the daily musings ... of faith and culture, of life and love, of fun and games, of a song and dance man, who is keeping his day job.
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
“C’mon, take me to the Mardi Gras ...”
“... where the people sing and play / Where the dancing is elite / And there's music in the street / Both night and day.”
There goes "Rhymin' Simon" again, in a live recording of his 1973 hit on Columbia Records. Meanwhile, this being the last day of merriment before the Great Fast (aka Lent), I am reminded of another Mardi Gras from so many years ago ...
Candlemas Day (or, why Punxatawney Phil is a Catholic)
“When the days
for their purification
according to the law of Moses,
Mary and Joseph took Jesus
up to Jerusalem
to present him to the Lord,
just as it is written
in the law of the Lord,
Every male that
opens the womb
shall be consecrated
to the Lord,
and to offer the sacrifice
of a pair of turtledoves
or two young pigeons,
in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.”
Today, both the Eastern and Western churches observe the Feast of the Purification of Mary (known as "Candlemas" in the West), exactly forty days after Christmas. In some traditions, the Christmas season officially ends with this day, and preparation for Lent can begin, which includes the "Carnival" season in much of South America. But today, throughout the Catholic world, the faithful will process in and around their churches bearing lighted candles, which are blessed for the coming year.
The origin of this feast is described in detail, in this excerpt from the classic work of Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB, entitled The Liturgical Year.
The mystery of today's ceremony has frequently been explained by liturgists, dating from the 7th century. According to Ivo of Chartres, the wax, which is formed from the juice of flowers by the bee, always considered as the emblem of virginity, signifies the virginal flesh of the Divine Infant, who diminished not, either by His conception or His birth, the spotless purity of His Blessed Mother. The same holy bishop would have us see, in the flame of our Candle, a symbol of Jesus who came to enlighten our darkness. St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, speaking on the same mystery, bids us consider three things in the blessed Candle: the wax, the wick, and the flame. The wax, he says, which is the production of the virginal bee, is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on top, is His divinity.
In addition, Duncan Maxwell Anderson of HMS Blog provides guidance on customs of the season, as well as suggestions for family celebrations. Included are some fun facts about the real origins of Groundhog Day:
In Catholic Europe, they say that if Candlemas is clear and bright, there will be six more weeks of winter. In Germany, this idea became, "If the bear comes out and sees his shadow, he will grumpily go back into his cave, and winter will last another six weeks."
Then this feat of prediction was ascribed to German badgers.
And since badgers are not found in the eastern U.S., German immigrants to this country were obliged to depend for meteorological guidance on a species of marmot called by the Indians 'weejak' or woodchuck, also called ... the groundhog.
Today, if Punxatawney Phil sticks his nose out, you tell me if he isn't carrying a candle-holder. He's Catholic, you know.
You just can't argue with reasoning like that, don't you think?
... is a documentary film about Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia Women's Medical Society disaster, and the cover-up by state and local oversight agencies. The trailer for the film was shown at this year's annual ProLifeCon, as covered by our annual “Twitcast” one week ago today (and the videos for which are finally all up). This documentary runs just over twenty-one minutes long, and is not for the squeamish. It is presented here in its entirety.
Today it begins, our seventh annual “Twitcast” joining pro-life bloggers from near and far, who all had the good sense once again, to come in out of the cold during the annual March For Life, for this year's ProLifeCon, the “premiere conference for the online prolife community” hosted once again by the Family Research Council in Washington DC.
During the event, this video clip provides a live feed of the proceedings. With its conclusion, you are invited to view the pre-recording thereof. You can learn more at the FRC website, follow the magic hashtag on Twitter: #prolifecon, or follow yours truly at: twitter.com/manwithblackhat.
A transcript of the Twitter feed appears below, now that the event is completed. Items may be edited slightly for correction, especially when we had to look up some of the big words.
Today was the traditional start of the agricultural year in England, and so was known as “Plough Monday” or the day after “Plough Sunday” which was the Sunday following the traditional observance of Epiphany on the sixth of January. This was the Monday when everyone would end the Christmas revelry and get back to work.
John Brand, in his 1777 book Observations on Popular Antiquities, gives an account of the formalities:
The FOOL PLOUGH goes about: a pageant consisting of a number of sword dancers dragging a plough, with music; one, sometimes two, in very strange attire; the Bessy, in the grotesque habit of an old woman, and the Fool, almost covered with skins, a hairy cap on, and the tail of some animal hanging from his back. The office of one of these characters, in which he is very assiduous, is to go about rattling a box amongst the spectators of the dance, in which he receives their little donations.
Well, maybe not directly back to work. Personally, I'd rather be molly dancing. What is that, you ask?
“Molly dancing” traditionally only appeared during the depths of winter and is regarded by many people as the East Anglian form of Morris dancing. It is characterized by blackened faces, heavy boots (usually hobnailed) and the presence of a "Lord" and a "Lady", two of the men specially attired respectively as a gentleman and his consort, who lead the dances. Blackening faces was a form of disguise, since the dancers could not afford to be recognised. Some of those people from whom they had demanded money with menaces would have been their employers. Molly dancing is by nature robust and, some would say, aggressive. These qualities are emphasised by the sound of the hobnailed boots worn by the dancers, which were the normal form of footwear for farm workers in the East of England right up until the second half of the twentieth century. (Information courtesy alexandersanders.)
On a promising note, and according to the Olde Farmer's Almanac: “In the evening, each farmer provided a Plough Monday supper for his workers, with plentiful beef and ale for all.”
VIDEO: A 2008 performance of "March of the Kings" ("Marche Des Rois") by Nowell Sing We Clear (Tony Barrand, Fred Breunig, Andy Davis and John Roberts) at Latchis Theater, Brattleboro, Vermont.
+ + +
The Blessing of the Entrance to the House (“Chalking the Door”)
At the Mass for the Day, the faithful are given chalk that has been blessed by the priest, as well as special holy water known as "Epiphany water." The blessing for it, which takes place only for this occasion, is to be found in the traditional Rituale Romanum, and includes a prayer of exorcism. The blessed chalk and the holy water are then taken home, to be used that evening.
+ + +
We begin with the Sign of the Cross, and the words of Psalm 71(72) "Deus, judicium":
Give the King your justice, O God, *
and your righteousness to the King's son;
That he may rule your people righteously *
and the poor with justice.
That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
and the little hills bring righteousness.
He shall defend the needy among the people; *
he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.
He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
from one generation to another.
He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, *
like showers that water the earth.
In his time shall the righteous flourish; *
there shall be abundance of peace
till the moon shall be no more.
He shall rule from sea to sea, *
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
His foes shall bow down before him, *
and his enemies lick the dust.
The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, *
and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts.
All kings shall bow down before him, *
and all the nations do him service.
For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, *
and the oppressed who has no helper.
He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; *
he shall preserve the lives of the needy.
He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, *
and dear shall their blood be in his sight.
Long may he live!
and may there be given to him gold from Arabia; *
may prayer be made for him always,
and may they bless him all the day long.
May there be abundance of grain on the earth,
growing thick even on the hilltops; *
may its fruit flourish like Lebanon,
and its grain like grass upon the earth.
May his Name remain for ever
and be established as long as the sun endures; *
may all the nations bless themselves in him
and call him blessed.
Blessed be the Lord GOD, the God of Israel, *
who alone does wondrous deeds!
And blessed be his glorious Name for ever! *
and may all the earth be filled with his glory.
Then one who is the Officiant says the following prayer:
If necessary, the Officiant or another steps up onto a chair or stepladder, and with a piece of blessed chalk, writes over the entrance to the house.
“Christus ...” (“May Christ ...”)
“Mansionem ...” (“this dwelling ...”)
“Benedicat.” (“... bless.”)
C M B
“In the coming year ...”
20 C M B
“... and in the years to come.”
20 C M B 16
“In the name of the Father ...”
20 + C M B 16
“and of the Son ...”
20 + C + M B 16
“... and of the Holy Spirit.”
20 + C + M + B 16
Everyone responds: “Amen.”
20 + C + M + B + 16
The doorway is sprinkled with Holy Water blessed for the Epiphany. The inscription is to be removed on the Feast of Pentecost.
+ + +
For those who require "the short form," there is this one from the Church of Saint Mary in Clifton Heights, New York. On those nights when the weather is particularly inclement, one can simply read from the Gospel of John while inscribing over the door ...
In the beginning was the Word, (inscribe 2)
and the Word was with God, (inscribe 0)
and the Word was God. (inscribe +)
He was in the beginning with God. (inscribe C)
All things came to be through him, (inscribe +)
and without him nothing came to be. (inscribe M)
And the Word became flesh (inscribe +)
and made his dwelling among us, (inscribe B)
and we saw his glory, (inscribe +)
the glory as of the Father’s only Son, (inscribe 1)
full of grace and truth. (inscribe 6)
… then with the Holy Water, making the sign of the cross three times over the entrance, proclaiming “Christus ... Mansionem ... Benedicat” and calling it a night.
+ + +
This day is remembered throughout the world by various names. In many parts of Europe, Epiphany retains its distinction as "Little Christmas." Among the Greek Orthodox, the waters of the harbor are blessed by the local priest. In Spanish-speaking countries, it is known as “Dia de los Tres Reyes” (“Day of the Three Kings”). There are parades on the main street, such as this one in Madrid, Spain.
Although we know the "kings" were not actually royalty at all, but scholars in astronomy and other sciences who came from Persia, tradition has associated Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar (their names as rendered in the apocryphal gospel accounts) as representing the Orient, Arabia, and Africa, the three great land masses of the known world in the first millennium.
As with the eve of Saint Nicholas Day in parts of western Europe, children in the Hispanic world are known to leave their shoes out and receive candy and other treats by the next morning. In Spain, children traditionally received presents on this day, rather than on Christmas, although recent years have seen both Christmas and Epiphany as a time for gift-giving.
When I was growing up back in Ohio, the village of Milford had their own way of disposing of old Christmas trees. They would be collected and taken to some field at the edge of town, stacked in a big pile, and "Twelfth Night" would be celebrated with the lighting of a bonfire dubbed the "yule log." This is remarkable when you consider that Milford is a town first settled by (and more than two centuries later, is still more or less dominated by) Methodists and not "Catlickers." Of course, Mom and Dad didn't go for that sort of ribaldry, so I never actually saw it happen, but I would always read about it that week in the local rag known as The Milford Advertiser.
These days, I imagine people would have a hard time penciling it in between trips to soccer practice and PTA meetings. In fact, since leaving the Buckeye State to seek my fortune elsewhere, I have learned that the town has yielded to other priorities, courtesy of the county's Office of Environmental Quality:
“Many recycled trees are sent through a wood chipper and are used as mulch.”
They have got to be kidding. That kills the holiday magic right there. Then again, why celebrate the glory of the season, when you can spend the rest of the year spreading it on your lawn and walking all over it?
Meanwhile, here at Chez Alexandre, we have celebrated Epiphany on the traditional day all along. Tomorrow the lights that have been on continuously for thirteen days straight (that is, from the day before Christmas until its twelfth day) are shut off and taken down. They are put back in storage along with the decorations, waiting for the season to return. Last of all, the dying tree is sent to its final resting place.
Joy, health, love and peace
Be all here in this place
By your leave we will sing
Concerning our King.
Our King is well dressed
In silks of the best
In ribbons so rare
No King can compare.
We have traveled many miles
Over hedges and stiles
In search of our King
Unto you we bring.
We have powder and shot
To conquer the lot
We have cannon and ball
To conquer them all.
And we bid
to the new.
Christ-Mass: Day 12 (St Telesphorus/St John Neumann)
“On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, twelve drummers drumming ...”
It is ironic that the last day of Christmastide should be anti-clamatic, if only for the day itself. The highlight comes later in the day. Meanwhile ...
The reformed Roman calendar honors Saint John Nepomucene Neumann, a native of Bohemia and Redemptorist priest who was appointed Bishop of Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, and who was a key figure in spreading the Faith to an ever-expanding United States of America.
In the traditional Roman calendar, Mother Church remembers Pope Saint Telesphorus, elected Bishop of Rome in 126, and martyred ten years later. It is said that the tradition of Christmas Midnight Masses, the celebration of Easter on Sundays, the keeping of a seven-week Lent before Easter, and the singing of the Gloria, all are attributed to his pontificate, but the historical accuracy of this claim is in doubt.
Tonight, a season ends, and tomorrow, a new one begins. Stay tuned ...
“On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, eleven pipers piping ...”
As the end of Christmastide draws near, life begins to turn to normal. The trees are taken down and are sitting on the curb, the usual workday routine begins again, and commercials for "holiday sales," having been extended just beyond the first day of the new year, are heard no longer. Meanwhile ...
Today is the feast of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, the foundress of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph, the mother of the Nation's parochial school system, and patroness of Catholic schools.
She was the first native-born American to be canonized a saint, by Pope Paul VI in 1975. From the original motherhouse in Emmitsburg, Maryland, a branch house was established out west, known today as the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, based at Mount Saint Joseph-on-the-Ohio, located on the city's once-predominantly Catholic west side. This order did much to build, not only the parochial school system in this part of the Midwest through their teaching apostolate, but the health care system as well, through the establishment of Good Samaritan Hospital in 1852.
Concerning the role of women Religious and the health care apostolate, much has changed in recent years, to say the least. In light of the current health care legislation signed into law in the United States, and the capitulation by "leaders" of women religious orders, in forcing others to cooperate in acts against the Gospel of Life, let us pause for a moment to consider the irony.
“On the tenth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, ten lords a-leaping ...”
Today on the traditional Roman calendar, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, which was our topic yesterday, which is when we explained why it was our topic yesterday. Meanwhile, the reformed Roman calendar observes either (universally) the Second Sunday After Christmas, or (in the Dioceses of the USA and elsewhere) the Solemnity of the Epiphany.
Why the latter, you ask?
This is a judgment by a competent territorial body of bishops. In this instance, the term "competent" is used guardedly. You see, they think you are entirely too lazy to celebrate anything on a weekday. So they make it convenient for you. They would probably provide drive-thru confessions, and probably had to ignore the advice of an army of lawyers and "risk assessment specialists" to pass on the idea. Perhaps once we succeed in converting the culture for Christ, they'll move Christmas to a Sunday as well, to coordinate our schedules with the department stores. Almost seems worth it, right?
We can say all we want about "the reason for the season" and "keeping Christ in Christmas" and all that. But such festivity presumes a priority attached to, and a meaning for, the value of sacred time. We can also assure ourselves that "our bishops must know what they're doing." But how can something be sacred if we can bend it and twist it to suit our convenience?
And that's when we beg the question, as to whether they really know what they're doing.
+ + +
It is also the day that both the Eastern and Western churches remember the French shepherd girl Saint Genevieve, who lived in the mid- and late- fifth century. Her sanctity was noted at a very early age by Saint Germanus, bishop of Auxerre, who consecrated her to God at the age of seven. Genevieve is patroness of the city of Paris, which has been saved through her intercession more than once, the first time from her contemporary, Attila the Hun.
Perhaps that is why her commemoration has been a popular one here at man with black hat, don't you think?
“On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, nine ladies dancing ...”
The traditional Roman calendar associates this day with the Holy Name of Jesus. It used to be associated with the day before, with the Feast of the Circumcision. (In fact, the Gospel reading for both feasts is identical.) Then in 1913, Pope Pius X moved it to the Sunday between the second and the fifth January inclusive, and in years when no such Sunday existed, to be observed on the second of January. Don't ask me why. (NOTE: This year the feast is on a Sunday, tomorrow, the third of January, but we have something special planned for that. Stay tuned ...)
Historically, the observance of this feast has been all over the place until nearly one hundred years ago. The circumcision of a newborn male under Jewish law must take place eight days after the child's birth, at which time he is given his name. Small wonder, then, that the Gospel readings for both feasts in the traditional Roman calendar are the same. Some Western traditions, such as Anglican and Lutheran, celebrate both on the first of January, as did the Roman for quite some time -- you know, being the eighth day and all.
And speaking of names ...
Once I heard a comedian pose this important theological question: “If Jesus was Jewish, why did He have an Hispanic name?” That occasion aside, it gives us an occasion of our own, to consider that the name "Jesus" was not an uncommon one in His day. Brian Palmer writes for Slate:
How would Christ have been addressed by those around him? Well, certainly not as "Mister Christ." In fact, "Christ" was not a name, but a title, from the Greek Khristós for "anointed one." The Hebrew word was Moshiach or "Messiah." He would have been known by His given name, and the name of His father -- “Yeshua bar Yehosef” or “Jesus Son of Joseph.” In later centuries (or in present-day Iceland), we might easily surmise His having been addressed as “Jesus Josephson.”
We also know that He eventually left Nazareth in Galilee, the town of His childhood, for other parts of that country, as well as Samaria and Judea. In those places, He would have been just as likely addressed as “Yeshua Nasraya” or “Jesus of Nazareth.” We know from Scripture that such was the inscription on the Cross, which gave both His name and His offense, in three languages: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews” (actually, “Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum” in Latin, “Ihsoûs ó Nazoraîos ó Basileùs tôn ’Ioudaìov” in Greek, and “Yeshua HaNazarei v Melech HaYehudim” in Hebrew). After all, a guy from a hick town like that would have been rather conspicuous in a high-falutin' place like Jerusalem, especially outside of the High Holydays.
The Scriptures also record him being addressed as “Jesus Son of David.” A man would also have been known for his extended family; that is, his tribe or house, as in “Yeshua ben David” or “Jesus of the House of David.” Or so I've read. But even though family lineage was everything in Jewish society, such an address was not as common in everyday use.
“Our entire daily lives cannot be occupied with purely religious practices; all of us have to eat, and most of us have and want to do many other activities besides. So though we cannot always be religious in this sense, we can always be Catholic, that is, the round of our daily activities can be conducted in such a way as to express and be in harmony with our Faith. And [this] can involve more than avoiding sin and exercising virtue.”