Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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THE CHRISTIAN FEAST
There have been few more rapturous poets than Jacopone ; men deemed him mad ; but, " if he is mad," says a modern Italian writer, " he is mad as the lark "" Nessun poeta canta a tutta gola come questo frate minore. S' e pazzo, e pazzo come Pallodola."
To him is attributed that most poignant of Latin hymns, the "Stabat Mater dolorosa"; he wrote also a joyous Christmas pendant to it :
" Stabat Mater speciosa, Juxta foenum gaudiosa,
Dum jacebat parvulus. Cujus animam gaudentem, Laetabundam ac ferventem,
Pertransivit jubilus." * I5
In the fourteenth century we find a blossoming forth of Christmas poetry in another land, Germany.16 There are indeed Christmas and Epiphany passages in a poetical Life of Christ by Otfrid of Weissenburg in the ninth century, and a twelfth-century poem by Spervogel, " Er ist gewaltic unde stare," opens with a mention of Christmas, but these are of little importance for us. The fourteenth century shows the first real outburst, and that is traceable, in part at least, to the mystical movement in the Rhineland caused by the preaching of the great Dominican, Eckhart of Strasburg, and his followers. It was a movement towards inward piety as distinguished from, though not excluding, external observances, which made its way largely by sermons listened to by great congregations in the towns. Its impulse came not from the monasteries proper, but from the convents of Dominican friars, and it was for Germany in the fourteenth century something like what Franciscanism had been for Italy in the thirteenth. One of the central doctrines of the school
* " Full of beauty stood the Mother, By the Manger, blest o'er other, Where her little One she lays. For her inmost soul's elation, In its fervid jubilation,
Thrills with ecstasy of praise."
(Translation by J. M. Neale.)
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