Tag Archives: flight to Egypt

Feast of the Ass (14 January)

Feast of the Ass
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Feast of the Ass (Latin: Festum Asinorum or asinaria festa, French: Fête de l’âne) was a medieval, Christian feast observed on January 14, celebrating the Flight into Egypt. It was celebrated primarily in France, as a by-product of the Feast of Fools celebrating the donkey-related stories in the Bible, in particular the donkey bearing the Holy Family into Egypt after Jesus’s birth.

This feast may represent a Christian adaptation of the pagan feast, Cervulus, integrating it with the donkey in the nativity story. In connection with the Biblical stories, the celebration was first celebrated in the 11th century, inspired by the pseudo-Augustinian “Sermo contra Judaeos” c. 6th century.
In the second half of the 15th century, the feast disappeared gradually, along with the Feast of Fools, which was stamped out around the same time. It was not considered as objectionable as the Feast of Fools.

A girl and a child on a donkey would be led through town to the church, where the donkey would stand beside the altar during the sermon, and the congregation would “hee-haw” their responses to the priest.

The preacher impersonates the Hebrew prophets whose Messianic utterances he works into an argument establishing the Divinity of Christ. Having confuted the Jews out of the mouths of their own teachers, the orator addresses himself to the unbelieving Gentiles— “Ecce, convertimur ad gentes.” The testimony of Virgil, Nabuchodonosor, and the Erythraean Sibyl is eloquently set forth and interpreted in favour of the general thesis. As early as the eleventh century this sermon had taken the form of a metrical dramatic dialogue, the stage-arrangement adhering closely to the original. Additions and adaptations were gradually introduced.
A Rouen manuscript of the 13th century exhibits twenty-eight prophets as taking part in the play. After Terce, the rubric directs, “let the procession move to the church, in the centre of which let there be a furnace and an idol for the brethren to refuse to worship.” The procession filed into the choir. On the one side were seated Moses, Amos, Isaias, Aaron, Balaam and his Ass, Zachary and Elizabeth, John the Baptist and Simeon. The three Gentile prophets sat opposite. The proceedings were conducted under the auspices of St. Augustine, whom the presiding dignitary called on each of the prophets, who successively testified to the birth of the Messiah.
When the Sibyl had recited her acrostic lines on the Signs of Judgment, all the prophets sang in unison a hymn of praise to the long-sought Saviour. Mass immediately followed. In all this the part that pleased the congregation was the rôle of Balaam and the Ass; hence the popular designation of the Processus Prophetarum as the Feast of the Ass. The part of Balaam was soon dissociated from its surroundings and expanded into an independent drama. The Rouen rubrics direct that two messengers be sent by King Balaak to bring forth the prophet. Balaam advances riding on a gorgeously caparisoned ass (a wooden, or hobby, ass, for the rubric immediately bids somebody to hide beneath the trappings — not an enviable position when the further direction to the rider was carried out — “and let him goad the ass with his spurs”)
From the Chester pageant it is clear that the prophet rode on a wooden animal, since the rubric supposes that the speaker for the beast is “in asina”. Then follows the scene in which the ass meets the angered angel and protests at length against the cruelty of the rider. Once detached from the parent stem, the Festum Asinorum branched in various directions. In the Beauvais 13th century document the Feast of Asses is already an independent trope with the date and purpose of its celebration changed.
At Beauvais the Ass may have continued his minor role of enlivening the long procession of Prophets. On the January 14, however, he discharged an important function in that city’s festivities. On the feast of the Flight into Egypt the most beautiful girl in the town, with a pretty child in her arms, was placed on a richly draped ass, and conducted with religious gravity to St. Stephen’s Church. The Ass (possibly a wooden figure) was stationed at the right of the altar, and the Mass was begun. After the Introit a Latin prose was sung.[4]
The first stanza and its French refrain may serve as a specimen of the nine that follow:
Orientis partibus
Adventavit Asinus
Pulcher et fortissimus
Sarcinis aptissimus.
Hez, Sire Asnes, car chantez,
Belle bouche rechignez,
Vous aurez du foin assez
Et de l’avoine a plantez.
(From the Eastern lands the Ass is come, beautiful and very brave, well fitted to bear burdens. Up! Sir Ass, and sing. Open your pretty mouth. Hay will be yours in plenty, and oats in abundance.)
Mass was continued, and at its end, apparently without awakening the least consciousness of its impropriety, the following direction (in Latin) was observed:
In fine Missae sacerdos, versus ad populum, vice ‘Ite, Missa est’, ter hinhannabit: populus vero, vice ‘Deo Gratias’, ter respondebit, ‘Hinham, hinham, hinham.’
(At the end of Mass, the priest, having turned to the people, in lieu of saying the ‘Ite missa est’, will bray thrice; the people instead of replying ‘Deo Gratias’ say, ‘Hinham, hinham, hinham.’)
This is the sole instance of a service of this nature in connection with the Feast of Ass. The Festum Asinorum gradually lost its identity, and became incorporated in the ceremonies of the Deposuit or united in the general merry-making on the Feast of Fools. The Processus Prophetarum, whence it drew its origin, survives in the Corpus Christi and Whitsun Cycles, that stand at the head of the modern English drama.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic

Jesus was not a white man

Leave a comment

December 19, 2013 · 20:35

The Rose – Some Thoughts for Mothering Sunday (Lent 4)

“Say it with flowers!”   I’m sure florists all over the land have been inundated during the last few days with orders for bouquets, sprays, and posies.

Today, of course, is Mothering Sunday, and what symbolises the love we feel today, and the joy we feel today, than the beautiful gift of a flower….and particularly that of a rose…

“Enough the rose was heaven to smell”  – that’s a fine line….

…yes, there is something special, beautiful, almost heavenly  about a rose.

It is a thing of beauty; a thing of joy.  Roses and rejoicing go well together.

The Prophet Isaiah when talking of the future glory of Zion writes:

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose

He seems to link the rejoicing of the people with the blossoming of the rose.

The rose – it symbolises fertility, joy, success – it is something to be prized.

It’s not new, however, this giving of a rose to a worthy recipient at this time of year, you know

On the fourth Sunday in Lent,  a Golden Rose, an ornament was given by the Roman Catholic Church to worthy women as well as men as a mark of special favour – rather like the Oscars of their day.

It’s said that the tradition dates back a long way to the time of the betrothal of Mary and Joseph, when, supposedly, a bud or flower sprouted on Joseph’s staff or rod –  an indication that he was the man Mary should become engaged to & a fulfilment of the prophesy:

There shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit and the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him

Somewhere along the line, this tale got less concerned with the birth of the Saviour and more with his mother.  Artists in the Middle Ages liked to depict the happy couple, Mary & Joseph, together at the scene of their betrothal – rod, bud, flower and all.   And a caption was often to be found beneath the picture: “She is the flower, she is the rose” referring, of course, to Mary

The Rose….in her were the virtues of the rose – sensitivity, beauty, serenity.

Think of her life – a life of love, a life of piety

Think on these early years – told that she had been chosen to give birth to God’s own son;

then the journey to Bethlehem;

and the flight to Egypt –

–          all done calmly, faithfully – for the love of God and of  her child.

Then think of all the times when Jesus did or said things that she couldn’t comprehend – and on occasion said things that must have hurt her very much

But the love was still there in Mary’s heart

The whole Jesus-story must have seemed like a ghastly riddle to which there was no clue.  But she accepted it all – in love, in faith.

A mother’s love never dies.  It goes on even to the point of death, even when the crowds and the laughter and the support of the people are gone. There she stands at the foot of the Cross, love still blossoming in her heart.

We learn a lot about love from our mothers.  Jesus would learn about love – not only through our Heavenly Father’s Spirit – but also at his mother’s knee From Mary the Rose – Jesus was much indebted…perhaps more than we would credit him for.

And his too was a love that never died just as Mary’s before him.  Love does indeed conquer all.  Love never gives up.

Let me finish with two different pieces of verse.

The first a stanza from a song which was in a movie called ‘The Rose’   It’s talking about love of a different kind, but we may use it for our own purposes here:

“When the night has been too lonely

And the road has been too long;

When you think that love is only

For the lucky and for the strong –

Just remember in the winter

Far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love

In the spring becomes the rose”

And this – a 16th Century carol:

Lo, how a rose e’er blooming

From tender stem hath sprung!

Of Jesus’ lineage coming

As men of old have sung.

It came a flower-et bright

Amid the cold of winter

When half spent was the night

The Rose    Love It may seemed buried and dead   But the seed is always there, ready to burst forth in blossom, in all its glory.   And after every Good Friday comes Easter morn.

 

1 Comment

Filed under The Ramblings of a Reformed Ecclesiastic