Tuesday, December 29, 2015

December 29 -- St Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury: The Hooly Blissful Martyr

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes
And specially from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.

--Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Book of the Tales of Caunterbury"

St Thomas of Canterbury is something of a favourite here and The Inn has kept his feast day most years with a longish (for The Inn, anyway) post.  This is a re-run from a dozen years ago with more about how his feast and the pilgrimage grew up than we usually see.  Herewith:

No other pilgrimage in Britain was as popular as that to the shrine of today's saint, St Thomas Becket, also called St Thomas a' Becket or St Thomas of Canterbury. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are told by travellers on such a pilgrimage to the shrine of St Thomas.

John Adair in "The Pilgrim's Way: Shrines and Saints in Britain & Ireland" gives several pages of descriptions of the first Canterbury pilgrims. A sampling:

Within days of the martyrdom of St Thomas pilgrims from the town and countryside near Canterbury began to converge on the cathedral, the first streams which swelled into a mighty river of pilgrims. The wonderful efficacy of the Saint’s entombed body and the few drops of his blood mixed with gallons of water – the famous Water of St Thomas – drew invalids towards them like iron filings attracted to a magnet. Soon a monk called Benedict, who had heard the sounds of Becket’s murder as he hid inside the cathedral, received directions to act as custodian of the relics and to minister to the sick folk whom he described as ‘lying in pain all about the church.’ Later a more credulous monk called William was appointed to act as his colleague. William had also heard the knights enter the cathedral, but when FitzUrse bellowed ‘Strike! Strike!’ he fled away and justified himself later on the grounds that he felt no call to be a martyr. From Benedict’s record of the miracles performed by St Thomas in the first year after his death we are able to identify some of the earliest Canterbury pilgrims by name, and to catch a glimpse of their humanity.
The news of Becket’s murder certainly travelled fast. Two days later, the wife of a Sussex knight prayed to St Thomas and experienced a miraculous cure. On Saturday a Glocester girl found that her head pains had gone after she invoked the martyr, while on the following day the swollen arm of William Belet, knight of Enborne in Berkshire, resume its normal size. 
It is no wonder that pilgrims hearing such stories hastened to the tomb at Canterbury. Robert, a smith of Thanet , blind for two years, received his sight back that first Whitsuntide after the martyrdom: three medallions of stained glass in the rebuilt Trinity Chapel, where the shrine later stood, depict the cure and his subsequent offering of a large bowl of gold pieces in gratitude. Mad Henry of Fordwich, dragged by his friends struggling and shouting to the tomb of St Thomas and left there all night, recovered his senses. Two servants of the elderly and paralysed SirWiliam of Dene supported their master in the saddle, one walking on each side, but thanks to his mraculous cure he returned home on foot leaving his crutches at the tomb. A lady called Saxera of Dover slept by the tomb all night and dreamt that St Thomas appeared to her saying ‘Rise, offer thy candle.’ When she awoke her intestinal complaint had disappeared. Richard, son of Walter, a scholar of Northampton, who had endured diarrhoea and liver trouble for nine years, arrived in a carriage but walked away from Canterbury completely cured. 
. . . . . . . . . . . . . 
The Saint could be vindictive to those who deceived him or showed disrespect to his relics. He struck blind a man who had been pretending to be blind. Two boys who fell asleep at his shrine leaning their heads upon it returned home unhealed. An impious person frequently found his pyx of Water mysteriously emptied before he had taken many steps from the cathedral. These early wooden boxes or pyxes containing the ‘blood’ of the ‘Lamb of Canterbury’, some with mirrors fitted inside the lids for lady pilgrims, tended to leak anyway. Earthenware broke too easily, so the townsfolk used cast lead or tin phials. These ‘ampullae’, usually hung around the neck, became one of the more popular badges or tokens of the Canterbury pilgrimage, just as the scallop-shell served for St James of Compostela and the palm-leaf for Jerusalem. 

For more on St Thomas, see the always reliable Catholic Encyclopaedia article or this link which itself links to two more retellings of his story. The medieval "Golden Legend" treatment of his story, which can be found in full here, ends this way:

Now after that S. Thomas departed from the pope, the pope would daily look upon the white chasuble that S. Thomas had said mass in, and the same day that he was martyred he saw it turned into red, whereby he knew well that that same day he suffered martyrdom for the right of holy church, and commanded a mass of requiem solemnly to be sung for his soul. And when the quire began to sing requiem, an angel on high above began the office of a martyr: Letabitur justus, and then all the quire followed singing forth the mass of the office of a martyr. And the pope thanked God that it pleased him to show such miracles for his holy martyr, at whose tomb by the merits and prayers of this holy martyr our blessed Lord hath showed many miracles. The blind have recovered their sight, the dumb their speech, the deaf their hearing, the lame their limbs, and the dead their life. If I should here express all the miracles that it hath pleased God to show for this holy saint it should contain a whole volume, therefore at this time, I pass over unto the feast of his translation, where I propose with the grace of God to recite some of them. Then let us pray to this glorious martyr to be our advocate, that by his petition we may come to everlasting bliss. Amen. 

from: "The Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints." Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, 1275. Englished by William Caxton, First Edition 1483

Bagpipes On The Canterbury Pilgrimage: A Sidelight 

More from Adair's "The Pilgrim's Way":

“Not far from Southwark Chaucer’s miller began to play upon his bagpipes. In the reign of Henry IV an accused Lollard could tell his questioner, Archbishop Arundel of Canterbury:

I know well that when divers men and women will go after their own wills, and finding out a pilgrimage, they will order to have with them both men and women that can sing wanton songs; and some other pilgrims will have with them bagpipes, so that every town they came through, what with the noise of their singing and the sound of their piping, and with the jangling of their Canterbury Bells, and with the barking out of dogs after them, that they make more noise than if the king came that way, with all his clarions and minstrels. And if these men and women be a month in their pilgrimage, many of them shall be half a year after great janglers, tale-tellers and liars.

“The Archbishop replied:

Pilgrims have with them singers and also pipers, that when one of them which goes barefoot strikes his toe upon a stone and makes it to bleed, it is well done that he and his fellows begin then a song, or else take out of his bosom a bagpipe, to drive away with such mirth the hurt of his fellow. For with such solace the travail and weariness of pilgrims is lightly and merrily brought forth."


Friday, December 25, 2015

One More For the Day That's In It

Ein Kind ist uns geboren by Die Familie Rehm:

Christmas Day

Very quiet day today; hardly a sound from the whole neighbourhood.   Even the ever-voluble dogs next door haven't found much to howl, growl, or bark at.  Mary's been busy cooking the dinner but I haven't done anything that even rises to the level of puttering about.

Went to Midnight Mass last night.  Well, midnightish.  10:00 p.m. in fact, as you already know.  Today's obligations have been limited to breviary, rosary, and eating the dinner.  The nap was optional.

If you've some time on your hands, as it seems you do since you're reduced to reading The Inn, have a listen to some lovely Christmas music from Oesch's die Dritten and friends.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Mass

Many years ago we had a new priest from Ireland assisting at our parish.  It was a never-ending source  of amazement  to him that Americans would phone the rectory and ask what time Midnight Mass was.  It seems that in Ireland Midnight Mass was always at -- wait for it --  midnight.  Not so here in the lower left-hand corner of the United States.  And, indeed, this very night we will have Midnight Mass in our little chapel in just a few hours at 10:00 p.m.  Our little borrowed chapel . . . so we won't be doing any heavy-duty decorating as the folks shown above are doing.  But some day.  In the meantime, if you're in the neighbourhood you'll be very welcome.

Details here.

For the Really, Really Non-Christmas Inclined

Why Massachusetts in the 17th century may not be the ideal spot to celebrate Christmas, white or otherwise.

Somebody's Local

Not, alas, mine.  But what a lovely shop-front.

The Irish Times has a story about it here but the picture is the interest-catcher, which you can, as always, click on and render so large as to be able to analyze the grain in the wooden frontage.


For the Non-Christmas Inclined

The Christmas Martyrology

At the old morning office of Prime on this day the Martyrology reading would be the solemn announcement of Christ’s birth. This is the description given by Pius Parsch:

In some European monasteries the chanter, vested in alb and violet cope, steps into the middle of the choir, accompanied by ministers with candles and censer. He incenses the Martyrology on the violet-covered lectern, and after announcing the date begins to sing. All stand with heads uncovered, as at the Gospel. At the phrase, ‘in Bethlehem,’ all kneel; and at the words, ‘the birth of our Lord,’ all prostrate for the first adoration of the Son of God become Man. The passage begins with the fixation of the date according to the ancient computation. 

Here Dom Mark Kirby, the prior of Silverstream Priory in County Meath, chants the Martyrology:

The text in English:

In the year from the creation of the world, when in the beginning God created Heaven and Earth, five thousand one hundred and ninety-nine;
from the flood, two thousand, nine hundred and fifty-seven;
from the birth of Abraham, two thousand and fifteen;
from Moses and the coming of the Israelites out of Egypt, one thousand, five hundred and ten;
from the annointing of King David, one thousand and thirty-two;
in the sixty-fifth week, according to the prophecy of Daniel;
in the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad;
in the year seven hundred and fifty-two from the founding of the city of Rome;
in the forty-second year of the empire of Octavian Augustus, when the whole earth was at peace;
in the sixth age of the world:
Jesus Christ, eternal God, and Son of the eternal Father, desirous to sanctify the world by His most merciful coming, havng been conceived of the Holy Ghost, and nine months having elapsed since his conception, is born in Bethlehem of Juda, having become man of the Virgin Mary.  Alleluia.  Thanks be to God.
Original found  here. Edited a little; mostly punctuation .
Another one.
The Latin original is reprinted here.

There is a newer aggiornamentoized version available,  so they tell me.  One presumes that "1,599 years from the creation of the world" caused palpitations in the breast of Archbishop Gradgrind and Msgr Bounderby who instigated a revision forthwith.

(One wonders idly what the purpose of a new, improved, lemon-flavoured Martyrology might be.  Since the martyrology is to be read at the office of Prime and the office of Prime has been determined to be surplus to requirements what does one do with one's brand-new copy of the Roman Martyrology?)

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24 December -- O Virgo Virginum

A "bonus" antiphon.  O Virgo Virginum was sung in the Sarum Rite and in some of the continental rites, possibly the Præmonstratensian usage also.  In those usages it didn't really occur on the 24th of December but the 23d and previous antiphons were each moved back a day, beginning with O Sapientia on the 16th.

Fr East didn't post a commentary on O Virgo Virginum but someone else at that site gave a bit of information here.

More on the use of the O Virgo Virginum text in the Ordinariate usage (a.k.a. "Anglican Use") can be found here.  Indeed there is a good deal more about the expanded usage of all the Magnificat texts at that link.


This Just In . . . .

"Christianity's a complex religion on which millions consider themselves experts because, as kids, they went to church twice with Uncle Jimmy."

The above, which popped up in my Twitter feed not an hour ago, made me smile.  Not entirely sure how to link to one of those Twitter things but click on this.  It looks like it ought to work.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sir David Wilcocks and Lessons and Carols

At 3pm on Christmas Eve, millions of radios around the world will be tuned to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College Chapel in Cambridge in time to hear the pure voice of a single boy chorister singing one of the hardest solos of the church calendar, the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City”. 
For many, this signals the start of Christmas. Broadcasts of the Christmas Eve service from King’s began in 1928, but arguably it was under the guidance of Sir David Willcocks, who died in September 2015, aged 95, that the service – and the choir – became household names.

Click here and learn more about Sir David and his now classic arrangements of Christmas hymns and carols.  We've been able to sing some of his - no doubt easier - arrangements and they really are a delight.  The article includes three youtube recordings of his carols which you ought to listen to even if you don't read the entire article.  (Although you should; it really does help in appreciating what he's done in arranging the carols.)

23 December -- O Emmanuel

Digging deeper into the sources of today's Magnificat antiphon: click here.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

22 December -- O Rex Gentium

And not only the Rex gentium, but also the lapis angularis, qui facis utraque unum.

A number of texts have been combined to produce a coherent theology: Christ is the Lord of all nations, both Jews and Gentiles, as a corner-stone supports both walls;  he is the agent through whom both were made, and will lead both to a destiny greater than anything in their previous existence.

Read on here.


Monday, December 21, 2015

Lump of Coal Award for Ancestry dot com

What they've done is to abandon users of the genealogy software Family Tree Maker.  Read about it here.

ADDENDUM:  No, it isn't a random rant.  I am, shall we say, personally aggrieved.

21 December -- O Oriens

And today's explication is here.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

About those visions of sugar plums dancing in your head

All this time I thought it was some sort of fruit, scored by Tchaikovsky and illustrated by Disney.  Wrong on all counts.  Mrs Vidal describes what they really are - or were - here.

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20 December -- O Clavis David

. . . and the explication is here.

(And it's also the feast of a saint little-known outside Ireland, St Fachtna or Fachanan.  Wikipedia lists him here but doesn't give much in the way of information, not even the odd  pious legend, of which you are no doubt aware I am  inordinately fond.  Even the good old Catholic Encyclopædia comes up short.)

Saturday, December 19, 2015

19 December -- O Radix Jesse

Fr East's essay on O Radix Iesse can be found here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

December 18 - O Adonai

Click here for Bill East's elegant explication of today's Magnificat antiphon.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

December 17 - Sapientiatide Begins

The final phase of Advent is upon us: the O antiphons for the Vespers Magnificat have begun today.  A fine explanation of today's antiphon from the archives can be found here.  There's another nice one in Dr Pius Parsch's "Liturgical Year" on page 176. (This is the original English version, not the later novus-ordo-ized edition.)