For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious

Monday, 29 April 2013

Typology in an Idle Hour

I think I remember (I stand to be corrected) that Florence, sometime in the Middle Ages, tried to rename the days of the week with Saint's names. I don't think it would catch on, because the days are of course named for the planets, and I suppose one would have to rename these as well. There has been some compromise, in that the romance languages have a version of Dies Domini for Sunday e.g. domenica in Italian. But what if one was to dedicate the other days? This might sound rather odd, but it was the subject of a recent conversation I had, half in jest. (I think I was being humoured. And if you don't enjoy typology, then I suggest you stop here.)

There is of course an obvious starting point, the Days of Creation: each day already has a canonical significance that is brought out in the Vespers hymns of the Breviary. Further, both the first (Day of Resurrection) and sixth (Day of the Passion) have a ready-made Christian association. In addition there is of course the seventh day, Saturday, which is normally dedicated to Our Lady, leaving just the second to fifth days needing a new dedication.

Added to the Christian dedication, we thought it would be fitting if each of the new dedications had a kind of link with their Roman or Norse equivalents. Sunday is an obvious example where there is a continuity between the sun, Christ as Sol Invictus and Oriens Ex Alto (pagan meaning) and the idea of the Alpha of creation, its First Word or Logos, and the New Creation beginning with Christ's rising, the making of all things new on the Day of Resurrection, which is mystically both the first and eighth day (Christian meaning).

The next thing to do was to decide the dedications of the remaining days: so many possibilities, so few days. But then, we thought of the Confiteor of the Breviarium Romanum, which invokes the Blessed Virgin and these others: St John the Baptist, St Michael the Archangel, SS Peter and Paul, and All Saints. Here are four groups for our four remaining days. I will give you the dedications, and the reasoning, starting with Tuesday (We will eventually get back to Monday).

Third Day (dry land from water, and green things bearing fruit); Tuesday or Mars'-day (both gods of War). This we dedicated to St John the Baptist. Yes, I know that St Michael was the obvious attribution because of his association with the War in Heaven, and his bellicose nature would have fitted the bill. But we were working towards an association with the relevant Day of Creation primarily: and here we have the water falling away from the earth, the dry land being exposed to the breath of the Spirit as it emerges, the vegetable growth providing food rising from its soil. St John the Baptist's medium is water, the water of baptism from which one emerges as a living thing. Remembering that the different days are parallel, so to speak (light on the first = luminous bodies on the fourth, water and air on the second = fish and birds on the fifth), there is a parallel between the water falling away from the earth for living things to grow on the third day, and the creation of animals and mankind as the fulfillment of the earth on the sixth. So there is the forerunner, St John the Baptist, the one who baptises and then decreases, and the One Heralded, the Son of Man who fulfills and completes the divine work. But what is the connection between Mars and Tiw and the Baptist? It is as antitype: the Baptist makes war by his pacific nature: he takes off the weeds of war and wears skins, eats from the land and shuns fattened flesh, he conquers the city by retreating to the wilderness, preaches repentance and constrains none, washes in water not blood, stands aside rather than usurping when the Messiah appears, and his final act is to have his head cut off for witness to truth. And I had almost forgotten: he tells the Roman soldiers not to do rapine and violence. All of these are acts opposite to war: and yet I think that there is something very warlike about John the Baptist in the popular imagination. He is almost a Herculean figure, never effeminate in art.

Fourth Day (the heavenly bodies, times and seasons); Wednesday or Mercury's-day. This day we dedicated to St Michael, who because he stands in for all angels, is a fitting patron of the day of the heavenly luminaries. The idea is of the angelic powers in the heavens, governing the eras of the world; and through their benignant influence, guiding the Wise Men to the Christ Child, and hence leading the Gentiles to the lowliness of God Incarnate. Woden is the god of poetic ecstasy and fury, and Mercury the messenger of the gods: and St Michael and all angels are the divine messengers (and messages are often given through inspiration coming via the Angelic Forms of creation), thus tying in neatly with the day's pagan names.

Fifth Day (fish and birds); Thursday or Jupiter's-day (the High King of the gods, and god of sky and thunder). This day receives a dual dedication, to SS. Peter and Paul, the two "princes" of the church, chief among the Apostles, exercising the kingly power of our Lord through the gifts of pastoral authority and prophetic word respectively. There is an obvious link of St Peter to fish, given his role as a "fisher of men"; St Paul carries the seed of the gospel to the ends of the earth. Fish and birds populate water and air, and SS Peter and Paul are over the nations (the teeming shoals of the sea) and the cause the spirits of mid-heaven (the fowls of the air) to be subject to our Lord through the divine word. They, rulers of the Church militant and triumphant, exercise the rule of Christ over nations and spirits. As for the link with Jove and Thor, St Paul carries the sword of the spirit, the hammer which smashes the world; St Peter carries the keys that open the kingdom of heaven, of the skies. And both received their martyr's crowning where the Eagle of Jupiter stood enthroned over the world.

Admittedly, the fifth day is a somewhat tenuous analogy. When we came to Monday, we were a little stuck: All Saint's? Until my companion had an excellent idea. But first a brief resume of the other days. Sunday, I have already mentioned, which leaves Friday and Saturday.

The Day of the Passion, the finishing of the work of creation and its crowning by the creation of Man who governs all the animals, is the Sixth Day: here we have the naming of all things by the Logos (naming and subduing the animals, types of the desires of the soul and the passions), who gives all history its meaning and enters into his Eternal Kingship through his completed suffering. He is the Image of God in the midst of the creation. The typology of Venus in this connection, pagan patroness of the sixth day, is as a subversive antitype: for the Passion of Christ is a passion of obedience, of everlasting love, and of humiliation and not of wantonness, caprice and selfish desire. As for Frigg, the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named, she is also an antitype - for she sits in the High Seat of the gods and is granted knowledge of things to come, but does not reveal the prophecy that she knows. Our Lord descends from the Throne, that He might reveal the innermost secrets of the heart of God to the lowliest.

On the Sabbath, the Day of Rest and God's Pleasure, Saturn's-day, we celebrate St Mary, primarily as the Theotokos, the one who accepts the Annunciation. On this day of Annunciation, God comes to rest in Mary as He came to rest on earth on the Sabbath. He is well pleased with his divine work, Mary the type of his immaculate creation who is filled with his gifts; full of grace. "Here", He says, of the Blessed Virgin, City of Jerusalem, "will I rest, for I have a delight therein". This, the seventh day is the final day of the old creation, and the first of the new, the eve of the eighth day, when all things will be made new. The link with Saturn is an easy one, and no need to stretch the idea to fit the Annunciation: the Sibylline oracles foretold the coming again of the age of gold, the blissful rule of Saturn returning and the coming of the Child who would bring back the days of universal peace.

Finally then, for Monday, the day of the Moon and the second day of creation, of the parting of the waters of chaos and the creation of the air. My friend's suggestion was, rather than All Saints, what about dedicating the day to St John Apostle and Evangelist? He stands in very well for All Saints (the symbol of the church at the foot of the Cross). He is the mystic, the one beloved of Jesus who sees further and deeper into the heart of Christ in his gospel. Thus St John accords well with the air separating the primitive waters, a symbol of the Spirit which speaks in his works as the Spirit of Truth. And the Moon is the reflection of the Sun: and so the light of Christ is given to the world through the love of God in the Church, the company of the Faithful, in place of whom St John stands beneath the Cross.

Perhaps I can persuade an MP to try to introduce the new names for the days of the week in a Private Member's Bill.

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