Search This Blog

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Further Notes On Holy Innocents Day

In speaking of cruelty to children, we note the following in J. Brand's Popular Antiquities:
The learned Gregory, in his '' Treatise on the Boy Bishop,'' preserved in his posthumous works, observes that " It hath been a custom, and yet is elsewhere, to whip up the children upon Innocents Day morning, that the memorie of Herod's murder of the Innocents might stick the closer, and in a moderate proportion to act over the crueltie again in kinde."
So the lesson to be learned is all to the young while the adults ply their trades of various cruelties. Truly a good example of a people unable to confront their weaknesses.

Touching on the Boy Bishop, we may read in  The Cathedral Church of Salisbury: A Description of Its Fabric and a Brief History of the See of Sarum (Google eBook)
... there are so many records of the function with which popular credence has associated it, that a short digression is almost unavoidable. The pamphlet by John Gregory is elaborately minute and much too long to be quoted fully, yet some of the facts he brought together may be briefly noted. It seems that on the feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, the choir-boys elected one of their number, who from that day to the feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28th, bore the rank and exercised the functions of a bishop, the other choristers being his prebendaries.

During his term of office he wore episcopal vestments. On the eve of the Holy Innocents he performed the entire office, excepting the mass, as a real bishop would have done. At Salisbury on that day the boy-bishop and his boy-prebendaries went in procession to the altar of the Holy Trinity, taking precedence of the dean and resident canons.

At the first chapter afterwards the boy bishop attended in person and was permitted to receive the entire Oblation made at the altar during the day of his procession. The names of many of the choristers and the amounts of the oblations offered for the boy-bishops are the subject of many entries in the capitular registers of both English and continental churches.

Bishop Mortival in his statutes, still preserved among the cathedral muniments, orders that the bishop of the choristers " shall make no visit (some commentators consider this has been misinterpreted, to infer that elsewhere he held visitations), nor keep any feast, but shall remain in the Common Hall, unless he be invited to the table of a Canon for recreation." The order of service in use in this diocese has been preserved (MS. No. 153 of the Cathedral Library); in it we find as a special collect, "O, almighty God, who out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, " etc., not, however, quite in the form it appears in the Prayer Book of Ed. VI.
 Another instance of a ironic reversal of roles, which may contain within it a germ of repentance for a societal tyrrany.


No comments: