Friday, December 27, 2013

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 live to a ripe old age. While John was the only one of the Twelve to die a natural death (living to be nearly one hundred years old, according to tradition), 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.

Today, families can celebrate the Feast of Saint John by drinking to the health of each other, based on 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.

(PS: Wanna show the love of Saint John to others? Click here.)

1 comment:

Nathaniel M. Campbell said...

One of the roots of this tradition is the understanding that John's special charism was his mystical contemplation when he lay nearest to the Lord at the Last Supper (John 13:23). As he rested his head upon Christ’s breast, John drank from the Lord's heart—the fons sapientiae, the source of wisdom (Ecclesiasticus / Sirach 1:5 [Vulgate])—in fulfillment of Christ’s words, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).

The image of John reclining with the Lord was a common medieval trope for mystical contemplation, as illustrated for example in a famous 13th-century Andachtsbild from Switzerland, which you can see together with an antiphon for St. John by the Visionary Doctor, St. Hildegard of Bingen, in my post from yesterday: "O speculum columbe" (Symphonia 35).