(This is the first of two posts about the Solemnity of Christmas. While I had intended to post these on Christmas Day, at least I am doing so within the Octave.)
If you pay attention to the liturgy, then you might be aware that we honor a string of martyrs immediately after Christmas: St. Stephen the Protomartyr on Dec. 26, the Holy Innocents on Dec. 28, and St. Thomas Becket on Dec. 30. The joy of Christmas is tied to the witness of the martyrs; the Incarnation of Our Lord calls forth this witness on our part. That is the Providence of celebrating these martyrs within the Octave of Christmas.
In this post, I’ll focus on a martyr of the Christmas Octave who is often overlooked: St. Anastasia. I’ll also explore the significance of her name, which means “Resurrection.” Continue reading
Here are some notes from today’s* Traditional Latin Mass for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, offered at St. Norbert’s Parish in Roxbury, WI:
1.) During my Confession, the priest told me to say Psalm 50 (aka 51) for my penance. That’s King David’s famous psalm of repentance. I went to the parish bookshelf in hopes of finding a Bible, but one didn’t turn up. Then I tried the table at the back of the church covered in devotional literature. I saw a small, antique-looking volume entitled “Extensionist Manual.” I figured it was put out by Catholic Extension**, which is an outreach organization directed at small rural parishes like the one I grew up in. Without knowing precisely what an “Extensionist Manual” would contain, I cracked the book open. It opened immediately to Psalm 50, in a section entitled “Penitential Psalms.” So a big thank you to Catholic Extension.
May is Our Lady’s month. I fondly recall May Crowning in my home parish—
“O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May!”
The month of May is named for the pagan goddess Maia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maia_(mythology))*, who was the mother of the Greek god Hermes (the Roman Mercury). Among other things, Hermes was the god of shepherds. When the Gentiles of the Roman Empire first converted to Christianity and began creating their own artwork, they used statues of Hermes Kriophoros (the “Ram-Bearer”) as a model for statues of Christ the Good Shepherd (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kriophoros).
I don’t mean to lead us down some syncretistic rabbit hole. However, there were some strains in Gentile religion that pointed to the coming of Christ. If the pagans celebrated May as the month of the mother of Hermes the Ram-Bearer, how much more should we celebrate it as the month of the mother of the Good Shepherd.
*Warning: there’s at least one immodest image on this Wikipedia page
The traditional version is cooler than the “modern” Novus Ordo version they now read at Christmas Mass, which doesn’t specify the number of years since the creation of the world and Noah’s Flood. I guess that would sound too “fundamentalist,” so down the memory hole. Boo!
ANNO a creatióne mundi,
quando in princípio Deus creávit cœlum et terram, quínquies millésimo centésimo nonagésimo nono:
A dilúvio autem, anno bis millésimo nongentésimo quinquagésimo séptimo:
A nativitáte Abrahæ, anno bis millésimo quintodécimo:
A Moyse et egréssu pópuli Israel de Ægypto, anno millésimo quingentésimo décimo:
Ab unctióne David in Regem, anno millésimo trigésimo secúndo;
Hebdómada sexagésima quinta, juxta Daniélis prophetíam:
Olympíade centésima nonagésima quarta:
Ab urbe Roma cóndita, anno septingentésimo quinquagésimo secúndo:
Anno Impérii Octaviáni Augústi quadragésimo secúndo,
toto Orbe in pace compósito, sexta mundi ætáte, –
Jesus Christus ætérnus Deus, æterníque Patris Fílius, mundum volens advéntu suo piíssimo consecráre,
de Spíritu Sancto concéptus, novémque post conceptiónem decúrsis ménsibus,
[HERE ALL KNEEL]
in Béthlehem Judæ náscitur ex María Vírgine factus Homo.
Natívitas Dómini nostri Jesu Christi secúndum carnem.
The Communion hymn at Mass last Sunday (the Fourth Sunday in Advent) was “Creator of the Stars of Night,” which is the English translation of “Conditor Alme Siderum.” Priests, monks, and nuns recite this hymn at Vespers during Advent. Reggie (Fr. Reginald Foster, O.C.D.) told us about “Conditor Alme Siderum” during our summer class in Rome back in 2007. As originally composed back in the early Middle Ages, the first word of the hymn was “conditor,” which should mean “creator, establisher,” from the verb “condo, condere” (“found, establish”). But because of the meter of the hymn, the stress falls on the second syllable (-di-), which would mean the word comes from the verb “condio, condire” (“pickle, preserve”). With that long-i, “conditor” would mean something like “condiment-maker.” Suffice it to say, don’t go to the early Middle Ages looking for stellar Latin (pun intended).