7 August 2023

The Battle of Belgrade and S Xystus

August 6; the Transfiguration; an oriental feast brought into the Roman Calendar by Calixtus III in 1457 to commemorate the defeat of the Turks at the Battle of Belgrade in 1457 (rather as the Feast of the Holy Rosary commemorates the Battle of Lepanto ... whatever would we do without all those defeats of the Turks?). Late Medieval England developed a great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus, especially with the encouragement of the Lady Margaret, mother of Henry VII. So here in England, the following day became the Feast of the Holy Name. A good idea, in my view. Just as Corpus Christi needed to be extracted from Maundy Thursday and given the opportunity to be celebrated at a time not preoccupied with the progress of Triduum (call it duplication if you like), so the Holy Name can do with being extracted from the Christmas/Circumcision/Naming sequence and given space to stand alone. What a shame the Ordinariate Calendar missed this opportunity. Actually, if you follow the Novus books, you could say a votive Mass and Office of the Holy Name on August 7.

What went under, what got lost in all this, was poor old Xystus. One of the martyr-popes in the Canon Romanus; the Pontiff whose own martyrdom preceded that of his own Archdeacon, S Lawrence, a few days later. The story is a poignant one: the arrest of the pontiff while preaching from his cathedra; his leading away to 'sacrifice to the gods'; his refusal. He was then brought back to be martyred at his own altar, together with two of his deacons; as he was being prepared for death, Archdeacon Lawrence said "Why do you abandon me, Father, you who never offer the Holy Sacrifice without your deacon?" "You will follow me in three days", said S Xystus. S Lawrence is one of three great patrons of the Roman Church; Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima being dedicated, as their liturgical propers demonstrate, to SS Lawrence, Paul, and Peter. Celebrating S Xystus on the 6th and S Lawrence on the 10th is both elegant and moving.

But, in the Novus Ordo, you can't. The novel fad for confining one day to one theme, unknown to the classical Roman and Byzantine rites, led the reformers to move S Xystus back off the Transfiguration (on the 6th) to the 5th and then to change their minds and move him to the 7th. I can only say that I consider this a great shame. What on earth is wrong with the old custom of keeping the Transfiguration on the 6th with a commemoration of S Xystus? He's much more likely to be noticed there than as an optional memorial competing for attention ... and on the wrong day.


kedwardrobinson said...

Dear Father
I completely agree with you about the Feast of the Holy Name on the 7 August. The Sarum material for this is exceptionally beautiful and of rare devotional value. And, as I think you imply, if you've got it, use it!
Keith Robinson

Thomas said...

My workplace is not generally a sweary environment, although the occasional expletives may be heard. But this morning there was a rash of stressy people taking The Holy Name in vain. The little devils seem to know the liturgical calendar quite well. I tried to use it as an opportunity quietly to offer the Divine Praises in reparation. That seems to have shut them up!

Chris said...

I like to see such feasts as coming in pairs - one commemorating an historical event, and one celebrating the eternal truth behind it. As well as those you mention, there's Ascension/Christ the King, Good Friday/Holy Cross, Assumption/BVM Queen and arguably Christmas/Epiphany.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Of all the reformers fads in find the oddest the avoidance of changing vestments duringi a celebration. So out go the three, hierarchical, mitres and the coped Asperges. Most odd of all the celebration of the vigil office of a great feast, Easter, in white Eucharistic attire

Arthur H. said...

Father and VE, the hatred of veneration of our glorious past and for the meaning of symbols has been one of the driving forces of liturgical "renewal" apparently. Thus, let's sabotage the calendar, and symbolic things such as vestments.

Once memory of them, and love of the rich heritage has been lost, so they seem to reason, they can have their way. Numbers appear to be in their favor, but God will have His day. So we thank you Father, for leading the way to a return to authentic Catholic practice and learning.

monsignor said...

Dear Father! The Defeat of the Ottoman-Turks at Belgrade (or Nándorfehévár in Hungarian) took place on July 22, 1456.

Banshee said...

Barbara Hambly, early in her career, wrote a delightful mystery called Search the Seven Hills (aka The Quirinal Hill Affair). It features Xystus as a character, and a very good one, along with a few other friends.

Hambly's more fashionable historical interpretations of early Christianity? Not my fave. But the parts she gets right, seem very good.

Obviously you have more knowledge to judge it by, but check it out. It is $1.99 on Kindle, who seems like a bargain, so I imagine it is inexpensive in the UK also.

Banshee said...

I mean, it is not a perfect book, but the good parts are very very good. And it does a great job of showing the confusion of pagan Romans about all these weird foreign religions, versus what was actually going on.

(I think the reason for the original title, The Quirinal Hill Affair, was that the novel might have begun life as a historical Man from UNCLE fanfiction, but then turned into something else (something more saleable, too). I could be overthinking this, and I don't really have any evidence for it. Just an intuition.)