Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary (On Retreat!)

So today, February 2nd, is the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or to some, the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple, or as well, Candlemas.

It is a day that does not pass by unnoticed by the church where I worship (the College Chapel) and what was special about this year’s feast was that it coincided (intentionally) with the Chapel’s annual winter retreat. We typically have one in the fall and the winter, and almost always go into the real heart of Nova Scotian wilderness near Kejimkujik (keh-jim-eh-koo-jik) Provincial Park. I hadn’t been to the park before two years ago when myself and some others from the chapel canoed and portaged deep into the park’s back country for five days. The trip was in lieu of a pilgrimage that was to take place to Syria and had we not been given advanced word from Canadian Authorities, we may have wound up in Syria when the civil conflict erupted.

The retreats take place in rented cabins which lie alongside a small set of rapids connecting two lakes which then feed into Keji. A big part of retreats in general, and certainly of retreats out of the college is the actual retreating that’s done for them. A removal from the hustle and bustle of the world to a place, perhaps more foreign, but certainly more interior. There is always a speaker who frames the weekend for us and delivers a series of talks over three days; speakers have ranged from visiting professors, to poets, and bishops. As many services as we can are held outside–again, outside of the norm for everyone, and to place us squarely amidst creation (and beauty that is hard to find in a city). Most often we have morning Holy Communion either beside (in the fall), or on (in the winter) the big lake, barring severely inclement weather.

I wasn’t able to attend the whole weekend, but a carload of us drove to the site this morning at 4am for the 7am communion. With an altar set up on the frozen lake, and following the blessing of the chapel’s candles (Candlemas) in the main lodge there was was procession that wound through the forest path down to the lake. I hope to make a future post about it, but we were all very excited to use a new processional banner the Chapel had written in memory of a departed priest, professor and friend of the Chapel and College.

This all leads me to the point of this post–I have pictures! It goes without saying from viewing the pictures alone that 7am on a frozen lake in February in Nova Scotia is not warm; with windchill it didn’t get much above -16c (~3 f). As you can see, we had to adapt with our vestments.

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