14 January: Happy Feast of the Ass!

Rev. Mr. Greg Kandra reminds us that today is the Feast of the Ass.  Wikipedia HERE

I wrote about this back in 2012 HERE

There are medieval liturgical rites which ought to be revived… not just on this day but whenever we need to underscore some asinine move from some ecclesial ass.  From Wiki, for speed:


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.[4]

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.’)

Possible greeting cards…

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Benedict Joseph says:

    A ray of sunshine on an otherwise unhappy day in ecclesia.
    It as if we have run up to the attic and found all manner of treasure.
    Over the past couple of years I have developed a love for a painting by Murillo owned by the Detroit Institute of Arts – “The Flight into Egypt.” It is a beautiful work and I am lucky to have found a means to have it reproduced in fine size and it has a prominent place in my home.
    My grandparents had a humble print of another image of “The Flight…” In my mind it is a particularly intimate moment in the life of the Holy Family – bound by faith, love and an awareness of the malice of men. I’ve had a vague memory that in pre-conciliar days there was a feast of the Flight into Egypt – on the parish calendar there was a small picture of the Flight on “some” day in January, but I was unable to confirm it until today.
    You are a custodian of many treasures, Father Z.

  2. un-ionized says:


  3. acardnal says:

    My late father, born in 1915, used the word”asinine” frequently. . . especially when referring to my behavior as a child!

  4. majuscule says:

    Those pictures look like mules.

    Is a mule an ass or a half-ass?

    It probably doesn’t matter. But it did bring to my mind the use of mules in biblical times…

  5. un-ionized says:

    Majascule, haha it’s a half ass. I always thought they used donkeys (full, complete, or total asses) back then but it stands to reason they would have had mules as well, transportation animals were of utmost importance, even more so than the modern Impala (!).

  6. un-ionized says:

    In keeping with the horse theme I should have said Mustang.

  7. Elizabeth D says:

    The pictures are definitely donkeys (asses) not mules.

    Mules make some variety of hybrid between a horse whinny and a donkey “hinham”. Different mules have different voices. There are mules in the Bible, wasn’t it a mule that got David’s son Absalom hung up in a tree by his hair?

    But there are more donkeys in the Bible. There was just a wonderful archaeological finding of a King David/King Solomon era guardhouse with donkey stables and lots of still-very-identifiable donkey poop that they were amazed to date to the same time period as the structures. Analysis of the donkey poop showed the donkeys had been fed grape skins/seeds instead of hay. http://www.livescience.com/57494-fortification-found-israel-mining-camp.html

  8. Father P says:

    I guess in every generation there has been some liturgical craziness that had to be endured. Gives us hope that much of the silliness going on today will be mentioned by Father Z’s successor in WDTPRS XXXIst century as a quaint but long abandoned practice of past generations.

  9. majuscule says:

    Elizabeth–I was only supposing the photo was a mule because of the fineness of its head and the “horse” shape of what I could see of its hooves.

    When I was young we had a Mexican burro (his parents had actually come from Mexico). One parent was grayish and the other brown and both had the cross on their backs that folklore tells us was bestowed because of the donkeys who carried Christ. Our little buddy burro was white and he did not have the cross. He also had an extremely irascible temperament–there was no docility in him. I always wondered if it was the lack of the cross?

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