24 December 2014

PERITOME: the answer

Continues from yesterday.
In the Latin Bible, Circumcisio represents the Greek Peritome, Circumcision, used (as in S Paul's Epistles) as a collective term for the Jews. Praeputium represents the Greek Akrobustia, Foreskin, used as a collective term for the Gentile world (English Bible translations sometimes shyly render this as 'Uncircumcision', which seems to me a bit like referring to two-legged humans as 'non-amputees'). But how do the Ox and the Donkey respectively symbolise Jews and Gentiles?

I think it is clear that bos (the word is not taurus) represents a castrated example, ox, of its species; once we set aside instincts born of good manners and Political Correctness, we might acknowledge a certain rough and ready appropriateness in making this animal the symbol of the circumcised male, and so of Judaism. And we will recall that in Antiquity the Donkey had the reputation of being well-endowed: in the Metamorphoses of Apuleius in which the hero is accidentally changed into a donkey by magical New Age ladies, he reflects at the moment of his metamorphosis that the enormous increase in the dimensions of one organ is his only consolation. Hence, this conspicuously unreduced animal is taken by the liturgical, papal, author to represent the unreduced male ... and, by extension, so to speak, Gentile Humanity. So the message of this Praefatio is that all humanity, both Jew and Gentile, is called to feed at the manger (that is, the altar).

So sock it to them, Father; at least the Dads will remember .... or do I mean the Mums?

1 comment:

Pulex said...

Could not resist the urge to look into the Latin original. The beginning and the end is apparently the same as for most prefaces: "Uere dignum: per Christum dominum nostrum. Cuius hodie octauas nati celebrantes tua, domine, mirabilia ueneramur, quia qui peperit, et mater et uirgo est; qui natus est, et infans et deus est. Merito caeli locuti Sunt, angeli gratulati, pastores laetati, magi mutati, regis turbati, paruoli gloriosa passione coronati. Lacta, mater, cybum nostrum, lacta panem de caelo uenientem, in praesepio positum uelut piorum cybaria iumentorum. Illic namque agnouit bos possessorem suum et asinus praesepium domini sui, circumcisio scilicet et praeputium. Quod etiam saluator et dominus noster a Symione susceptus in templo plenissimae dignatus est adimplere. Et ideo cum angelis et archangelis." The imperative phrase addressed to the Mother is somewhat odd, though, in view of the style, not the content.