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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Happy Feast of the Ass

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.

Practices:

A girl with 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.

But wait. There’s more. Wikipedia adds:
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.’)

Can’t imagine why we don’t do this anymore. (I’m sure a few readers will insist that, in places, they still do…)

Per Book of Days (scroll down to the Feast of the Ass section): A hymn, as ridiculous as the ceremony, was sung by a double choir, the people joining in the chorus, and imitating the braying of an ass. Ducange has preserved this burlesque composition, a curious medley of French and mediæval Latin, which may be translated thus:

From the country of the East,
Came this strong and handsome beast:
This able ass, beyond compare,
Heavy loads and packs to bear.
     Now, seignior ass, a noble bray,
     Thy beauteous mouth at large display;
     Abundant food our hay-lofts yield,
     And oats abundant load the field.
     Hee-haw! He-haw! He-haw!

True it is, his pace is slow,
Till he feels the quickening blow;
Till he feel the urging goad,
On his hinder part bestowed.
     Now, seignior ass, &c.

He was born on Shechem's hill;
In Reuben's vales he fed his fill;
He drank of Jordan's sacred stream,
And gambolled in Bethlehem.
     Now, seignior ass, &c.

See that broad majestic ear!
Born he is the yoke to wear:
All his fellows he surpasses!
He's the very lord of asses!
     Now, seignior ass, &c.

In leaping he excels the fawn,
The deer, the colts upon the lawn;
Less swift the dromedaries ran,
Boasted of in Midian.
     Now, seignior ass, &c.

Gold from Araby the blest,
Seba myrrh, of myrrh the best,
To the church this ass did bring;
We his sturdy labours sing.
     Now, seignior ass, &c.

While he draws the loaded wain,
Or many a pack, he don't complain.
With his jaws, a noble pair,
He doth craunch his homely fare.
     Now, seignior ass, &c.'
The bearded barley and its stem,
And thistles, yield his fill of them:
He assists to separate,
When it 's threshed, the chaff from wheat.
     Now, seignior ass, &c.
'With your belly full of grain,
Bray, most honoured ass, Amen!
Bray out loudly, bray again,
Never mind the old Amen;
Without ceasing, bray again,
Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen!
     Hee-haw! He-haw! He-haw!'
Remember to extend warmest greetings on this feast to those you love.

BTW, apparently there has been music composed for these occasions, and be sure to hit the stores to take advantage of the after-holiday sales!

Source: Wikipedia, via Deacon's Bench.

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