Iffy on New St. Patrick Documentary

So CBN has a documentary/dramatic reenactment thing coming out in theaters for St. Patrick’s Day. Yeah.

I don’t want to rain on anybody’s patristics parade. Protestants are allowed to talk about early Christian saints. There are Irish Protestants, too. Of course he is part of their heritage, too.

But… based on the promotional material, Patrick had to oppose the Church (the whole entire Catholic Church, from Gaul to Constantinople, no doubt) in order to get back to Ireland to do missionary work. Never mind the whole “Go to a really good theology school, train to be a missionary, and then be made a bishop and be sent back to Ireland when you are ready.”

Because Patrick had to obey God rather than man! He was totally a rebel! Who spent his whole apologia and confessio explaining that he did so dot all his i’s!

Of course, I am sure we will get a totally unbiased take on how Patrick’s main trouble was his buddy deciding to mouth off to everyone, about something personal and sinful in his past (probably some kind of teenage pagan rebellious phase) that he had revealed to him, in an attempt to get him taken off the bishop list. (Because Patrick’s friend had to serve God rather than man!)

Apparently this documentary is arguing that Patrick got ordered back to Gaul (or Britain, in this version which is Brit-centric) to answer allegations, and that he defied their orders — on orders from God!

Which is silly. He was a bishop, in the West. He did not have to answer to anybody (except maybe the Pope, who wasn’t pushing this). He was a local primate, and only had to obey himself. People could send him letters, sure, and he could just send letters back. The only real concern would be getting misunderstood. So he sent a letter explaining stuff. Hardly the stuff of defiant! drama!!!

I also expect a lot of blah-blah trying to prove that Celtic Christianity was somehow not Roman Catholic, or trying to make nice with the Eastern churches at the expense of the West, or the rest of the usual silliness.

Of course, it is also possible that CBN will do a straight up scholarly take. CBN has been known to be surprisingly Catholic-friendly at times, and they aired reruns of Ven. Fulton Sheen’s Life Is Worth Living for decades. There is plenty of interesting stuff to explore.

But in that case, they need to work on the promo material.

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More Halloween/Hallowtide Stuff

I found an interesting book online that had some Halloween historical references.

Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night by Nicholas Rogers is actually an Oxford University Press book, with footnotes and everything. There’s the obligatory first chapter about Samain, but then the second chapter points out that the history of All Saints sorta contradicts the idea that Halloween is pagan. (Okay, he says it in just one sentence that is easy to miss, but that’s better than most holiday history books.)

The main focus of the second chapter is how Hallowtide stuff was celebrated in England, before and after Henry VIII.

One interesting fact is that Hallowtide was a popular time for the Church to urge marriage, since Advent was coming up and you couldn’t get married in a fasting period like Advent.

Also, Hallowmas included a Gospel reading (possibly in the Office?) about the seven faithful virgins waiting for the Bridegroom to come and the wedding feast to begin. Rogers has a source that says a monks’ choir sang the antiphon about this with their hoods up, to look more like the girls waiting in the dark and cold. The online source didn’t include this footnote, but it sounds fun! Anyway, he points to this as the first move in the autumn and winter “masking season” of various fun parties and occasions for guising.

Before the Reformation, it was common to have prayer vigils on Halloween. These included the ringing of bells all night (which persisted even after it was outlawed by Edward VI), bonfires on hilltops, torchlight processions, praying for good fortune and good crops for the coming year and for the dead; as well as actual poor people going begging for food (so that they could eat better the next day, and throughout Hallowtide). (Shakespeare even talks about this in Two Gentlemen of Verona.) All Souls’ Day was the big cemetery visit day throughout most of Europe, and often involved eating a picnic or leaving food instead of flowers.

After the Reformation, customs splintered in England. In Catholic areas, there was still a lot of praying for the dead, fires, and candles throughout Hallowtide. (Up north, Catholic people would go out and pray for the dead in the middle of a field, in lieu of a church. One custom was to light a fire, and pray for the dead until it burned out.) In Protestant areas, sometimes the torchlight processions and other customs kept going, but it was sometimes about “scaring off witches” instead of encouraging prayer. “Souling” and giving out soulcakes was encouraged in Catholic areas, but “doling” tended to move to other November days in Protestant parts of England. (Guy Fawkes, St. Clement’s Day, St. Catherine’s Day, etc.)

Soothsaying on Halloween seems to have been connected originally with the marriage motif — part of games encouraging giggling, speculation, and courtship by the bashful. Girls would put rosemary under their pillows and hope to dream of their future sweethearts, or put nuts together in a fire in the name of a local couple, to see if the nuts would stay together or jump apart.

But with the transfer of praying for the dead to fearing witches and demons, there is an idea which emerges that you might be able to see visions or doppelgangers of those doomed to die in the next year. There was also divination by egg whites in water, in much the same fashion as reading tea leaves later on.

Less seriously, there were also lots of weather predictions based on Halloween weather.

On the benign side, since animals were slaughtered during Hallowtide (after the field harvest was over, and before you needed to worry about winter fodder), pig and cow bladders also became available for kids and young people to inflate and play with. And that’s why November is football season.

On the not so benign side, Hallowmas month was also the month of charivaris, grudge-settling, and pranks. People had time on their hands, it wasn’t winter yet, and it got dark early. Since it was a time of “misrule” fun leading up to Twelfth Night, and since there were lots of opportunities for wearing masks, you could get beat up, serenaded, or made to ride a rail by your exasperated or bullying neighbors.

Halloween in America, until somewhere in the 1950’s, was mostly about the romance and the pranks, with only a little bit of Scottish ghosties and ghoulies. Until trick or treating was made an activity for little kids, it often used to be much more about mild mischievous extortion than about doling or souling! So there’s a lot of applicable English material.

Highland Superstitions by Alexander Macgregor has a fair amount of Halloween material. It’s one of those read between the lines books, though. Why are young men running around the boundaries of their family farms at night, in the deiseil direction, with a “samhnag” torch? Is it a superstitious prehistoric magical ritual? Or is it a Scottish legal claim to land on the law-holiday of Samain? Is it the remnants of a really fast torchlight prayer procession, done to evade fines for practicing Catholicism? Or is it just a way to burn off energy and show athletic prowess? Who knows? He’s just reporting folkloric stuff in his time (in a disapproving way).

At any rate, the carrying of the torches was supposedly done to protect the farm from either crop failures and diseases, or the fairies. Then the samhnag torches, after being carried around the bounds, were supposed to be kept alight at the house, thus protecting pregnant women and babies on Halloween night from being stolen away.

Hallowe’en, much like May Eve, was one of the traditional nights when people could be stolen or returned. (Probably because traditional yearly work contracts started on the Celtic New Year, Samain, and ended on All Hallows’ Eve.) As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, Samain was the day when legal issues were settled by the local king and his assembly of nobles; and therefore the roads were more fully protected during the time before and after Samain, anybody could come see the king, and inter-kingdom travel was less of a legal problem. Even after Ireland and Scotland’s old legal system went away, supposedly the fairies still traveled on Samain and the way into their hills was left open.

There’s also a very sad story about why you shouldn’t play pranks on a poor girl throwing her blue clue into an unlit kiln.

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Classical Greek Word of the Day

hekibolos means “far-shooter” (or also far-thrower).

It’s an epithet of Apollo, meaning an archer who can shoot someone or something from a long distance away.

So basically, Apollo Sniper.

hekibolos is pronounced “HECK-y Bowl-oss,” where HECK is the primary accent and Bowl is secondary.

Yes, I decided that I was having more fun with the Great Courses channel add-on to Amazon Prime than with Audible, and it’s cheaper too. So I’m back doing Greek 101 again.

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“The Emperor Constantine” by Dorothy L. Sayers

It turns out that Dorothy L. Sayers wrote a _lot_ of cathedral and radio plays, but that only some of them were available in print in the US – until recently. Wipf and Stock put out a series of reprints earlier this decade. You can get them on paper for about $20, or as Google Play ebooks for about $5 less.

The Emperor Constantine is a pretty fun play that was written for the (Anglican) Colchester Cathedral folks. Using the old legend that Constantine was the grandson of Coel Hen (Old King Cole of Colchester through his daughter Helena), Sayers created a hometown proprietary interest in Constantine and the exciting events of his reign, as well as his successes and failures at being a good emperor and a good Christian man.

One of the important features of the play is a “courtroom battle” at the Council of Nicaea, using what we know about the speeches given at the Council by Arius (in defense of his novel system of Arianism) and Athanasius (speaking for orthodoxy and his elderly bishop, Alexander).

Which brings us to the old Big Finish audio play, Doctor Who: The Council of Nicaea, by Caroline Symcox. Symcox is married to BBC writer Paul Cornell, and she’s also an Anglican curate. Supposedly she put a lot of study into this audio drama, but it is riddled with inaccuracies and/or outright lies.

The entire plot of her story is that Erimem, a pagan ancient Egyptian queen traveling with the Doctor, is determined to get Arius a chance to speak at the Council of Nicaea. (When actually, Arius was practically the first guy to speak! It was Athanasius who had to get special permission to speak for his bishop, because he was considered too young to formally participate in the Council.)

Arius was 60, and Athanasius wasn’t even 30 yet. Of course, the audio play portrays Arius as being younger than Athanasius, and Athanasius as being an old stick in the mud. It just boggles the mind. There’s also a lot of confusion of the way various eras of Egyptian monks acted. And so much stupid.

Symcox also insists through several characters that there is not much importance to the question of whether Jesus Christ was God Almighty from all eternity, or just a sort of hemi-demi-semi god. The whole Council of Nicaea is silly; everybody just wants to oppress free thought and Arius; and Christianity is mean to women. (Remember that she is an Anglican curate in the UK. She gets paid by her government to teach Christianity.) It’s slightly more subtle than that, but not much.

And yet, Symcox had a good feminist example before her, in the form of Sayers’ play. Sayers is a giant part of Anglican and English literary culture, as well as BBC history. I can’t imagine that Symcox was totally ignorant of Sayers’ play. If she was, why was she?

It’s amazing how many layers of goodness and fun, as well as deep thought and interesting characters, can be found in Sayers’ play — even though it’s just a minor work in her portfolio.

And it’s just as amazing how many layers of stupidity and malice can be found in stuff written by SJWs, purely for SJW reasons.

(And yet, believe it or not, they have a whole series of Erimem novels in the UK now, just as they have a whole series of novels about the execrable Bernice Summerfield. Blehhhhhhhh.)

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The Real Reason Halloween is on October 31

Muslims, of course. And iconoclast emperors.

Okay, let’s recap the status of All Saints’ feasts.

Back in the day, the celebration of all the martyrs not otherwise celebrated, or all the saints not otherwise celebrated, usually took place in the spring. In Edessa, it was on May 13, from AD 320 on. In Lebanon and Syria, you have celebrations in Lent, or on the first Thursday after Easter from 411 on, a celebration of all martyrs. In Antioch (from the days of Ss. Ephrem and John Chrysostom) and in Wurzburg, All Saints (ton Hagion Panton) was the first Sunday after Pentecost. In the West, it was on April 20.

When the Pantheon in Rome was turned into the Church of Sancta Maria ad Martyres in 609, the building was dedicated on May 13, and Rome began celebrating All Saints’ Day on May 13. There was some spread of the new date, but it was all voluntary changes. Rome did not push it on other areas. Ireland, for one, still celebrated on April 20. But it was a big feast, and Pope Sergius I wrote a long litany in Greek for it in AD 690.

And then, in 731 in Rome, the date changed again.

It was a sad time in Church history. Emperor Leo III, Leo the Isaurian, was a skilled general and governor from Syria, who had overthrown Theodosius III with the help of other military officials. His strong governance had brought peace to the Empire and driven back the Bulgars and Muslims. But he had also brought in forcible Baptism of Jews and Montanists, and then decided that he could smoothe things over with the Muslims by scrubbing Christianity of images and saints. He declared icons illegal in a series of laws that came out from 726-729. Much of the aristocracy supported him, but most theologians, monks, and normal laypeople hated it.

Over in the West, people just ignored Emperor Leo’s dumb edicts. In the East, people who defied the new laws got punished — or they got the heck out, moving to places like Rome with less economy and more freedom. Ironically, one of the strongest voices against Emperor Leo was St. John of Damascus — who lived in Damascus and other places in the Muslim caliphate, and thus could not get silenced by Emperor Leo.

Emperor Leo III also had a feud going with Pope Gregory II. In 722 (the year of the forcible baptisms), the Emperor demanded more tax money and tax food from Rome and the papal estates, because there were war expenses. But Rome was having trouble feeding its own people, and had no surplus money or food to send. The imperial governor got insistent, and the Roman populace threw the rascal out. (And the Pope didn’t object or anything.) Since imperial forces in Ravenna were busy holding off the Lombards/Longobards, and since Emperor Leo was too busy to send troops from elsewhere, the Romans got away with it.

In 725, Emperor Leo sent a new guy, Marinus, to be Dux of his Roman lands. Things might have smoothed over, but Marinus made a serious attempt to put a hit on the Pope. He got recalled, another guy was made Exarch of Ravenna, and the plot continued. It got discovered, the plotters talked, and nobody in Rome loved Constantinople.

Then the iconoclasm laws came along. The East says that Gregory II excommunicated the Emperor. The West says that he sent some strongly worded letters telling the Emperor to butt out of religious matters, and that iconoclasm was evil and stupid. Emperor Leo sent a new Exarch, who started a new plot to kill the Pope and the major notables of Rome. This plot got discovered, too. The Exarch then made a deal with the Lombards to attack Rome as a joint force, but the Pope managed to get the Lombards to change their minds. Gregory stayed openly courteous to Exarch Eutychius, and helped him fight off a non-religious revolt. Eutychius was grateful, and things were looking up. Then Gregory II died on February 11, 731. He was later declared a saint; his feastday is on February 13.

Since he was such a saintly guy and had led the fight against iconoclasm, a lot of people showed up for Gregory II’s funeral. One of them was a Syrian priest, Gregory son of John. He seems to have been something of a scholar and a holy type of guy, but he must have really made an impression.

Because on February 22, 731, this visitor to Rome got elected Pope. By acclamation of the people of Rome.

He was so flabbergasted that he followed an old custom, and asked permission from the Exarch of Ravenna. (Because he was from the East, where bishop was more of a government bureaucratic position.) It was granted, and he was consecrated bishop and Pope on March 18. (No telling what his old bishop thought about it.) He was the last pope until Pope Francis to have origins outside of Europe.

Pope Gregory III started things off with a bang, by sending nice letters to the exiled/deposed Patriarch of Constantinople, and nastygrams about iconoclasm to Emperor Leo III. The emperor put the pope’s messenger in prison.

Pope Gregory III doubled down. He put up a full ikonostasis at the base of the two-story main altar structure of the old St. Peter’s Basilica. He called a synod against iconoclasm and for devotion to Mary and the saints, to be held in November 731. And he also ordered a new oratory to be built in the main nave, all the way down front, and just to the left of the doors going to the main altar. The oratory featured two altars (one honoring Mary, the other St. Gabinius) with a big arch covering them, and a consolidation of saints’ bodies and relics, buried all around the floor and under the altars. And with images and statues, of course!

On November 1, 731, just before the start of the synod against iconoclasm, the new oratory was dedicated. Pope Gregory III announced that from now on, the feast of All Saints in Rome would be celebrated on November 1. (Which of course made the eve of the feast a time for fasting, prayer vigils, and whatever stuff you do to stay awake during fasting and prayer vigils.)

Emperor Leo III sent a fleet to punish Rome, but it was wrecked.

The new date of the feast was still promulgated by free choice; but a lot of kings and missionaries were interested in it because it was a blow against iconoclasm. (And overbearing Byzantine emperors.) Ireland doesn’t seem to have picked up the new date for a long time.

Pope Gregory III reigned until his death on November 28, 741. (He and Emperor Leo III died in the same year.) He was buried in his oratory of Mary and the saints. Unlike Leo, Pope Gregory III was later declared a saint, and his day is December 10.

So there’s no Celtic pagan holiday. The reason we have Halloween is an emperor who was soft on Muslims and hard on icons, and a Pope who fought back.

Everything else is just decorations and candy.

* Other achievements by Pope St. Gregory III — Appointed St. Boniface the archbishop of Germany, and a papal legate, in order to support missionary work among German pagans and lapsed Christians. Founded and perpetually funded a hospital for the poor, dedicated to the Eastern Ss. Sergius and Bacchus. Founded a monastery in Rome named St. Chrysogonus. Restored Rome’s walls. Built, restored, re-roofed, and decorated many churches in Rome. Put a lead roof back on the Pantheon. Helped recapture Ravenna from the Lombards.

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I Love Time Team, But Sometimes….

I’m watching an old episode of the UK Time Team. They are excavating a joint convent, with houses of Gilbertine nuns and canons. One of the archeologists is set up to do living history by dressing up in a nun outfit and trying to live nun life.

The “experts” explain that having your hair cut short or shaved, and wearing an outfit that is identical to all the others in your community, is all about stripping away your individuality, sexuality, and humanity. You’re not supposed to be a person anymore, ever.

They say this on a military base.

With men and women enlisted and officers helping at the dig, in uniform.

You also have her eating a fair-sized bowl of barley pottage, a fair amount of small beer, and a piece of hard dark bread for lunch. That’s a very nice, filling lunch that could keep you going for a whole day, but the expert describes it as “holy anorexia.” They don’t mention what the men ate, which would have been the same thing!!

(Also, the archeologist does not do the obvious thing, and soak part of the bread in the soup or the beer, and use the rest to clean the bowl.)

They have her listening to a reading while eating in the refectory, which is compared unfavorably to conversing with your co-workers. Nobody compares it to audiobooks, or BBC audio dramas and book readings — even though many kids traditionally listen to stories over the radio at teatime or lunch.

(You can find the episode online and on Amazon Prime. Chicksands is the place, and “The Naughty Monastery” is the title.)

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“De Corpore Domini” by St. Albert the Great

This is a work covering similar ground to “On the Most Sacrosanct Sacrament of the Eucharist”. But it’s a series of theological treatises, and it comes from the end of the man’s career.  More later.

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