Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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THE CHRISTIAN FEAST
And the third :
" Quem venturum olim prophetiae signaverant. (To whose coming the prophecies of old had pointed.) "
Then the Magi kiss one another and together sing :
" Eamus ergo et inquiramus eum, offerentes ei munera : aurum, thus, et myrrham. (Let us therefore go and seek Him, offering unto Him gifts : gold, frankincense, and myrrh.)"
Antiphons are sung, a procession is formed, and the Magi goto a certain altar above which an image of the Virgin has been placed with a lighted star before it. Two priests in dalmatics— apparently the midwives—standing on either side of the altar, inquire who the Magi are, and receiving their answer, draw aside a curtain and bid them approach to worship the Child, " for He is the redemption of the world." The three kings do adoration, and offer their gifts, each with a few pregnant words :—
" Suscipe, rex, aurum. (Receive, O King, gold.) "
"Tolle thus, tu vere Deus. (Accept incense, Thou very God.)"
" Myrrham, signum sepulturae. (Myrrh, the sign of burial.) "
The clergy and people then make their offerings, while the Magi fall asleep and are warned by an angel to return home another way. This they do symbolically by proceeding back to the choir by a side aisle.6
In its later forms the Epiphany play includes the appearance or Herod, who is destined to fill a very important place in the mediaeval drama. Hamlet's saying " he out-Herods Herod " sufficiently suggests the raging tyrant whom the playwrights of the Middle Ages loved. His appearance marks perhaps the first intro­duction into the Christian religious play of the evil principle so necessary to dramatic effect. At first Herod holds merely a mild conversation with the Magi, begging them to tell him when they have found the new-born King ; in later versions of the play, however, his wrath is shown on learning that the Wise Men have
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