Sunday, February 12, 2012

St. Apollonia And A Hundred Medieval Holidays

St. Apollonia, Martyr, holding the tongs with which torturers pulled her teeth.

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Dear Janet,

I knew nothing of Apollonia 'til this morning's email account of her (largely legendary) life arrived.

Not surprisingly she is patron saint of all who dread the dentist's chair.

Saint Apollonia

Last week, Danny and I had our throats blessed on St. Blaise's February 3rd feast day. (When you and I were young, was this ceremony "free-standing?"... or in conjunction with Mass?)

In the following biography of Blaise, notice that The Council of Oxford (1222) prohibited servile work on his feast day.

It is a little known fact -- strategically obscured by workaholic Protestant culture -- that the Catholic Church has always been a great lover of leisure and a liberator of the working class.

A superb account of Feast Days - which were once just that -- is online: 

Excerpt: We may consider that the people living in the Middle Ages were free of labour on about 80 to 100 days a year. The amount of commemoration days, which were celebrated beside the 52 Sundays  of  a  year, varied between 40  and  about  60.  Especially  after  the  most important religious feasts, such as Christmas, Easter and Whitsunday, people did not work for a whole week. Work  was  forbidden on  these  days,  including  not  only  the  work of  the  peasants  and craftsmen, but also even female textile work at home. It was also prohibited to hold a fair or a judicial  hearing,  and  also profane  professions such  as  battles  or  travels  were  forbidden in many regions."

For a more popular view of medieval feasting, see  (Ironically, St. Apollonia is featured on this website!)

But back to Blaise...

Note his intimate relationship with wild animals - a commonplace occurrence in the lives of the saints. Blaise did not just "like" these creatures: he lived with them in their cave: the wolves, lions and bears were his community. (Here is a revealing page entitled “Saints and Animals” from the blog of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute

In the early days of Francis' brotherhood, "proto-Franciscans" living in caves and under rock outcroppings in the hills above Asissi (which I have had the pleasure to walk among), were such "feral" creatures that their wild appearance startled town-folk who came upon them unawares. 

We Christians ought not be smarmy folk as popular images of The Good Shepherd represent.

Image result for the good shepherd

Yeshua invoked shepherds because of their disdained station. Constant migration in search of "green pastures" made it impossible for shepherds to perform "the prescribed rites," and so, considered non-observant sinners and social outcasts, they were held in contempt by "the good church-going people." 

"Who Were The Tax Collectors And Shepherds In Jesus' Time"

(In passing, I will note that The Woe Passages are insufficiently homilized - 



PS I did not notice until re-reading Apollonia's "life" that these events occurred on the north coast of Egypt. Alexandria, as you know, was home to two of The Ancient World's wonders - the Light House, or Pharos, (whence the Spanish word Faro); and the world's greatest library burned (accidently?) by Caesar in 48 BC - after operating longer than the United States has existed. 

Recently, I saw a documentary which re-enacted the logistics of keeping the Pharos fire burning. Impressive undertaking! Rather like stoking the fires of Hell. There was also the matter of getting all that fuel to the tower's top ... day after day, year after year, century after century:

PPS I just posted my view of the crucial relationship between Religion and Culture which I metaphorize as the relationship between "doctrinal genotype" and "cultural phenotype." 

The Phenotypic Expression Of Religion Matters More Than Its Dogmatic Genotype

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