I have now almost finished the series of Evening Reprints of former blogposts about the teaching of Scripture and Tradition with regard to the Jewish People within God's loving providence. I conclude, today and tomorrow, with a piece on the Manger which I have repeated before. It comes by popular demand!!
Oh dear! What new devotional message about the wretched animals looming over the manger can Father deliver as the tinies and their smirking parents gather round for the Blessing of the Crib on yet another Christmas Eve? Not the same platitudes as last year, surely? No worries. Rescue is at hand in the ancient pages of the Gelasian Sacramentary, which includes material used in Sixth Century Rome. Here is part of a Preface used at Mass on January 1 ... rather more over-the-top than modern liturgical committee-persons could stomache, but still ...
'' ... suckle, O Mother, our Food; suckle the Bread which cometh down from heaven, placed in the manger as feed for devout pack-animals. For there the Ox (bos) that is, Circumcisio, hath recognised its Owner, and the Donkey (asinus), that is, Praeputium, hath recognised the manger of its Lord.''
At first sight, this is uncannily like a piece of Counter-Reformation piety in the sentimentalism of its sudden baroque apostrophe to our Lady, or like a Metaphysical poet on one of his off-days ("suckle the Food"), even if the primacy of dogma, as always in the classical liturgical texts, soon reasserts itself in the powerful identification made between the manger-enthroned Flesh of the Incarnate Word and his Sacramental Flesh upon its Altar-throne to be received by the mouths of the Faithful. And there is something distinctly pre-modern (and pre-Enlightenment) in characterising Christians as 'devout pack-animals (pia iumenta).
But what on earth are we to make of Circumcision (Circumcisio) and Foreskin (Praeputium)?
19 December 2019
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Lacta, mater, cibum nostrum; lacta panem de caelo venientem; in praesepio positum velut piorum cibaria iumentorum. Illic namque agnovit bos possessorem suum, et asinus praesepium Domini sui, circumcisio scilicet et praeputim.
Quod etiam Salvator et Dominus noster a Simeone susceptus in templo plenissime dignatus est adimplere. Et ideo cum angelis et archangelis.
Oooo, I can sense the snowflakes of the neo-Puritan generation already sending for the smelling salts in anticipation of a clergyman talking about genitals...
Fr could you give us your trans of the Preface please?
From another blog about the Manger.
My guess is that it has to do with the Circumcised (the Jews) and the Uncircumcised/Foreskins (the Gentiles) being present at the manger, symbolized by clean and unclean animals. That's a very old bit of typology that you find in even very early fathers who comment on the nativity. Though neither animal is mentioned in the text of Holy Scripture itself, they seem to be part of a very old tradition.
Please keep giving us typology! I love it! I almost never hear sermons about it!
Besides the ox and ass symbolizing the Jews and Gentiles, respectively, isn’t it also the case that these animals were worshiped as gods by the pagans? So that their presence in the stable of Bethlehem shows them resuming their rightful place as mere creatures subordinating themselves and paying homage to their Creator.
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