Sunday, 30 April 2017

Notes on the Calendar: April – Part 2

From the 1948 Pilot, as we approach the end of April, some more G.R. Balleine.

Notes on the Calendar: April – Part 2
By G.R. Balleine

The only Red Letter Saint commemorated this month is St. Mark [25 April], author of the earliest. of our four Gospels, the man who failed to stay the course, when he first started work for Christ, but later made good.

The Saint who left his comrades,
And turned back from the fight,
Behold, at last victorious
In God's prevailing might.

An unaccountable superstition arose about St. Mark's Eve. If you had courage to wait in the church porch till midnight, you would see passing into the church the ghosts of all who were to die that year.

Of this month's Black Letter Saints, Alphege was Archbishop of Canterbury (1006-1012) in days before the Norman Conquest. He was captured by Danish raiders, and pelted to death with bones of oxen they had eaten at a drunken feast, because he could not raise a £3,000 ransom From the poor tenants on his Canterbury estate.

The people honoured him as a martyr; but after the Norman Conquest it was questioned whether he could be accepted as a Saint as he had not died for his Religion. But Anselm decided “Christ is Truth and Justice. So he, who does for Truth or Justice, died for Christ”.

Anselm himself has his day on April 21st. Though a Burgundian, he was Archbishop of Canterbury (1093-1109). Driven into exile by William Rufus, he was recalled by Henry I but then again expelled.

He was the greatest philosopher and theologian of his age, but the qualities that won him his Sainthood were his guileless simplicity, spotless integrity, inflexible courage, and patient suffering for what he believed to be right.

Richard was a great English Scholar, Chancellor of Oxford University, who became Bishop of Chichester (1245-1253). He too fell out with his King. Henry III seized his house and lands, but, though penniless and homeless, he continued his work, trudging through Sussex on foot, sleeping in shepherds’ huts, and sharing labourers’ meals.

A strict disciplinarian, he purged his diocese, not only of Slothful or Scandalous Priests, but of “those whose articulation was hurried and those who wore dirty surplices." Today he is chiefly remembered by the prayer he taught his people:

Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits Thou hast given me,
For the pains and insults Thou hast- borne for me.
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother,
May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
And follow Thee more nearly.

Other April Saints are St. George, whose legend we told last month.

In the Middle Ages, all .Jersey flocked on St. George's Day to St. George's Chapel in Mont Orgueil, but in 1495 this pilgrimage was stopped. The Authorities grew nervous lest such a crowd might one day seize the Castle, and the King ordered the Governor “not to permit any of the said isle to come to the said Castle on St. George's Day, as hath been the custom”.

Ambrose, as Governor of Northern Italy. came to Milan to ensure order at the election of a new Bishop.

A child cried, “Ambrose for Bishop !" and the crowd took up the cry. He protested that he was not baptized, but this was over-ruled. He was baptized, ordained, and consecrated on the spot, and proved one of the strongest Bishops the Church ever had. He forced the Emperor to do public penance for a massacre that he had permitted. He overwhelmed by his oratory the arguments of, the Arian heretics. He introduced hymn singing into the Western Church, and himself wrote many hymns. Translations of nine of his are in hymns Ancient and Modern.

Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome ( 440-61), was another refuter of heresy. And by seeking out Attila the Hun in his camp he saved Rome from destruction.

Catherine of Sienna was a nun, who by sheer saintliness, exercised amazing influence in 14th century Italy. She persuaded the Pope to return to Rome, which six of his predecessors had abandoned. She made peace between Rome and Florence. She put an end to bitter political feuds that divided Italian cities. She quelled a revolt of the Roman populace. Her 400 letters to Kings, Popes, Bishops, and private persons form one of the greatest books of Italian literature, and show the theology of Mysticism at its very best.

Two other dates may be mentioned. April 1st both in England and France has for centuries been All Fools Day, a day for sending people on fruitless errands, e.g., to buy a guttering-peg or some elbow-grease or a Life of Adam’s Grandfather. In 1885 crowds flocked to the Tower of London with Tickets of Admission inviting them to see '` the annual ceremony of washing the lions”.

Those who fall into the trap are called in Yorkshire April noddies, in Cheshire April gobbies, in Scotland April gowks, in Cornwall April guckaws, and in Jersey paissons d'Avri.

Poor Robin in 1760 wrote :-

The first of April, so they say,
Is set apart for All Fools' Day
But why the people call it so,
Nor I, nor they themselves, do know.

Inquirers are often referred for information to St. Matthew 29: 2. The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics say, : '' In whose honour this old Festival was held and what- religious rite underlay the fooling has yet to he traced." But the fact that in India also March 31st is a day for sending simpletons on impossible errands shows that the custom must date back to some primitive belief about the passing of March into April held by the Indo-European tribes before they separated.

One celebration we have no wish to introduce into Jersey. In Old England, April 30th was Mischief Night, when the lads of the village sallied forth to throw bricks down chimneys. pull gates off hinges, and fix mops left out of doors oil to the roof of barns. The warmest admirer of old customs will not wish to revive this one.

No comments: