14 January – Happy Feast of the Ass!

Today, 14 January, is the Feast of the Ass, Asses… the Festum Assinorum (in Latin, plural… inclusive!).

No, I am not talking about whom you think I’m talking about.  And, no, it’s not a special Jesuit feast.

The feast which became popular in France, could have stemmed from the so-called “feast of fools”.  It may tendrils into biblical donkeys, or the integration of the ass into the nativity narrative.  It could have been in part inspired by a sermon of pseudo-Augustine.

The day included the tradition of a parading a couple of kids (not goats) on an ass (not a Jesuit) right into the church, next to the pulpit during the sermon.  The congregation would respond with loud “hee haws”.

Who said that the Middle Ages were dreary?

In any event, it was celebrated for a long time and then faded out.

Here are possible greeting cards.

One for your parish priests….

Dear Fr. ___

There is a rather long entry about this at Wikipedia.  It includes a liturgical note:

At Beauvais the Ass may have continued his minor role of enlivening the long procession of Prophets. On the January 14, however, he discharged an important function in that city’s festivities. On the feast of the Flight into Egypt the most beautiful girl in the town, with a pretty child in her arms, was placed on a richly draped ass, and conducted with religious gravity to St. Stephen’s Church. The Ass (possibly a wooden figure) was stationed at the right of the altar, and the Mass was begun. After the Introit a Latin prose was sung.

The first stanza and its French refrain may serve as a specimen of the nine that follow:

Orientis partibus
Adventavit Asinus
Pulcher et fortissimus
Sarcinis aptissimus.
Hez, Sire Asnes, car chantez,
Belle bouche rechignez,
Vous aurez du foin assez
Et de l’avoine a plantez.

(From the Eastern lands the Ass is come, beautiful and very brave, well fitted to bear burdens. Up! Sir Ass, and sing. Open your pretty mouth. Hay will be yours in plenty, and oats in abundance.)

Mass was continued, and at its end, apparently without awakening the least consciousness of its impropriety, the following direction (in Latin) was observed:

In fine Missae sacerdos, versus ad populum, vice ‘Ite, Missa est’, ter hinhannabit: populus vero, vice ‘Deo Gratias’, ter respondebit, ‘Hinham, hinham, hinham.’

(At the end of Mass, the priest, having turned to the people, in lieu of saying the ‘Ite missa est’, will bray thrice; the people instead of replying ‘Deo Gratias’ say, ‘Hinham, hinham, hinham.’)

Here’s a treat for the Feast of the Ass.

Judging from the lyrics, this seems to be the festive installation of the “bishop” …who’s seems, appropriately, to be an ass. Cliche today, perhaps, but still fun.

Have you sent a greeting card to someone?

BTW… there is a musical setting. HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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6 Responses to 14 January – Happy Feast of the Ass!

  1. frjimt says:

    .. sent this on to those “mitres” w a sense of humor…. but why should they have all the fun, given the state that some of have “assisted” in the current state of affairs… so its off to all of us “cleric minors of said ass!”

  2. deaconjohn1987 says:

    I was once called a “Horse’s Ass” by a pastor at Mass because I handed him his chasable backwards! I thank him for my humility! May he rest in peace+

  3. Grant M says:

    Hmm…if all this happened at an NO Mass today, trads would have a field day…

  4. Grant M says:

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to my first donkey Mass. Tango masses are so last year…

  5. MrsAnchor says:

    @Grant M I’m with you on this seems out of step with reverence…… What came to MY mind is a Lector processing down the aisle with Dry Ice in a Molcajete or the terrible Mayan Aztec Dances that have occurred in front of the Altar ….
    I’m confused but am wondering if that’s why it faded… ?

  6. Grant M says:

    The Motu Summorum Pons Asinorum allows an unstable group of assinine Catholics to request a donkey Mass, but our bishop claims that this is counter to the spirit of Lateran V. Is he correct, or is he just being an ass?

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