Wednesday, January 06, 2016
Adoration of the Magi by Sandro Botticelli, c. 1470-75, Florence, from the Uffizi
The Golden Legend has this to say about the Epiphany.
Epiphany sermon by St. Pope Leo I.
Reliquary said to contain the remains of the Three Magi, Cologne Cathedral (we all remember this from WYD2005).
We Three Kings of Orient Are
We three kings of Orient are;
Bearing gifts we traverse afar,
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.
O star of wonder, star of light,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light.
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again,
King forever, ceasing never,
Over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I;
Incense owns a Deity nigh;
Prayer and praising, voices raising,
Worshipping God on high.
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in the stone cold tomb.
Glorious now behold Him arise;
King and God and sacrifice;
Sounds through the earth and skies.
Adoration of the Magi, by Rogier Van der Weyden, c. 1455, central panel of altarpiece tryptych from Saint Columba's parish church, Cologne
Journey of the Magi, by T.S. Eliot
'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For the journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins,
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death,
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.
Adoration of the Magi, by Juan Reixach, active late 1400s in Valencia, central panel of an Epiphany Altarpiece whis was in a church in Rubielos de Mora, Spain.
"The table at which the King sat was richly decorated and groaned beneath the good fare placed upon it, for there was brawn, roast beef, venison pasty, pheasants, swan capons, lampreys, pike in latimer sauce, custard, partridge, fruit, plovers, and a huge plum pudding which required the efforts of two men to carry. Afterwards plays were performed and there was much music and dancing, and in the large kitchens after the spit had ceased its ceaseless turning and the King had dined...a merry crowd gathered...and we had besides a good chine of beef and other good cheer, eighteen mince pies in a dish..."Diary of Samuel Pepys, January 6, 1662 (the king referred to is King Charles II).
Adoration of the Magi, by Giotto, Scrovengi Chapel
La Marche des Rois
Tuesday, January 05, 2016
The Twelfth Cake itself was the center of games related to the feast. Symbolic items were hidden in the cake, much as with an Irish barmbrack at Halloween. A king and queen of the feast were selected based on what items showed up in whose slices of cake. This is related to the Lord of Misrule custom.
Herrick had this to say about the Twelfth Cake:
Now, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where Beane's the King of the sport here;
Besides we must know,
The Pea also
Must revell, as Queene, in the Court here.
Begin then to chuse
This night as ye use
Who shall for the present delight here,
Be a King by the lot,
And who shall not
Be Twelfe-day Queene for the night here.
Which knowne, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake,
And let not a man be seen here,
Who unurg'd will not drinke
To the base from the brink
A health to the King and Queene here.
Next crowne the bowle full
With gentle lamb's woll;
Add sugar, nutmeg and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And this ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.
(Robert Herrick, "Hesperides, Twelfe Night, or King and Queene", 1648).
In my reading of the various charming books by the late Sir Alec Guiness (a Catholic convert, btw), he mentioned the custom of the Drury Lane Cake.
In the Green Room of London's Drury Lane Theatre, however, Twelfth Cake still is eaten and a toast drunk in honor of Richard Baddeley the comedian, who died in 1794. The ancient ceremony, interrupted by war, was revived in 1947, and will continue — God willing — for centuries to come.
Richard Baddeley was a pastry cook who later became an actor. Upon his death he left the sum of one hundred pounds, invested at three per cent interest, to provide a cake, known as the "Baddeley Cake", which was to be eaten annually, in his memory, by "His Majesty's Company of Commedians".
Here is a history of Twelfth Cakes.
And the excellent devotional site Fish Eaters has two superb articles on Twelfth Night and Epiphany, for all of your Catholic end-of-Christmas needs.