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The Grail Mass

The basic religious ritual performed by the Order is the
Grail Mass. There are eight greater seasonal Masses in the
year, plus two lesser Masses. There are also Masses for the
blessing of a child, the confirmation of a Companion, wedding
and separation, and funeral. Let's look briefly at each
Mass, starting with the seasonal ones.


Seasonal Rituals

Midwinter Night's Mass (~21 December), also called the Winter
Solstice, or in the Teutonic tradition, Yule. Shortest day
and longest night of the year. It is the official beginning
of the New Year season within the Order (the actual New Year
begins on Twelfthnight, 2 January). At Midwinter, we
celebrate the rebirth of the Divine Sun Child, Arthur. Like
Christmas, this is a time for exchanging gifts.

Twelfthnight's Mass (2 January). Originally the twelfth day
following the Winter Solstice. In the Middle Ages, it was
moved to the twelfth day after Christmas (and thus the song,
"The Twelve Days of Christmas"). It has now been officially
set on the second of January within the Order. It is our
official New Year's day and ends the winter holiday season.
The Order hosts a large Twelfthnight festival called the
Round Table Assembly, where the Pendragon meets with all the
Dukes of the Realms to discuss important matters. Smaller
gatherings also occur throughout the land for merriment. On
this day the Twelfthnight Honours List is issued, wherein
people are awarded various honors, such as the Award of Arms.
The other time of the year when honors are issued is
Kingsday, 2 July.

Candlemass (2 February), also known as Brigantia and Imbolc.
This time celebrates the waxing light of the Sun and the
official end of the winter season. It is a time to start
spring cleaning. As the name implies, many candles are lit
to welcome the growing strength of the Sun. It is also a
time of initiation.
Vernalmass (~21 March), also called the Vernal or Spring
Equinox. Day and night are equal. It is a time to celebrate
the spring season and the start of the agricultural cycle.

Welfiremass (1 May), also known as Beltane or May Day.
Celebrates the start of the summer season. Bonfires are made
outside, and smaller fires indoors are lit to again celebrate
the waxing strength of the Sun. These are called Welfires,
as they help ensure the welfare of the people and the land.

Midsummer Night's Mass (~21 June), also called the Summer
Solstice. The longest day and shortest night of the year.
The Sun has grown as strong as it will this year, and we
celebrate the coronation of the Sun King Arthur.

Kingsday (2 July). Celebrates the official birthday of the
Pendragon (no matter when his birthday may really fall), in
commemoration of the birthday of our founder, Artus de
Troyes. This is the other day when honors are issued.

Harvestmass (1 August), also called Lughnassadh or Lammas.
This is the beginning of the autumn season and celebrates the
first harvest of the agricultural year.

Autumnalmass (~21 September), also known as the Fall or
Autumnal Equinox. Celebrates the end of the agricultural
year. It is a time for rest and for thanksgiving, as well as
preparing for the coming winter.

Ancestor Night's Mass (31 October), also called Samhain and
Halloween. This is a time to remember our ancestors and
other loved ones who have passed away. The veils between the
worlds are thinnest on this night, and so it is a good time
to try contacting beings in Avalon and Annwn (two names for
the Otherworlds where souls go after death). It is also a
great time to banish any aspects of your life which you wish
to be rid of.
Those are the seasonal Masses. Other Masses mark various
rites of passage, both temporal and ecclesiastical.


Temporal Rites of Passage

Child Blessing. This is a ritual to welcome and bless a
newborn child. Unlike other religions, however, the child is
not dedicated as a member of the faith, nor are the parents
commanded to raise the child as a Pagan. We believe in
allowing people to make a choice concerning their religion,
which leads to the next rite of passage.
Confirmation of a Companion. This ritual formally confirms a
person as a member of the Order. It can be performed anytime
in a person's life, though usually not before the age of
thirteen.

Marriage. This is the wedding ceremony. Not all Chaplains
are recognized by state authorities, however, so it may not
be a legally binding marriage. And not everyone wants to (or
is legally permitted to) enter into a state sanctioned
marriage. However, the marriage is binding within the Order,
and if the marriage is to be ended, one or both partners need
to make use of the next ritual.

Separation. Not all marriages are meant to last a lifetime.
If a marriage is to end, both partners are encouraged to take
part in a formal separation ritual. If this is not possible,
than at least one partner should partake. Usually the same
Chaplain who performed the wedding ceremony officiates at the
separation. Note that this is not a legal divorce, and that
anyone who is legally married will have to go to court to
become legally separated.

Requiem. This is the funeral Mass, a time for friends and
relatives to gather together to say good-bye to one who has
passed away.


Ecclesiastical Rites of Passage
Squiring. This is the first of the steps to becoming a
knight. It is a relatively simple ceremony, in which the
candidate and his mentor are formally recognized.

Accolades. This is the actual knighting ceremony, where the
candidate is tapped on the shoulders with a sword and where
the new knight takes vows of fealty to the Order.

Consecration and Coronations. Consecration is the ritual
which ordains a Chaplain as Priest of the Grail. Coronations
are the ceremonies which crown Dukes and the Pendragon.
These are pretty formal affairs, filled with pomp and
ceremony.


What Happens at a Mass
Regardless of the purpose, the basic framework of the Mass
is the same. The Chapel is set up before any of the Company
arrives. Once the Chaplain has prepared the Chapel, he rings
a bell, signaling the Company to enter (usually from the
west). Then the Procession begins, when the Wardens carry
the Hallows into the Chapel and put them in their places.
The Chaplain invokes the God Merlin and the Goddess, the Lady
of the Lake. The Minstrel then leads a meditation: reading,
reciting, or singing an Arthurian story which fits with the
particular type of Mass being performed. Then the Chaplain
leads the celebration, followed by the Grail Communion. In
this part of the Mass, the Company communes with one another
and with the gods. Though we eat bread and drink wine, it is
not like a Christian Communion or Catholic Eucharist, which
commemorates the Last Supper. Instead the bread and wine
symbolize our lives and our spirits, which we share with one
another. Finally there is a recession, at which time the
Wardens carry the Hallows from the Chapel, and the Company
departs.
There are some regional differences. Not all Chapels
perform the Procession of the Hallows. Instead, the Hallows
are already in place when the ritual begins. Meditations
also vary greatly. It may be a story which is read or
recited, a song which is sung, or even a guided visualization
led by the Minstrel.
One last thing to remember about the Green Chapel. Only
Knights are allowed to carry and bare edged weapons (daggers,
swords, axes, etc.) in the Green Chapel. Some Chaplains
allow Squires to carry, but not bare, daggers or swords.
Check with your local Chaplain to see where he stands on this
matter.

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