Monthly Archives: October 2007

Singable Translation: “Sancti, Venite, Corpus Christi Sumite”

It is dangerous to give a filker any lyrics whatsoever. All our folky and nerdy impulses come to the fore.

Sechnall (aka Secundinus), remembered by legend as a nephew of St. Patrick, wrote the oldest known hymn in Irish literature. (It’s an alphabetical praise of St. Patrick in Latin, which sorta suggests Patrick was probably dead by then.) He also wrote a communion hymn which allegedly made the angels sing in Sechnall’s monastery church, and which was preserved in the Bangor Antiphonary.

There are a couple of good translations of this online. The most distinguished one is a hymn translation by John Mason Neale, “Draw Nigh and Take the Body of the Lord”. Steven Janco has a new setting of this, apparently, using an “alt.” version of the Neale translation. (There’s a sample online, which I can’t find at the moment. So I can’t opine on the music, since I don’t have time to work this stuff out, but our choir’s done Janco stuff that I like.)

The problem is that a good song translation often isn’t very exact. Here’s a more literal translation.

Of course, what came to my mind? The fact that you can sing it to the tune of “Adeste Fideles”:

Sancti, venite, corpus Christi sumite,
Sanctum bibentes, quo redempti sanguine.
Salvati Christi, corpore et sanguine.

Sancti, venite, sumite,
Sancti, venite, sumite,
Sancti, venite, sumite,
Corpus Christi!

Etc. It would take a lot of munging about, but it could be done. You could also do a much shorter version to the same tune in English, with even more munging about:

“O Come, Holy People”
Lyrics: “Sancti, Venite, Corpus Christi Sumite” by St. Seachnall, 4th c.
Translation by Maureen O’Brien, 10/25/07
Music: ttto “Adeste Fideles”

O come, holy people, come and take Christ’s Body.
O holy, o drinkers saved by His holy Blood.
Praise Him who healed us; sing God’s praise together.

O come, receive His Body,
O come, receive His Body,
O come, receive His Body,
Christ the Lord!

By Christ’s Blood and Cross, He / saved the world and saved us.
He sacrificed Himself for the / whole universe.
Both Priest and Victim, as the Law foreshadowed.

The Lightgiver pours out — spark’ling, overflowing —
His Grace on His holy ones, and life evermore.
Come with a pure mind; take up your Caretaker.

He is Bread of Heaven, endless Living Water.
His Sacrament rips us from the cruel jaws of Hell.
Guide, Guard, and Ruler, Keeper of Salvation.

He came to live with us, comes to live within us,
He will come again to judge us all in the end.
Chri-ist the Lo-ord, Alpha and Omega!

Obviously, this is not a super-exact translation, but it’s not just making stuff up, either. I don’t suspect it would be all that great for real life use, though, because everybody already likes “O Come All Ye Faithful” exactly the way it is — kept especially for Christmas use. So I’m not sure when or if people might like to sing this sort of thing, but it was fun to translate.


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Blinding Realization of Mistranslation

In re: “The Lorica of St. Brendan” —

1. “parentes” was being used in the sense of relatives. This I found out from the notes to another Irish poem, which also pointed out that all manner of medieval writers do this. This neatly explains why one would pray for one’s father and mother, and then for one’s parents.

2. I figured this out this morning, when I woke up. The reason lorica prayers say “I bind unto myself” is because — duh! The armor laces, or rather straps, together.

3. Therefore, the “opening” section of this particular lorica — which uses the same word as for opening a book or unrolling a scroll — is all about unwrapping one’s spiritual armor and laying it out, ready to put on.

Lorica segmentata collapses into four pieces which can be stacked inside each other. Here’s a picture of a modern reenactor “binding” such a lorica onto himself (with a little help from his friends). This page also includes good pictures of the other types of lorica. (Btw, check out all the pictures. The hobnailed caligae are particularly cool. “Caligae” usually is translated as “boots”, though in a Roman soldier’s case they’re sandals with a little heavier construction and the said hobnails. But Roman sandals are super-comfy.)

Lorica squamata is shown here. This gentleman is wearing lorica plumata (mail made with scales instead of rings).

Now that I know what I got wrong, I will correct my podcast posting ASAP (although in this case, that means a few days from now). But that’s not all bad. I did want to check the scriptural references in the lorica, and now I’ll have time. (There’s one place name I’m not sure I’ve spelled right, for instance.)

I also messed something up on the hymn to St. Aedh, which is depressing but easily corrected on that post.

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St. Patrick’s Unmentionable Kinfolk

I’m irritated. One hears all sorts of discussion about Our Boy from Bannavem Taberniae, Patricius, and his historical and legendary significance. One hears a great deal about his statement in his pocket autobiography, that he was the son of Calpornius the deacon, who was the son of Potitus the priest. (And sometimes how shocking this supposedly is, when it’s quite normal for the days before celibacy for priests became a matter of discipline for all in the West, as opposed to being a very popular and holy option which was also the only way to be eligible to become a bishop.) You also get a lot of talk based on the later medieval lives, full of exciting events and miracles. You get discussion of his dealings, real or alleged, with other famous saints, and especially St. Brigid.

But nobody ever mentions that legend tells us the name of his mother. Concessa (or Concha, or Conchessa). Furthermore, legend adds that she was from Gaul, and was a sister or close relative of St. Martin of Tours.

Now, there are several reasons why this is a bit improbable (mostly, that this stuff never comes up in the really early sources, a family connection to a super-popular saint should have been mentioned, and that the lives of St. Martin don’t give evidence of relatives). But when it comes to discussions of legend and folklore as folklore, historical fact isn’t the point. So why didn’t we hear about her, or about the strain of legend that claims that St. Patrick spent time with St. Martin as well as studying under St. Germanus? And why the heck wouldn’t Concessa be mentioned by supposedly feminist writers?!

Also, in an entire life as a semi-professional Irishwoman, nobody ever mentioned the fact that legend gave him a sister who was a saint and mother of saints. 19 saints, to be precise.

Her name is St. Darerca. (Not to be confused with the St. Darerca whose nickname was Monenna.)
Her day is March 22, and she is the patron saint of Valencia Island, Ireland, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Legend tells us that her first husband was Restitutus the Lombard. Quite possible in a seaside town, especially considering that her brother Patricius studied in Gaul to become a priest and then traveled to Rome to get the papal blessing on his mission to Ireland. Her sons by him were St. Sechnall of Dunshaughlin; St. Nectan of Killunche and Fennor; St. Auxilius of Killossey; St. Diarmaid of Druim-corcortri; St. Dabonna; St. Mogornon; St. Drioc; St. Luguat; and St. Coemed Maccu Baird (the Lombard) of Cloonshaneville.

Her second husband was Conas the Briton. He founded Beth-Chonais, now Binnion in County Donegal. Her sons by him were: St. Mel of Ardagh, St. Rioc of Inisboffin, St. Muinis of Forgney; and St. Maelchu.

She also had two daughters: St. Eiche of Kilglass and St. Lalloc of Senlis.

But that’s only fifteen saints, you say? Well, there are also some miscellaneous sons granted her, whose father is not mentioned: St. Crummin of Lecua, St. Miduu, St. Carantoc, and St. Maceaith.

Now, obviously there’s a great deal of question here as to whether these are all sons of the same person. Seventeen isn’t an impossible number of kids by any means, but it’s certainly a good chunk. And indeed, St. Patrick was credited with several other sisters: St. Liamania (probably just another name for Darerca), St. Tigris or Tigridia (occasionally credited also with seventeen bishop-sons, so maybe half of this crop of kids is actually hers), St. Lupita the vowed virgin (though some writers give her kids, too), and St. Cinnenum or Richella. Patrick also has Welsh sister-sons who are deacons come over to help him in Ireland: St. Reat, St. Nenn, and St. Aedh. (And they have big long Welsh saint genealogies behind them.)

(St. Tigris’ sons, btw, are generally counted as the following bishop-saints: Lomam of Trim; Munis of Forgney; Broccaid of Emlagh; Broccen of Breaghwy; and Mugenoc of All Duimi Gluin. I should probably also mention that, in Ireland, being a bishop was sorta like being a monsignor — they made tons of ’em, and they had little power other than the power to ordain — while being an abbot was the big important bishop or archbishop type job.)

Now, St. Patrick’s letter to Coroticus says ” I live among barbarians, a stranger and exile for the love of God… out of love for my neighbors and sons for whom I gave up my country and parents and my life to the point of death… I am bound by the Spirit not to see any of my kinsfolk.” This doesn’t totally rule out that there weren’t kinfolk around, of course.

But also, there are chronological discrepancies. Besides that, tons of his supposed relatives in these old genealogies are known Irish saints, who have totally different genealogies given elsewhere, where they descend from Irish people in the usual way! What’s going on?

Probably, what’s going on is a record of who studied under whom, and who lived in whose monastic or early Christian mission communities. Genealogies were vital information and an important literary form in most Indo-European countries, and Irish ecclesiastics would probably have adapted them to their own use for ease of memorization. (Oooh, inculturation.) So this is exactly the stuff you’d think that real historians (and real feminists) would find interesting! You’d think there’d be somebody out there correlating the known disciples of Patrick (mostly known, again, through legend), the relatives, and the Christian archeological record. (Our old friend Sabine Baring-Gould probably did something like.) But if they’re doing this, they’ve totally neglected the popularization market, despite the obvious need every March 17th.

Instead, it’s so much easier just to pawn everybody off as a survival of a mother goddess or random pagan god. *roll eyes*


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The Banshee Hides Her Eyes

There I was, innocently traversing the Web, reading the comments on the blog or Livejournal of a certain person I know mostly as a well-spoken commenter, when I suddenly recognized the screenname of someone I know in real life. Who was making a surprising flip and snarky comment, while jumping into a rather serious discussion.

“Oh, dear,” I thought. “One of this person’s issues has come up. This won’t be pretty.”

And then, I recognized the screenname of the next person to reply. Another person I know, who also takes issue with said subject but takes a very different position, and who was apparently in a mood to be quite short with such a comment.

This is the point at which one becomes very glad that one has not commented on said thread. One hides one’s eyes and waits for the explosive blast. But one feels bad about it, because one would like all ones’ acquaintances and friends to be friends with each other.

The sad thing is that, if these folks met in person (or, say, had joined the same group and gotten acquainted), I have no doubt that they would find a great deal in common but continue to disagree violently. Perhaps it’s as well that they live on different coasts…

But who knows? Maybe a flamewar will not erupt. Maybe everything will go well. Perhaps I underestimate them. But I think they’re the sort of persons who have to work these things out on their own, without any well-meant interference.

Either way, I don’t think I’m going to step into this one or even admit I’ve seen it. Noooooo.

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Annual Halloween Costume Rant

Masquerade and costume are not horrid pagan things. What do you see in the Bible? The good angels take on whatever form they like, on orders from God; God and His angels visited Abraham (unless that was the Trinity); and Raphael walked in disguise with Tobias to guide him.  Jesus Christ walked in unrecognizable guise with His disciples to Emmaus, playing a gentle trick while talking in third person about Himself, and revealing Himself only at the breaking of the bread. So it is no surprise that Paul had no better advice for Christians than that they should “put on Christ”.

So much for dressing up as a saint or hero, or something good that you’re not. But why would you wear a costume of a villain? Ask Chesterton’s Father Brown:

“I don’t try to get outside the man. I try to get inside the murderer. . . . Indeed it’s much more than that, don’t you see? I am inside a man. I am always inside a man, moving his arms and legs; but I wait till I know I am inside a murderer, thinking his thoughts, wrestling with his passions; till I have bent myself into the posture of his hunched and peering hatred; till I see the world with his bloodshot and squinting eyes, looking between the blinkers of his half-witted concentration; looking up the short and sharp perspective of a straight road to a pool of blood. Till I am really a murderer.”“Oh,” said Mr. Chace, regarding him with a long, grim face, and added: “And that is what you call a religious exercise.”

“Yes,” said Father Brown; “that is what I call a religious exercise…I’ve put it badly, but it’s true. No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realized exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; …till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.”

Most children who dress up as pirates or dragons or other scary things — they do it because they don’t want to grow up to be pirates or dragons. Healthy adults have much the same motivations, and may well need the reminder even more.


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Women’s Hat Advice! (Veil-Wearers, Pay Attention, Too!)

I’m not exactly Miss Fashion Queen, as anyone who knows me is well aware. So I know it looks silly whenever I decide to write a fashion post. But if women are going to wear something to cover their heads in front of God and everybody, they need to think about more than how princessy or devout it makes them feel. For God’s sake, and on the principle of the parable of the wedding garments, they should take a step back and check the whole package in the mirror. I mean, geez, you’re going to church!

Hairstyles, hats, headdresses, and veils all work on the same principles. You pick them based on the shape of your face. Also, headgear should not clash with your hairstyle, hair color, skin tone, or clothing. (It doesn’t have to match; in fact, contrast is good if it all pulls together. But it shouldn’t clash.)

For example, if you’ve got a round face or a face with broad cheekbones, it’s a bit silly to wear a short, broad hat; or a short chapel veil that ends at the cheekbones. (If you’ve got short hair, blonde or white hair, and pale or rosy skin as well, and then you add a short white veil, you’re gonna look like your neck ends in a cottonball.)

Similarly, a long skinny little face doesn’t need a tall skinny hat or a long drapey veil, and especially not one in dark colors. (You don’t want to give the impression that your head is a broomstick! 🙂

OTOH, if you’re tiny, you don’t want a huge hat that looks like Godzilla is devouring your head, and a big lady probably doesn’t want a teensy-tiny hat or veil. Your headgear should fit to scale.

Also, white does go with everything, but not all whites are created equal. Matte white is different from ivory is different from off-white. Silk is different from lace is different from cotton crochet.

Btw, if you have a plain hat and a scarf that goes with an outfit, you can always tie the scarf around the hat just for that day. (If it doesn’t look stupid on the hat.) This will help tie the outfit together.

Here’s a good milliner’s company with tips on how to choose a hat, picking hats according to basic face shapes, pictures of hat dos and don’ts, miscellaneous handy hints, hat fit and securing hats on your head, and other interesting info. (If you don’t know your face shape, the old advice was to trace your facial lines in a mirror with a bar of soap. Oh, and “fringe” is the British way of saying “bangs”.) They even have clips from their hat videos!
(This page doesn’t so much sell hats as hatmaking equipment and materials, btw. All you crafty types can go wild.)

Here’s a page with more great tips and more on face shapes/hats. Also from a hat and bridal veil company, natch. 🙂 But the face shape illustration is gorgeous.

Obviously, all this stuff is optional. If you want to go with the Ugly Babushka Test, who’s to stop you? But hey, my mom wouldn’t have let me leave the house — much less go to Mass! — in an Ugly Babushka, and neither would any of her olden days female kinsfolk. Ugly clothing that you know is ugly, and wear even though you have an alternative that’s not ugly, is just as much disrespecting the Lord as falling out of a skimpy blouse.

(And with all due respect to saints, I learned early in my house that “saints did it” isn’t a good argument. If a saint ran around naked in the desert and ate bugs, that’s between her, God, and her spiritual director. But as for us, we can mortify ourselves just as well by just getting up, putting on our church clothes and going to church. If you think you can’t, call your mom and get some mortification and chore suggestions. I’m sure she’ll have some for you.) 🙂

So I’m sure it’s totally unintentional that women leave the house in some of the chapel veils I see women wearing when they pan the crowd at some EWTN event. It’s not that the veils are ugly, or that the ladies are ugly. It’s that the two specific models so often do not go together — or at least, do each other no favors. And if the veils fit the woman’s face shape, they often are wrong for her clothing. (They look weird with her dress fabric or neckline, or with the color of the dress, etc.)

I’m a nerd, and if I don’t think about it in the morning, I’ll just slap on whatever comes to hand and only worry about clashing colors when it gets light. But the rest of you are not super-nerdy people who live alone, and you actually care about putting on the dog for the man in your life and giving a good fashion example to your daughters. There are plenty of times when we have to look like a clown for the love of God, but going to God’s house is not one of those times.

So think about integrating what you put on your head with what the rest of your head and body looks like on a given day. If you are trying to promote traditional practices, it’s logical that a nice total look makes you a better silent argument as well as being worshipful. And if being feminine is part of your female Catholic spirituality, you should do what it takes, not just slap on a long skirt and a lace table runner. 🙂

Otherwise, my mom is likely to set up on EWTN as some kind of fashion version of the Knights of Columbus protecting the Eucharist from women with bad outfits, and that would be super scary. Brrrrrr.

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Sweet Father of the Continuing Time!

Daniel Keys Moran, author of The Armageddon Blues (1988), as well as the Tales of the Continuing Time series novels: Emerald Eyes (1988), The Long Run (1989), and The Last Dancer (1993), has put up all these fine books on the Web for your reading pleasure. (You can see pictures of the beautiful Jim Burns covers for The Armageddon Blues and The Long Run on Wikipedia. Rest assured that the books and the covers are a perfect match. The Russian cover for The Long Run? Eh, not so much.)

Moran was practically the perfect writer for that cyberpunky moment of sf between the Cold War and complacency — especially if you didn’t usually like cyberpunk. Moran understood computers; but he also understood the sorts of things people do to have fun and make money in cities; finally, he understood the beauty of rural places and highways alike. His ideas and ideals were often ones with which I might not agree, sure. But he told a darned good story and enjoyed telling it, and he didn’t scorn people who didn’t think like him. In fact, one of the pleasures of reading a Moran novel was all the different people you’d meet, and all the different viewpoints you’d get to gaze through. Another was that, even though some amazingly bad things happened in his worlds (he usually starts things off with a nice nuke or two, just to warm up the room, and he’s the kind of writer whose prologues end with “a million years later”), the worlds themselves and the people in them were almost always optimistic, fun, engaged, and interesting. (And he invented calling a computer a “handheld”, which should be worth something.)

I do recommend his novels above any of his stories. That’s just the way it is.

Here’s the important point:

Sometime in the next month or so, he plans to put up the most recent Tale of the Continuing Time, The AI War. This book was written but never published. Until… NOW!

*Maureen does a silent but expressive dance*

Now, I’ve been off the Continuing Time mailing list since… wow, since they moved to that website forum I could never get onto. So I didn’t know until now that Moran had a blog. (As in, not a Livejournal. Yay!) Now, I’d send you straight over there, but what’s the fun in that? (Especially since he’s got a blog entry praising Al Gore. Um, yeah. Whatever.)

So: you might want to read “Infinite Methods” about cutting to the core. “Trent’s Walking Around the House with a Handheld” on what it’s like for an sf writer to see the good bits of his futures take flesh in his own kids. “A Conversation in the Kitchen with Her Father” — a tiny but good fragment of fiction. And that’s just in the last few weeks.

Enjoy. I know I have, and will.

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