupers at the gates of winter. Martin’s half cloak brought hope and comfort to the beggar – his compassionate gesture may warm us also, and protect us from wintry despair.