Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy Festum Asinorum!

The Venerable Ass
Today on the medieval calendar, Churches celebrated "THE FEAST OF THE ASS".This politically incorrect tale tells us more:

The 'Festival of the Ass,' and other religious burlesques of a similar description, derive their origin from Constantinople; being instituted by the Patriarch Theophylact, with the design of weaning the people's minds from pagan ceremonies, particularly the Bacchanalian and calendary observances, by the substitution of Christian spectacles, partaking of a similar spirit of licentiousness,—a principle of accommodation to the manners and prejudices of an ignorant people, which led to a still further adoption of rites, more or less imitated from the pagans. According to the pagan mythology, an ass, by its braying, saved Vesta from brutal violence, and, in consequence, ' the coronation of the ass ' formed a part of the ceremonial feast of the chaste goddess.


An elaborate sculpture, representing a kneeling ass, in the church of St. Anthony at Padua, is said to commemorate a miracle that once took place in that city. It appears that one morning, as St. Anthony was carrying the sacrament to a dying person, some profane Jews refused to kneel as the sacred vessels were borne past them. But they were soon rebuked and put to contrition and shame, by seeing a pious ass kneel devoutly in honour of the host. The Jews, converted by this miracle, caused the sculpture to be erected in the church. It takes but little to make a miracle.

There also was a corruption of the liturgy on this feast day that went like this:
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.')*

The more things change...

I made up some downloadable Feast Day cards for all of you to print up and, maybe this Sunday, pass on to your Ass at Mass (rhymes!)!
*hinham must mean "hee haw" in Latin. Still sounds funny.