Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Martinmas: Remembrance Day

Having had to go to the doctor this morning, being unwell and unable to work, I was privileged to unexpectedly attend (while waiting) the eleven o'clock Remembrance Day service at the Bassendean cenotaph directly opposite the doctors' chambers; there were at least eighty names of men killed in the Great War upon the obelisk, all of them locals; the same story is repeated throughout every town and suburb of Australia (in the suburb where I grew up, the rotunda in the park bears a plaque listing the many fallen for King and Empire).  

A bemedalled veteran (the local R.S.L. branch president, I assume) gave a speech, then called for the two minutes' silence, as we recalled the ninetieth anniversary of the Armistice, when the guns fell silent on the Western Front at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, after more than four years of terrible war, "The War to End All Wars", that had cost perhaps thirteen million lives, among them the finest flower of a whole generation in every combatant nation - and twenty-one years later, it happened again, at much greater cost.  

As we also say on ANZAC DayLest we forget.

On my way home from the doctor, after collecting my Medicare rebate (unlike some benighted lands, at least we have universal health care here, in addition to one's private insurance) and grabbing a coffee, I stopped off at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs, to pray Terce, Sext, and then Matins of St Martin, a patron saint of mine, as well as a famous monk, bishop, and apostle of Gaul or France.  

Interestingly, since his feast was formerly of such high rank - on account of him being the first confessor given a saint's cultus in the West, his feast used to have an Octave, just as did that of St Stephen the Protomartyr - there were proper responsories, and also antiphons for Matins (just as there are for Lauds and Vespers - mainly from his Life by Sulpicius Severus; see also his LettersDialogues II and III, and Sacred History II, chapter 50) and the use of, not the psalms for a confessor, but those for a martyr (Psalms 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 14, and 20), reflecting the fact that for him, as Protoconfessor, the Church at first ranked him with the martyrs (as his Magnificat antiphon suggests, when it says that he gained the palm of martyrdom despite not being struck with the sword), and only later developed the liturgical category of confessor.  Similarly, the hymn Iste confessor Domini, now used for the Common of Confessors, is in fact proper to him, being written for his feast day in the eighth century:

Iste Conféssor Dómini coléntes,
Quem pie laudant pópuli per orbem,
Hac die lætus méruit beátas,
Scándere sedes.

Qui pius, prudens, húmilis, pudícus,
Sóbriam duxit sine labe vitam,
Donec humános animávit auræ
Spíritus artus.

Cujus ob præstans méritum, frequénter,
Ægra quæ passim jacuére membra,
Víribus morbi dómitis, salúti

Noster hinc illi chorus obsequéntem
Cóncinit laudem celebrésque palmas,
Ut piis ejus précibus juvémur
Omne per ævum.

Sit salus illi, decus atque virtus,
Qui, super cæli sólio corúscans,
Totíus mundi sériem gubérnat,
Trinus et unus.  Amen.

As this is the Southern Hemisphere, there is no St Martin's Summer, but, given our blessedly cool weather since mid-October stretching now well into November, perhaps we've been given a Winter instead: very considerate of my patron, who knows I dislike the heat.

Apparently to-day one really ought eat goose and drink wine; there's no goose to be had, I'm afraid (albeit I did have some duck curry yesterday), but considering my indisposition, I think it best to follow the inspired advice of the Apostle and "drink a little wine for thy stomach" (I Tim. v, 23).  And, as is fitting on the feast of one who gave his cloak to a beggar and thereby clothed Christ (Martínus, adhuc catechúmenus, hac me veste contéxit - the first antiphon of Matins), I must give to the local St Vincent de Paul Society some old clothes of mine...

A final oddity: Luther, being baptized on this day, was named after good St Martin!

In the words of the last antiphon of Matins, 

Sacérdos Dei, Martíne, pastor egrégie, ora pro nobis Deum.

(Priest of God, Martin, worthy shepherd, pray for us to God.)

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