Tuesday, 27 December 2011

St John

A short series of excerpts from Chambers' Book of Days for the specific dates, with subjoined miscellanea and news.

Various fathers of the church, among others Tertullian and St. Jerome, relate that in the reign of Domitian, the Evangelist, having been accused of attempting to subvert the religion of the Roman Empire, was transported from Asia to Rome, and there, in presence of the emperor and senate, before the gate called Porta Latina, or the Latin Gate, he was cast into a caldron of boiling oil, which he not only remained in for a long time uninjured, but ultimately emerged from, with renovated health and vigour...

...Partly in reference to the angelic and amiable disposition of St. John, partly also, apparently, in allusion to the circumstance of his having been the youngest of the apostles, this evangelist is always represented as a young man, with a heavenly mien and beautiful features. He is very generally represented holding in his left hand an urn, from which a demoniacal figure is escaping. This device appears to bear reference to a legend which states that, a priest of Diana having denied the divine origin of the apostolic miracles, and challenged St. John to drink a cup of poison which he had prepared, the Evangelist, to remove his skepticism, after having first made on the vessel the sign of the cross, emptied it to the last drop without receiving the least injury. The purging of the cup from all evil is typified in the flight from it of Satan, the father of mischief; as represented in the medieval emblem. From this legend, a superstitious custom seems to have sprung of obtaining, on St. John's Day, supplies of hallowed wine, which was both drunk and used in the manufacture of manchets or little loaves; the individuals who partook of which were deemed secure from all danger of poison throughout the ensuing year...

The core days of Christmas are so filled with family and social gathering that thought and feeling tend to come in micro pulses rather than tides. Hence the fiddling with Twitter and the short burst on Facebook. The spaces and constraints of Twitter are interesting. Every form offers its notions of completion, and brevity is no different. Perhaps the brevities will join together in some way to make some kind of song.

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