Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christ-Mass: Day 7 (St Sylvester)

“On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, seven swans a-swimming ...”

Allowing for corruptions evolving the text as described earlier, the "seven swans a-swimming" completes the first seven days being represented by birds, in honor of the seven sacraments. The song is just more than half over, and we can already see that someone obviously put a great deal of thought into it.

What do birds and sacraments have in common? We may never know, but we already know this much ...

Today is the Feast of Saint Sylvester, who was Pope from January 31, 314, until his death on this day in 335. He was the first bishop of Rome to refer to himself as "Pope," or more specifically, "Father (Papa)." His reign would have occurred during that of Emperor Constantine, as well as the First Council of Nicea in 325, which composed the Nicene Creed proclaimed at Mass on Sunday. (Sylvester did not attend this council, but sent a delegation.) He is also one of the ten longest-reigning popes in history.

In present-day Germany, this day of New Year's Eve is known as "Silvester." Beverly Stevens of Regina Magazine tells us: "Okay, this is TRADITIONAL in Germany to play this clip on 'Sylvester' -- that is, New Year's Eve." The English comedian Freddie Frinton (1909-1968) is a butler in his famous "Dinner for One" scene, from the 1948 British short comedy "Trouble in the Air." Other countries know the day better by the saints name as well (such as "la Saint-Sylvestre" in France).

As for the year of our Lord, two thousand and sixteen, the clock is running out. And so it goes.
 

Friday, December 30, 2016

ICYMI

“You’re beginning something pretty important, and it will be forever.”

On this day in 1954 ... (read more)

Christ-Mass: Day 6 (Die Infra Octavam/St Egwin of Evesham)

“On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, six geese a-laying ...”

Geese were among the first birds to be domesticated. As our ancestors made the transformation from hunting and gathering to settling and farming, they found they could keep a supply of them penned up, and with sufficient breeding, to supply eggs and meat for a period of time. Thus did geese emerge as a common barnyard fowl in England.

Closer to the present, Katy Sirls is an English professor at Dixie College in St George, Utah, where she teaches English classes at Dixie College. After completing her Master of Fine Arts degree in writing, with an emphasis on fiction, she published one of her academic essays.

After several months overseas, Stacia is ecstatic to return home for Christmas. It’s been too long since she’s seen her boyfriend, Luke and she longs to be in his arms again. She even has a seductive and sexy “present” planned for their first night together.

With arrangements to celebrate the holidays with Luke’s family, Stacia soon discovers her plans are going to be quite difficult to carry out. Her first night back is spent getting to know his beloved pet geese. It seems as though their night of passion will have to wait—until, that is, she discovers Luke has plans of his own.

Stacia soon finds herself following the mysterious trail of presents Luke has left her: Christmas-wrapped goose eggs, each one with a clue that will lead her to the next ... and, ultimately, to a night she’ll never forget!

In the universal Roman calendar, neither the traditional nor reformed editions commemorate a saint, and it appears only as a weekday of the Christmas season; in the case of the traditional, "De Sexta Die Infra Octavam Nativitatis Domini" ("The Sixth Day Within Octave of the Nativity of Our Lord"). However, the oldest of religious orders -- the Benedictine, Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan, to name a few -- have their own calendars of saints particular to themselves. In addition, many countries have local celebrations on their calendars, lesser-known saints with a popular local cult of devotion.

On this day, the Benedictines remember Saint Egwin of Evesham, the late 7th and early 8th century bishop of Worchester. Born of noble blood to a royal family of the English midlands, he joined the Order of Saint Benedict, and was eventually made bishop. He was known for his protection of the widowed and orphaned, which made him very popular. He was also known for his strict enforcement of the Church's justice, and of her discipline, especially (wait for it!) priestly celibacy, which made him, well, not so popular. A canonical case was made against him, for which he traveled all the way to Rome to appeal, and win.

After seeing a vision of the Blessed Mother, and at her request, he founded Evesham Abbey, one of the great Benedictine houses of the British Isles. He died in 717, and was buried at the Abbey, after which many miracles were attributed to him. (The church in England and Wales commemorates him on January 11, the date of the transfer of his relics.)

Depicted here is the bell tower of the abbey, which is all that remains following the suppression of monasteries during the Reformation.

And so it goes.
 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christ-Mass: Day 5 (St Thomas of Canterbury)

“On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, five gold rings ...”

The fifth day's gift of gold rings (or "golden rings" in some versions) refers not to gold jewelry, but to a characteristic of the ring-necked pheasant. This becomes significant later. Day after tomorrow. You'll have to wait for that.

But you don't have to wait for today's feast, which in the western Church is that of St Thomas à Becket, also known as Thomas of Canterbury, named for where he was Archbishop at the time of his death. Born around 1162, he became the confidant and High Chancellor of King Henry II of England. Then the King got the idea for Thomas, already an archdeacon, to be consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England. This did not have the effect for which the King had hoped. Eventually, Thomas was embroiled in conflict with Henry over the rights and privileges of the Church, and was assassinated by the King's followers in Canterbury Cathedral, on this day in 1170. He was canonized less than four years later by Pope Alexander III.

This story became the subject of a stage play, and eventually the great 1964 film, Becket, starring Richard Burton as Thomas Becket and Peter O'Toole as King Henry. It won an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, and received eleven other nominations, including Best Actor (Burton and O'Toole).

Following an extensive restoration process, the original 1964 film was made available in limited theatrical re-release in 2007. It is currently available on DVD. More information is available at the website: becketthemovie.com.

And the celebration of the Nativity continues.

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It is a little-known fact that today, the Western church also celebrates the feast of an Old Testament figure, none other than King David. In the West, we rarely address Old Testament people as "Saint So-and-so," although it is quite common in the East. ("Saint Elias," for example, is a popular name for Eastern Catholic and Orthodox parishes, otherwise rendered as "Elijah.") As to "Saint David," Shawn Tribe of New Liturgical Movement provides commentary.
 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Childermas Reconsidered: My Important Year

“You’re beginning something pretty important, and it will be forever.”

On this day in 1954, actor Denzel Washington, professional wrestler Lanny Poffo, and magazine editor and morning news anchor Gayle King, were born -- as was yours truly. Shortly after seven in the morning, at Saint Ann's Infant and Maternity Home on Cleveland's east side, I came into the world. About two weeks later, already settled into the second floor of a modest duplex apartment, I received my first letter.

Saint Susanna Rectory
500 Reading Road
Mason, Ohio

January 8, 1955

Master David Lawrence Alexander
875 Helmsdale Road
Cleveland, Ohio

Dear Davie,

Before this letter arrives, you will have been welcomed many times. I wish to add my voice to the chorus of welcome however.

You're beginning something pretty important, and it will be forever. You've got a big job to do, and that is to save your immortal soul that the Good God has given you. Dad and mother will help you in that, and will consider it their most important duty and privilege, which of course, it is.

But God will likely expect more then usual from you. You see, you have very good stuff in you, and that makes His investment pretty heavy and serious. So you'll have to do more than most others because of your rich endowment.

But despite the fact that you mommie and pop are pretty high class folks, even they have their shortcomings. Take dad for instance. Somehow or other, dads have a way of wishing their sons were big guys before they are. And so they treat them kinda rough some times. If he gets to throwing you up in the air and catching you, just to make you rough, you better explain to him that you do not approve. The first way to do that is to cry real loud. Sometimes that does the trick; but not always. Then you have to use stronger measures. For instance, sometime when he has a nice clean shirt on, and he gets a bit rough, just throw up on that nice clean shirt. That, Davie, will do it! If even that doesn't cure him, I guess you'll have to write me for further suggestions.

And now, Davie, if there is any time that I can help you to straighten out either dad or mom, just drop me a line, and I'll be glad to do what I can for you. And be sure to give them my best regards, and congratulations too on your safe arrival.

Faithfully yours,

[Father] Charles J Murphy

I still have the letter somewhere, amidst a host of memorabilia, papers, magazines, pamphlets, photographs -- things that seem worthless to anyone but whomever collected them. They are the things that trigger the memories, that tell the story, somewhere between the lines that are their pages, and the dust that collects thereupon.

My Favorite Year

Life has its own challenges at the age of sixty and beyond. One is past the point of building a life, and the focus is on how to spend its last years gracefully. This year, at the age of sixty-two, I am officially eligible to collect Social Security. However, I'd have to quit working full time in order to do that, and my benefits would be reduced.

But there will be no retirement at the end of this year. In fact, 2016 has probably been the best year of my career. After more than thirty years as a professional graphic designer, I made the decision seven years ago to switch to videography. One condition was to also serve as a photographer. Another was to risk failure, but that was less certain than the risk of mediocrity. Three and a half years ago, I was officially reclassified, from being a "Visual Information Specialist GS-1084" to an "Audiovisual Production Specialist GS-1071." And with the most recent evaluation, I went beyond a "Satisfactory" rating of "3" to a "Highly Satisfactory" rating of "4" on a five-point scale. When I was in college, I wanted my graphic design career to specialize in multimedia. The only problem was, the thing that I wanted to do hadn't even been invented yet. The merger of art and technology took nearly four decades for me. Far from slouching into obsolescence, I am at the very height of my career. A prediction of two years ago is continuing into fruition.

While the year has seen discoveries, and rediscoveries, there were sacrifices that had to be made, disappointments endured. They will be the subject of a piece to be released as the year draws to a close.

And so it goes.
 

Christ-Mass: Day 4 (Childermas)

“On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four calling birds ...”

Actually, they would have been referred to as "colly birds," meaning a form of blackbird. This is one of a number of lines that had become corrupted over the centuries. But enough about the song. Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the infant males in Bethlehem under the age of two years, that King Herod had put to death, in the hopes of doing away with the newborn King, which he saw as a threat to his power (Matthew 2:16-18).

In this 1611 painting by Guido Reni, we see the depiction of that which fulfilled the prophecy: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more.” (Jeremiah 31:15)

Some historians have debated whether the tale actually occurred, as the ancient historian Josephus fails to mention it, but biblical scholars tend to acknowledge its authenticity. While an ancient tradition has placed the death toll at fourteen thousand (most likely an allusion to the many atrocities committed by Herod, including the killing of his own son), given that the "little town of Bethlehem" had a population of only about one thousand at the time, the estimated number of victims has been more realistically placed at around twenty.

In Spanish-speaking countries (including, uh, Spain), as well as former colonies such as the Philippines, this is traditionally a day given to playing practical jokes, much like April Fools' Day elsewhere. The pranks are known as "inocentadas" and either the pranksters or their victims are referred to as "inocentes."

I suppose it depends on which ones you ask.

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It is also a day of remembrance for yours truly, as an entry scheduled for later today will attest. Stay tuned ...
 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christ-Mass: Day 3 (St John)

“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three French hens ...”

“The disciple whom Jesus loved” (“ο μαθητης ον ηγαπα ο Ιησους”) was, for a time, banished under Emperor Domition to the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. This was before returning to Ephesus to remain for the rest of his days. John was the only one of the Twelve to die a natural death, as tradition says he lived to be nearly one hundred years old, yet it was not for want of his enemies trying. Upon an attempt to kill John by poisoning his wine, the evil substance miraculously took the form of a serpent, as it dissipated from his cup.

Here he is in a circa 1610 painting by El Greco with a look that says:

“Dude, seriously? This is the best you can do?”

Today, families can celebrate the Feast of Saint John by drinking to the health of each other, following a German tradition known as Johannissegen. Fisheaters has a recipe for mulled wine that is customary to the occasion. Before the evening meal begins, the head of the house recites the blessing over the wine, as recorded in the Rituale Romanum:

Lord Jesus Christ, Thou didst call Thyself the vine and Thy holy Apostles the branches; and out of all those who love Thee, Thou didst desire to make a good vineyard. Bless this wine and pour into it the might of Thy benediction so that every one who drinks or takes of it, may through the intercession of Thy beloved disciple, the holy Apostle and Evangelist John, be freed from every disease or attack of illness and obtain health of body and soul. Who livest and reignest forever. (Amen.)

He then lifts his glass toward the next person (or touches the rim of his glass to theirs), saying, “I drink you the love of Saint John.” The receiver says in response, “I thank you for the love of Saint John.” The second person turns to the third, and the process is repeated all around the table. That's the long form. The short form is where all present clink their glasses together saying, “Drink the love of Saint John.” This is especially handy for young children who cannot wait to chow down.

To each his own.
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Monday, December 26, 2016

Christ-Mass: Day 2 (St Stephen/Boxing Day)

“On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtle doves ...”

Today is a day when I violate every principle I hold dear, and attempt to go shopping on the day after Christmas. In my humble defense, it is mainly to cash in on great prices for Christmas-related material, specifically Nativity-scene ornaments for the expanding collection on the tree at Chez Alexandre. Next year's rendition will look even brighter to celebrate the birth of Our Savior.

I love to show this video of the á capella group Straight No Chaser singing their own unique version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Today still feels a little like Christmas, only more stores are open, bustling continued consumer spending in spite of everything. I know, some people may think that's a concession to the over-commercialization of the holiday, but as we mentioned before, it's better than pretending it's anything other than Christmas -- like some folks we know.

Today is “Boxing Day” in Canada, the UK, and other nations of the present and former British Empire. Traditionally, Christmas Day was when the master of the house would give presents to his family. On the following day, he would arrange for leftovers from his great feast to be given to his domestic staff, in boxes that they could take home. Eventually, it became customary to box other gifts as well.

For this year's musical Boxing Day selection, we feature The Boxing Day Blues performed by Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies at Green Hammerton Village Hall, North Yorkshire, earlier this month. (Jez Lowe on Guitar & Vocals, Kate Bramley - Fiddle & Vocals, Andy May - Northumbrian Pipes & Keyboards, David De La Haye - Bass and Benny Graham - Accordion & Vocals.)

Whatever works, huh, guys?

Meanwhile, the Irish celebrate this as a national holiday, too, only as Saint Stephen's Day, honoring one of the seven deacons appointed in the Book of Acts, to assist the apostles in their ministry. He was stoned to death by the Jews -- no, not all of the Jews, just some of them, and all of those guys were Jews, alright already??? -- and so is known in the Churches of the East as the "Protomartyr," as he was the first recorded to die for the Faith. And let's not forget that "Good King Welceslas" of Bohemia went out on the feast of Stephen, when the snow lay on ground, yada yada yada ...

And so it goes.
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Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christ-Mass: Day 1 (Nativity)

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.”

The period known as Christmastide begins with the Feast of the Nativity itself; specifically, with the evening of this first day, through the morning of the Feast of the Epiphany. And so the first day of Christmas is December 25-26, and the season ends with Twelfth Night on January 5-6.

By tomorrow, you will stop hearing Christmas music on some radio stations, but around Chez Alexandre, whether here or on the road, as well as here at man with black hat, the Christmas season is just beginning. Most of us are familiar with the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and the significance of the symbolism therein. But for those who are not...

Twelve Drummers Drumming refers to the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Eleven Pipers Piping refers to the eleven faithful apostles

Ten Lords A-leaping refers to the ten commandments

Nine Ladies Dancing refers to the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Eight Maids A-milking refers to the eight beatitudes

Seven Swans A-swimming refers to the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, and/or the seven sacraments

Six Geese A-laying refers to the six days of creation

Five Golden Rings refers to the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.

Four Calling Birds refers to the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists.

Three French Hens refers to Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues.

Two Turtle Doves refers to the Old and New Testaments.

One Partridge in a Pear Tree refers to Christ on Earth being crucified upon a tree.

True Love refers to God, who sent his only son to us.

[NOTA BENE: The use of this song as a "secret catechism" for children, employed by Catholics persecuted in post-Reformation England, is a matter of some dispute, as pointed out in this article from Snopes.com. Leave it to them to bring the party down.]

Now then (and this should be a treat for those of you new to us), we present the continuation of a venerable man with black hat tradition.

Since 1984, the cumulative costs of the aforementioned items have been used as a tongue-in-cheek economic indicator. This custom began with and is maintained by PNC Bank. Two pricing charts are created, referred to as the "Christmas Price Index" and "The True Cost of Christmas." The former is an index of the current costs of one set of each of the gifts given by the True Love to the singer of the song "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The latter is the cumulative cost of all the gifts with the repetitions listed in the song. The people mentioned in the song are hired, not purchased.

The project was the brainchild of Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investments with PNC Wealth Management. Each year this project gives us the lowdown on last year's CPI, including a brief history, the impact of the economy on this year's results, and how the PNC CPI can be used in the classroom. The original 1984 cost was $12,623.10. The total costs of all goods and services for the 2016 Christmas Price Index is $34,363.49, up 0.7 percent from $34,130.99 last year, compared to being up 0.6 percent from 2014 to 2015. PNC used to do a cool video every year, but they stopped a couple of years ago, so others had to pick up the slack for them. After all, why tax your attention span for more than an hour on a website when you can just watch something in less than one minute, then go on to watch football? Or something?

For those of you with longer attention spans, learn the details, including which items went up, down, or stayed the same in cost, by visiting pncchristmaspriceindex.com to see the whole dog-and-pony show for yourself, (or you can read this piece in Business Insider).

And on that promising note, don't you have anything better to do on a day like this? Your friends as well as your "friends" are waiting on Facebook and Pinterest.

Go forth and spread joy!

(Animated illustrations for the Twelve Days of Christmas are courtesy of the Christian Resource Institute, under the authorship of Dennis Bratcher, and which are used here without permission or shame.)
 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

An Obligatory “Reason For The Season” Testimony

I suppose life is simpler when you're young, because the world itself is simpler. My dad used to say as much when I was little. Was the world really so complicated when I was young and he was older? I guess it depends on which one of us you asked in 1960.

When I was growing up in Ohio, the town where I lived would put up decorations along the main drag, like every other town. They all said "Seasons Greetings." Not "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." It wouldn't have occurred to me that Christmas was being downplayed. Not in a town settled in 1787 by Methodists, who still pretty much run it more than two centuries later, and not in a town where Santa Claus rode a fire truck through the streets of town on the Sunday before Christmas, handing out bags of treats to all the children.

And believe it or not, NOT AT STARBUCKS!

So I went to Starbucks yesterday, and decided to test the limits of political incorrectness (the basis for which is allegedly why they don't want my business, or whatever some right-wing yahoo is ß!+©#ing about this year), and maybe order coffee. When the cashier asked me what my name was to put on the card, I said: "Merry Christmas." Without hesitation, he wrote "Merry Xmas" on the cup. (The "X" is the first letter of the Greek name for Christ. That's where it comes from, you big dummy!) That's also one less reason (or two, because I just mentioned another one) to boycott Starbucks.

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While the actual birth date of Christ remains a matter of debate among scholars and historians alike, the season itself, from time immemorial, and among people who had yet to hear the Gospel, has been associated with the passing from darkness to light, inasmuch as there was celebration at or near the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. Over two millennia, Mother Church has taken that which was good in itself from many cultures, and has elevated such customs to convey the message of Christ. And so we have Christmas trees out of Germany, decorated with lights and ornaments, and lighted star-shaped lanterns in the Ukraine, carried on poles to light the way for singing carols.

As Christmas celebrates the coming of the Prince of Peace, so peace has often reigned on this occasion in the midst of war. An example from modern history would be the Christmas Truce of 1914, a century ago tonight, when British and German soldiers, on the night before Christmas, declared a spontaneous truce and met one another in No Man's Land, singing carols, exchanging coffee and cigarettes, sharing family photos, and even playing a game of soccer. It was not the only such occasion (as the accompanying video clip tells of a replay the following year), and commanders from both sides made attempts to prevent it. And yet, there were men from both sides who befriended one another, even after "the war to end all wars."

The Faith upon which the Incarnation is built, and the Church founded by Him to spread that message, have always been under siege, and the blood of Her martyrs has been the seed-bed of an ever-growing harvest. Witness the occurrence in November of 2010, at a shopping mall food court in Ontario, in Excruciatingly-Politically-Correct Canada. This wouldn't happen for Eid-ah-Adha, the Islamic "festival of sacrifice," or for Ras as-Sana al-Hijreya, the Islamic New Year. No one will pull a stunt like this for a fabricated (and, unbeknownst to many, anti-Christian) holiday like Kwanzaa. And as this is written, NORAD is not monitoring the skies for Hanukkah Harry. (Sorry, Harry.)

The threat to Christmas has been greatly exaggerated, O ye of little faith!

To be Christian, or more specifically, to be Catholic, is to believe that our Savior, the God-Made-Man, took the form of a slave, triumphed over Death, and sits at the right hand of God the Father. He, and He alone, is King. At the end of the day, at the end of Time itself, every nation shall yield, every knee shall bend, and every tongue shall proclaim, that Jesus Christ is LORD! All the billboards in the world to the contrary, all the bellyaching on cable news channels, all the machinations of public school paper hangers -- none of their futile gestures will change that. Christus vincit! Christus regnat!! Christus imperat!!!

And so, this evening, this writer will venture down the road to southern Maryland, to a little church in the country, to serve as an Acolyte for a Traditional High Mass at the stroke of twelve. “Gaudete! Christus est natus ex Maria Virginae!” “Rejoice! Christ is born of Mary the Virgin.”

Now, quit your damn bellyaching and crack open that eggnog already!

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Once again we feature our tribute to Alphabet Photography of Niagara Falls, Ontario, for thumbing their noses at the Human Rights Commission and orchestrating a "hate crime" disguised as a flash mob ... eh?
 

Novena for Christ-Mass: The Vigil

Mary is now with child, awaiting birth, and Joseph is full of expectancy as he enters the city of his own family. He searched for a place for the birth of him to whom heaven and earth belonged. Could it be that the Creator would not find room in his own creation? Certainly, thought Joseph, there would be room in the village inn. There was room for the rich; there was room for those who were clothed in soft garments; there was room for everyone who had a tip to give to the innkeeper.

But when finally the scrolls of history are completed down to the last word of time, the saddest line of all will be: "There was no room in the inn." No room in the inn, but there was room in the stable. The inn was the gathering place of public opinion, the focal point of the world's moods, the rendezvous of the worldly, the rallying place of the popular and the successful. But there's no room in the place where the world gathers. The stable is a place for outcasts, the ignored and the forgotten. The world might have expected the Son of God to be born in an inn; a stable would certainly be the last place in the world where one would look for him.

The lesson is: divinity is always where you least expect to find it. So the Son of God made man is invited to enter into his own world through a back door.

- Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979)

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Octavo Kalendas Januarii
   The Eighth of the Calends of January


Anno a creatione mundi,
   The year from the creation of the world,
quando in principio Deus creavit caelum et terram,
   when in the beginning God created heaven and earth,
quinquies millesimo centesimo nonagesimo nono;
   five thousand one hundred and ninety-nine:
a diluvio vero,
   from the deluge,
anno bis millesimo nongentesimo quinquagesimo septimo;
   the year two thousand nine hundred and fifty-seven:
a nativitate Abrahae,
   from the birth of Abraham,
anno bis millesimo quintodecimo;
   the year two thousand and fifteen:
a Moyse et egressu populi Israel de Aegypto,
   from Moses and the going out of the people of Israel from Egypt,
anno millesimo quingentesimo decimo;
   the year one thousand five hundred and ten:
ab unctione David in regem,
   from David's being anointed King,
anno millesimo trigesimo secundo;
   the year one thousand and thirty-two:
Hebdomada sexagesima quinta,
   in the sixty-fifth week
juxta Danielis prophetiam;
   according to the prophecy of Daniel:
Olympiade centesima nonagesima quarta;
   in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad:
ab urbe Roma condita,
   from the building of the city of Rome,
anno septingentesimo quinquagesimo secundo;
   the year seven hundred and fifty-two:
anno Imperii Octaviani Augusti quadragesimo secundo;
   in the forty-second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus:
toto Orbe in pace composito,
   the whole world being in peace:
sexta mundi aetate,
   in the sixth age of the world:
Jesus Christus,
   Jesus Christ,
aeternus Deus aeternique Patris Filius,
   the eternal God, and Son of the eternal Father,
mundum volens adventu suo piissimo consecrare,
   wishing to consecrate this world by his most merciful coming,
de Spiritu Sancto conceptus,
   being conceived of the Holy Ghost,
novemque post conceptionem decursis mensibus,
   and nine months since his conception having passed,
in Bethlehem Judae nascitur ex Maria Virgine
   in Bethlehem of Juda is born of the Virgin Mary,
factus homo:
   being made man:
NATIVITAS DOMINI NOSTRI JESU CHRISTI
   THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
SECUNDUM CARNEM!
   ACCORDING TO THE FLESH!

- The Proclamation of Christmas, from the Roman Mass

This entire series can be found at the "xmasnovena2016" tag.
 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Emmanuel

Veni, Veni Emmanuel!
    O come, o come, Emmanuel,
Captivum solve Israel!
    And ransom captive Israel,
Qui gemit in exsilio,
    That mourns in lonely exile here,
Privatus Dei Filio.
    Until the Son of God appear.


Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (7:14). “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

“O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.”

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Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


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Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2016” tag.

(Won't be long now ...)
 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Rex Gentium

Veni, Veni, Rex gentium,
    O come, Desire of nations, bind,
veni, Redemptor omnium,
    In one the hearts of all mankind;
Ut salvas tuos famulos
    Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
Peccati sibi conscios.
    And be Thyself our King of peace.


Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4)

“O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2016” tag.
 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Oriens

Veni, Veni, O Oriens!
    O come, Thou Dayspring,
        come and cheer,
Solare nos adveniens,
    Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Noctis depelle nebulas,
    Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
Dirasque noctis tenebras.
    And death's dark shadows put to flight.


Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2016” tag.
 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Clavis David

Veni, Clavis Davidica,
    O come, thou Key of David, come,
Regna reclude caelica,
    And open wide our heavenly home;
Fac iter tutum superum,
    Make safe the way that leads on high,
Et claude vias inferum.
    And close the path to misery.


Isaiah had prophesied, “I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).

“O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2016” tag.
 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Radix Jesse

Veni, O Jesse virgula,
    O come, thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
Ex hostis tuos ungula,
    From every foe deliver them.
De specu tuos tartari
    That trust thy mighty power to save,
Educ et antro barathri.
    And give them vict'ry o'er the grave.


Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and “On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

“O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2016” tag.
 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Rorate Caeli

Today's Entrance Antiphon (Introit) for the Fourth Sunday of Advent is also a popular hymn for the entire season, and is especially used as an antiphon during Vespers. It is also known as "The Advent Prose" or by its first words in English: "Drop down ye heavens from above."

If you had the good sense to finish your Christmas shopping early, as we did here at Chez Alexandre, consider joining in the singing of this hymn as you contemplate the readings for the Mass of the Day. You can find the mp3 audio file, and the score for Gregorian chant, by clicking here.

Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above,
    Rorate coeli desuper et nubes pluant justum,
and let the clouds rain the Just One.
    Aperiatur terra et germinet salvatorem.

Be not angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquity:
behold the city of thy sanctuary is become a desert,
Sion is made a desert.
Jerusalem is desolate,
the house of our holiness and of thy glory,
where our fathers praised thee.

Drop down dew, ye heavens ...
    Rorate coeli desuper ...

We have sinned, and we are become as one unclean,
and we have all fallen as a leaf;
and our iniquities, like the wind,
have taken us away
thou hast hid thy face from us,
and hast crushed us by the hand of our iniquity.

Drop down dew, ye heavens ...
    Rorate coeli desuper ...

See, O Lord, the affliction of thy people,
and send him whom thou hast promised to send.
Send forth the Lamb, the ruler of the earth,
from the rock of the desert
to the mount of the daughter of Sion,
that he himself may take off the yoke of our captivity.

Drop down dew, ye heavens ...
    Rorate coeli desuper ...

Be comforted, be comforted, my people;
thy salvation shall speedily come
why wilt thou waste away in sadness?
why bath sorrow seized thee?
I will save thee; fear not: for I am the Lord thy God,
the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer.

Drop down dew, ye heavens ...
    Rorate coeli desuper ...
 

Advent IV: Love

Reading
1 Corinthians 4:1-2


Brethren: Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers that a man be found faithful. R. Thanks be to God.

V. O Lord, hear our prayer.
R. And let our cry come unto Thee.
V. Let us pray ...

Prayer

O Lord, we beseech Thee, stir up Thy power, and come, and with great might succor us: that by the help of Thy grace that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Thy merciful forgiveness: Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.
 

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Adonai

Veni, Veni Adonai!
    O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Qui populo in Sinai
    Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
Legem dedisti vertice,
    In ancient times didst give the law
In Majestate gloriae.
    In cloud and majesty, and awe.


Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

“O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

Z

This entire series can be found in progress at the "xmasnovena2016” tag.
 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Novena for Christ-Mass: O Sapientia

Veni, O Sapientia,
    O come, O Wisdom from on high,
Quae hic disponis omnia,
    who orders all things mightily,
Veni, viam prudentiae
    to us the path of knowledge show,
Ut doceas et gloriae.
    and teach us in her ways to go.


Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

“O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.”

+    +    +

Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel
    Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
    Shall come to thee, O Israel.


+    +    +

(Commentary for this series of the “O Antiphons” is authored by Father William Saunders, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, with copyright 2003 from the Arlington Catholic Herald. Images in the upper right-hand corner are from an Advent mini-book project for children, created by artist and teacher Katie Bogner, author of the weblog Look to Him & Be Radiant. The works of both are used in this series without permission or shame.)

Z <-- This is the link to one of a series of commentaries on the O Antiphons, by Father John Zuhlsdorf. They will appear at the end of each installment in this series, all of which can be found at the "xmasnovena2016" tag.
 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Novena for Christ-Mass: Prelude

In a nation where eighty percent of the population is Catholic, Christmas starts early. It has to. After all, you cannot have a feast like Christmas without it being preceded by a novena. That's when you get up to attend Mass just before dawn for nine days before the big day. In the Philippines, it is known as “Simbang Gabi” which is Tagalog for “evening Mass.” It is also known as “Misa de Gallo” which is Spanish for “Rooster’s Mass.”

So why is this series of Masses held in the morning and not the evening, as is customary with Masses for a Christmas novena? The answer can be traced to the early colonial days, when the people would be exhausted from working in the fields all day for their Spanish overlords. The priests and friars who tended to their spiritual needs availed themselves of the people's desire to start the day early, ahead of the tropical heat, and moved the customary Mass and devotion to the early morning, before dawn. It must be with a sense of irony that the Archdiocese of Manila saw fit in recent years, to introduce liturgical norms for the novena, in the form of celebrating Simbang Gabi in the evenings. At first this was due to the limitations imposed by curfews during the years of martial law under President Marcos. More recently, it has accommodated office professionals who can more easily attend after work than before.

The popular decoration for Christmas in the Philippines is the “parol” (pronounced “pah-ROLL” with a rolling "r", from the Spanish word for lantern, "farol"), which is as common there as the Christmas tree is here in the States. This star-shaped motif is a cross between a Chinese lantern and the Mexican piñata. It is lit from within; traditionally with candlelights mounted inside, but in the last century with electric lights. They are typically two to three feet wide, but if you go to such renowned events as the Fiesta in San Fernando, Pampanga (north of Metro Manila), there is a huge parade to celebrate the beginning -- no, not of Christmas, but of the novena!

Traditional parols are made with bamboo sticks and rice paper. If you go to the site known as “MyParol.com” you can learn to make one, or even order a kit. Better yet, if you can't wait for delivery, simply read the instructions and find what you need at an arts and crafts store. You could have it done next weekend.

Closer to home, at Chez Alexandre, we have a very colorful parol gracing the front door, one that Sal brought back from the Philippines. It is of the modern variety, made with wire and a type of seashell known as capiz, and illuminated with elaborate flashing lights. The rest of the decorations will follow, but we had to start out on the right foot -- or, should we say, in the right light?

Now, back to that novena thing.

We here at man with black hat have an annual tradition of honoring the “O Antiphons” the seven chants which introduce the Vesperal Canticle (the “Magnificat”) in the Divine Office. Most people hear paraphrases of them in the hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel," but they were originally chanted one verse a day, ending with the day before the Vigil. Over time, our annual feature has evolved into its present form, as a comprehensive aid to daily devotion. For just five minutes of viewing during a quiet time in the day, one may contemplate the coming of the God-made-man. The video clips for this unique series are provided by the YouTube channel of francisxcc entitled “The Splendor of Truth.”

video

As an added bonus, we will provide links for each Antiphon to Father John Zuhlsdorf's famous commentaries on the same, the link for which will be indicated by the letter “Z” at the bottom of each entry.

They will publish at nine in the morning, eastern USA time, beginning tomorrow. Stay tuned ...

[NOTA BENE: Regarding a reference in the first video, a "barangay" is a Tagalog word for "village" -- in modern usage, a municipality within a city; roughly corresponding to "barrio" in Spanish, "berg" in German" or "borough" in English. The closest equivalent we have in the United States is that of New York City, which is divided into five boroughs -- Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island..]
 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Lussinatt: The Vigil of Saint Lucy

There are many saints remembered in December (other than Saint Nicholas, of course). Whether by the accident of tradition, or by design, some of them have been awarded with a connection to the Christmastide celebration.

Saint Lucy (283–304) received the crown of martyrdom during the Diocletian persecution. She is one of seven women aside from the Virgin Mary who appears in the Roman Canon. Her name is from the Latin word for "light," and she is remembered on the 13th day of December, the night before which was the longest of the year in the unreformed Julian calendar. As a result, various Germanic pagan feasts associated with the passing of darkness into light were appropriated by Christendom, and sanctified by this commemoration.

Natten går tunga fjät
    Night walks with a heavy step
rund gård och stuva;
    Round yard and hearth,
kring jord, som sol förlät,
    As the sun departs from earth,
skuggorna ruva.
    Shadows are brooding.
Då i vårt mörka hus,
    There in our dark house,
stiger med tända ljus,
    Walking with lit candles,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia!
    Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!
Då i vårt mörka hus,
    There in our dark house,
stiger med tända ljus,
    Walking with lit candles,
Sankta Lucia, Sankta Lucia!
    Santa Lucia, Santa Lucia!


Saint Lucy is one of the few saints honored in the Lutheran tradition, and the eve of her feast is celebrated throughout Scandanavia, with a procession of young maids bearing candles, led by a chosen one with a lighted wreath on her head (as shown in the first video, a celebration in Mora, Sweden, in 2007). The carol Santa Lucia, sung by the girls in procession, was an old Neapolitan melody of the same name. The lyrics in Italian are the song of the boatmen of the waterfront district in Naples. The various Nordic languages (Swedish is featured here) sing of the light that overcomes the darkness.

The second video elaborates.

FOOTNOTE: By week's end, we begin the prayers and songs and stories of the Novena for the Christ-Mass, and continue after the solemnity with the commemoration of the Twelve Days, culminating in the Visit of the Three Kings, and the blessing of the doors to your homes. Please join us as we remember the fast, and celebrate the feast, for GOD IS WITH US, EMMANUEL!
 

Guadalupe

I am generally not partial to images of the Blessed Mother without her visibly holding the Christ Child. This has long struck me as edging toward a sort of Catholic goddess-worship -- Mariolatry, if you will. (NOTE: The aforementioned is a personal opinion, not to be construed as having been rendered with the certainty of the theological virtue of faith. Remain calm.) But I make one exception, and that's the image used to commemorate today's Feast, that of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.

Contrary to what some dime-store theologian disguised as a pastoral associate is telling your children in Catholic school right about now, the customs of the indigenous peoples' in Central and South America were not suppressed by their Catholic conquerors. In fact, the natives were all too happy to have been relieved of being victims of human sacrifices, where their hearts were cut out while they were still alive, so much so as to have participated in what may have been the largest single mass conversion in Christendom.

Furthermore, and on a lighter note, when Juan Diego opened his cloak for the bishop, and the venerable image appeared, the roses hidden in the cloak came falling out. But that's not the whole story of the miracle. Years earlier, seeing that Cortez's successors were not nearly as benevolent as he, the bishop found himself powerless to enact reforms, and appealed to Our Lady for a sign of her intercession, in the form of roses from his Spanish home province of Castile. And so, the bishop recognized the roses as being of a variety only found in … you guessed it, he got the message.

Mind you, this was in the days before overnight delivery.

Music video by The Killers performing ¡Happy Birthday Guadalupe! Copyright 2009 The Island Def Jam Music Group.

A few years ago, an American publisher of liturgical aids featured a tribute to this vision, starting out with some drivel about the Spaniards and their suppression of the venerable Aztec folkways.* Several years ago, Father William Saunders gave a fuller account of the real deal in the Arlington Catholic Herald. I don't have the link, or the date of the piece, but I managed to preserve a few extracts:

The Aztec religious practices, which included human sacrifice, play an interesting and integral role in this story. Every major Aztec city had a temple pyramid, about 100 feet high, on top of which was erected an altar. Upon this altar, the Aztec priests offered human sacrifice to their god Huitzilopochtli, called the "Lover of Hearts and Drinker of Blood," by cutting out the beating hearts of their victims, usually adult men but often children. The priests held the beating hearts high for all to see, drank the blood, kicked the lifeless bodies down the pyramid stairs, and later severed the limbs and ate the flesh. Considering that the Aztecs controlled 371 towns and the law required 1,000 human sacrifices for each town with a temple pyramid, over 50,000 human beings were sacrificed each year. Moreover, the early Mexican historian Ixtlilxochitl estimated that one out of every five children fell victim to this bloodthirsty religion.

In 1487, when Juan Diego was just 13 years old, he would have witnessed the most horrible event: Tlacaellel, the 89-year-old Aztec ruler, dedicated the new temple pyramid of the sun, dedicated to the two chief gods of the Aztec pantheon — Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca, (the god of hell and darkness) — in the center of Tenochtitlan (later Mexico City). The temple pyramid was 100 feet high with 114 steps to reach the top. More than 80,000 men were sacrificed over a period of four days and four nights. One can only imagine the flow of blood and the piles of bodies from this dedication ...

Nevertheless, in 1520, Hernan Cortes outlawed human sacrifice ...

When you look at it that way, giving up meat on Fridays doesn't seem so bad. Even so, the aforementioned process only took about fifteen seconds for each victim -- less time than your average abortion. (If you have to think about the connection, I can't help you.)

And then there are those feminist-theology types who try to see a "goddess" image in the Virgin Mary. They're outa luck there too:

These are also symbols of divine victory over the pagan religion. Sun rays were symbolic of the Aztec god Huitzilopochtle. Therefore, our Blessed Mother, standing before the rays, shows that she proclaims the true God who is greater than Huitzilopochtle and who eclipses his power.

She stands also on the moon. The moon represented night and darkness, and was associated with the god Tezcatlipoca. Here again, the Blessed Mother’s standing on the moon indicates divine triumph over evil.

Note also, that in her dominance over false idols, Our Lady stands in a submissive posture, with head bowed and hands folded, as if to render tribute to an even Higher Power.

+    +    +

FOOTNOTE: That commercial opportunists from Spain might have taken undue advantage of a massive cheap labor pool is not in dispute here. Nor is it unique to human history, never mind to Europeans. What it is, is another story for another day ...
 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent III: Joy

Reading (Philippians 4:4-5)

Brethren, rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice: let your modesty be known to all men: for the Lord is nigh. R. Thanks be to God.

V. O Lord, hear our prayer.
R. And let our cry come unto Thee.
V. Let us pray ...

Prayer

Incline Thine ear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to our petitions: and, by the grace of Thy visitation, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Who livest and reignest, with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, world without end.

R. Amen.
 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

A “Hail Mary Pass” for Advent

It is possible for Christmas carols, not only to be appropriate for the penitential season of Advent, but to never mention Christmas itself. And no, that does not include "Jingle Bells."

With the Incarnation, we begin the focal point of salvation history, its end being the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, and His ascension into Glory. And while the whole of Christendom follows, what precedes that story is what helps us to prepare.

Angelus ad Virginem

… is a 13th century carol of unknown attribution, which tells of the angel appearing to the young virgin Mary. Christians in the West remember the eighth of December as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (known in the East as "The Conception of Saint Anne").

It is easy to forget that, while the Gospel accounts tell of the annunciation, the feast itself honors her conception without the stain of sin, rendering her a worthy vessel, if a human one, for the God made man. There is no confusion here, but indeed, a clarification. It is not only the means to the end, but the end itself, by which we celebrate this feast.

1. Angelus ad virginem
    Subintrans in conclave.
Virginis formidinum
    Demulcens inquit "Ave."
Ave regina virginum,
Coeliteraeque dominum
    Concipies
    Et paries
    Intacta,
    Salutem hominum.
    Tu porta coeli facta
    Medella criminum.

2. Quomodo conciperem,
    quae virum non cognovi?
Qualiter infringerem,
    quae firma mente vovi?
"Spiritus sancti gratia
Perficiet haec omnia;
    Ne timaes,
    sed gaudeas,
    secura,
    quod castimonia
    Manebit in te pura
    Dei potentia.'

3. Ad haec virgo nobilis
    Respondens inquit ei;
Ancilla sum humilis
    Omnipotentis Dei.
Tibi coelesti nuntio,
Tanta secreti conscio,
    Consentiens
    Et cupiens
    Videre
    factum quod audio,
    Parata sum parere
    Dei consilio.

4. Angelus disparuit
    Etstatim puellaris
Uterus intumuit
    Vi partus salutaris.
Qui, circumdatus utero
Novem mensium numero,
    Hinc Exiit
    Et iniit
    Conflictum,
    Affigens humero
    Crucem, qua dedit ictum
    Hosti mortifero.

5. Eia Mater Domini,
    Quae pacem reddidisti
Angelis et homini,
    Cum Christum genuisti;
Tuem exora filium
Ut se nobis propitium
    Exhibeat,
    Et deleat
    Peccata;
    Praestans auxilium
    Vita frui beta
    Post hoc exsilium.



A translation is available for your convenience, although you may get the idea. But in case you don't, a Middle English version became popular by the 14th century. (The lyrics shown here are of one such version, while the video from the King's College Choir in Cambridge sings yet another. Such is the nature of the evolution of folk songs.)

Gabriel fram Heven-King
    Sent to the Maide sweete,
Broute hir blisful tiding
    And fair he gan hir greete:
"Heil be thu, ful of grace aright!
    For Godes Son, this Heven Light,
For mannes love
    Will man bicome
    And take
    Fles of thee,
    Maide bright,
Manken free for to make
    Of sen and devles might."


Now, didn't that help?

Nova! Nova! Ave Fit Ex Eva!

By the 14th century, a livelier tune arose in the British Isles, known as "Nova! Nova! Ave Fit Ex Eva!" This was not a Latin hymn, but was popularly sung in Middle English, with its dance-like melody giving way to playing of tambourines. Video recordings of the original melody are not easy to find, in favor of more contemporary arrangements. Thankfully, the Lumina Vocal Ensemble managed a live performance in 2011.

Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.

Nova, nova. Nova, nova, Ave fit ex Eva.

Gabriel of high degree,
He came down from Trinity,
To Nazareth in Galilee.

Nova, nova …

I met a maiden in a place,
I kneeled down afore her face
And said, "Hail Mary, full of grace!"

Nova, nova …

When the maiden heard tell of this
She was full sore abashed y-wis
And weened that she had done amiss.

Nova, nova …

Then said the Angel, "Dread not thou,
For ye be conceived with great virtue,
Whose name shall be called Jesu".

Nova, nova …

"It is not yet six weeks agone
Since Elizabeth conceived John
As it was prophesied beforn."

Nova, nova …

Then said the maiden, "Verily,
I am your servant right truly,
Ecce, ancilla Domini!"

Nova, nova …


Its theology is explained thus:

the Virgin Mary is sometimes called the "new Eve". "Eve" in Latin is "Eva". The first word that the Angel Gabriel spoke to Mary at the Annunciation was "Ave", which is Eve backwards. This is just a coincidence of course, but many Medieval songs used this to illustrate how Mary "undid" what Eve had done. One song has this refrain:

Nova! Nova! Ave fit ex Eva! (News! News! “Ave” has been made from “Eve”!).

Thus, the obedience of Mary cured the disobedience of Eve.

And so, without any premature remembrance of the coming of the Savior, and albeit a time of penitence, our celebration of expectation continues.
 

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Father Nicholas: The REAL Santa Claus

When I was very young, some of my classmates would leave their shoes outside the bedroom door on the night of the fifth of December, so that Saint Nicholas would leave them treats.

We never did that at our house, but I did ask Mom how it was that Saint Nicholas got to be called Santa Claus. By this time I had already determined a connection between the two. But while my mother was salutatorian of her high school class -- there were about fifteen students at most, but hey, that's not the point -- she was not one to wear her erudition on her sleeve. So, rather than go into an entymological treatise on the subject, she simply told me: “Say ‘Santa Claus’ three times real fast.” That carried me over for at least a few years.

No good Catholic home is without an answer to the question of whether there is such a thing as Santa Claus. There is, but we are accustomed to the corruption of his real name, one that developed over the centuries. By the time devotion to Saint Nicholas reached Europe, he was known by different names. In the British Isles, he was known as "Father Christmas." In the Netherlands, he was known as "Sinterklaas." By the 19th century, periodicals such as Harper's Bazaar and promoters of a fountain beverage known as Coca-Cola had not only transformed the name, but the bright red costume with the white-fur trim, both of which we know today.

Whatever people call him, or however they depict him, the Bishop of Myra in the fourth century is a real person, and he presently dwells in Heaven with the Communion of Saints. Our Mother the Church celebrates his feast on the sixth of December, in both the East and the West.

VIDEO: A variation on a theme by Russell Jonas Grigaitis, OFS.

Nicholas was no lightweight. He was in attendance at the Council of Nicaea when the Arian heresy was being debated. At one point, he became so enraged with the Bishop Arius (whose errors were supported by the majority of bishops up to that time, remember), that he supposedly punched Arius in the nose.

That's right, kids, Jolly Olde Saint Nick cold-cocked a heretic! (Some accounts say that he merely slapped him, but that's so pansy, who'd believe it?)

Anyway, many of the bishops there, including the Emperor Constantine, were scandalized by the assault, and given their sympathies, had Nicholas thrown in the dungeon. That night, the Emperor had a dream where Nicholas appeared to him, adorned in his finest liturgical vesture, and holding the Book of the Gospels. Awakened with a fright, the Emperor summoned his guards, who joined him as he raced to the dungeon, to find Nicholas unchained, with ... you guessed it.

The story varies in certain details. Some accounts tell of Our Lord and Our Lady appearing to Nicholas in the dungeon. I heard the above account from an "Old Calendar" Russian Orthodox priest. It is also said that Nicholas, now restored to his rightful place in the council, slept through the rest of the proceedings.

I can't say I blame him.

At the little Byzantine Rite parish where my son learned the Faith, as it had been taught to his mother, the Feast of Saint Nicholas is a particular cause for celebration. He is the patron of Byzantine Catholics, and his image graces the iconostasis on the far left side as viewed from the assembly. There is a special hymn dedicated to him ...

O kto kto, Nikolaja l'ubit,
O kto kto, Nikolaju sluzit.
    Tomu svjatyj Nikolaj,
    Na vsjakij cas pomahaj.
    Nikolaj, Nikolaj!

O who loves Nicholas the Saintly,
O who loves Nicholas the Saintly.
    Him will Nicholas receive,
    and give help in time of need.
    Nicholas, Nicholas!

... and the children in the School of Religion program do a pageant in his honor every Sunday closest to the sixth of December. It culminates in the arrival of an elderly man with a long white beard, dressed in the robes of an Eastern bishop, with whom the children meet in much the same manner as they would his commercialized (and most inauthentic) counterpart.

Paul used to get special icon cookies to take home, much like the ones that appear in the photos, emblazoned with the words "O Holy Nicholas" in Slavonic. These unique gingerbread cookies are from a recipe which appears at the stnicholascenter.org website.

I dearly miss that little parish. It has changed over more than three decades. Several years ago, they completed a new and larger place of worship next to the original, one that emulates the style common to Eastern Europe. But with every successful building project they have -- the parish hall, the rectory -- the place seems a little less homey, a little larger than life. Still, the spirit of Saint Nicholas reminds them every year, of the things that are passed on, and that remain the same.

Now, enough of this self-indulgent soul-searching. Let's go bake some cookies already!