Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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CHRISTMAS DRAMA
departed home by another way ; he breaks out into bloodthirsty tirades, orders the slaying of the Innocents, and in one form takes a sword and brandishes it in the air. He becomes in fact the out­standing figure in the drama, and one can understand why it was sometimes named after him.
In the Laon " Stella " the actual murder of the Innocents was represented, the symbolical figure of Rachel weeping over her children being introduced. The plaint and consolation of Rachel, it should be noted, seem at first to have formed an independent little piece performed probably on Holy Innocents' Day.7 This later coalesced with the " Stella," as did also the play of the shepherds, and, at a still later date, another liturgical drama which we must now consider—the " Prophetae."
This had its origin in a sermon (wrongly ascribed to St. Augustine) against Jews, Pagans, and Arians, a portion of which was used in many churches as a Christmas lesson. It begins with a rhetorical appeal to the Jews who refuse to accept Jesus as the Messiah in spite of the witness of their own prophets. Ten prophets are made to give their testimony, and then three Pagans are called upon, Virgil, Nebuchadnezzar and the Erythraean Sibyl. The sermon has a strongly dramatic character, and when chanted in church the parts of the preacher and the prophets were possibly distributed among different choristers. In time it developed into a regular drama, and more prophets were brought in. It was, indeed, the germ of the great Old Testament cycles of the later Middle Ages.8
An extension of the " Prophetae " was the Norman or Anglo-Norman play of " Adam," which began with the Fall, continued with Cain and Abel, and ended with the witness of the prophets. In the other direction the " Prophetae " was extended by the addition of the " Stella." It so happens that there is no text of a Latin drama containing both these extensions at the same time, but such a play probably existed. From the mid-thirteenth to the mid-fourteenth century, indeed, there was a tendency for the plays to run together into cycles and become too long and too elaborate for performance in church. In the eleventh century, even, they had begun to pass out into the churchyard or
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