Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Better Late Than Never - A Joint Contribution

How to hold a Septuagesima Eve or Farewell Alleluia Party

Septuagesima Eve is the lychgate of Lent – that way station marking entry into the churchyard, ere on Ash Wednesday we pass through the very portal of the church into Quadragesima Abbey, as it were, where for forty days and nights we will redouble our penances and in monkish wise undertake ascetic exercises, cloistering our souls from the busy world till the happy day of Resurrection.

Now a lychgate, as all men know, is a gate overshadowed by a roof, symbolic of Him Who is the Gate of the sheepfold, Himself overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, whereto a body brought for burial is carried, and the first part of the funeral conducted, before it is brought into the church. Hence, when as at first Vespers of Septuagesima the Alleluia is laid aside, in a manner its death is to be represented – just as the corpse, in shroud y-wrapt, ought be plonked down in the lychgate.

Moreover, a wake ought be held, for to mourn dead Alleluia (dear maiden), and, to prevent enormities, Alleluia ought be buried straightway. For this reason, on Septuagestima Eve, Alleluia is buried after Vespers; and, both before and after these affecting services, cocktails in the liturgical colours ought be served nearby.

Before the obsequies, as suitably accoutred guests arrive for this devotional pastime, the gracious host ought present each one with a green cocktail to fittingly conclude Epiphany-tide. It is not permitted to colour the drink with green food colouring – note in particular that green-tinted Guinness is an abomination, and one reserved in any case for St Patrick’s Day. Instead, cunning combinations of sundry decoctions, liqueurs and elixirs are to be employed. This verdant beverage, and all subsequent top-ups, should be consumed before the commencement of First Vespers of Septuagesima.

One should wait until all guests arrive before starting Vespers; it is most disruptive to have people scrabbling for chairs and music, and attempting to join in psalms half-way through. Note that, if the land be laid under interdict, the doors must be closed, and the Office recited on a low note; which will somewhat dampen the spirit of the occasion.

For Vespers, a mediæval chapel (Gothic or Romanesque) is required (every home should have one), or at least a large space, fittingly tricked out, with two rows of chairs facing each other. Do not use narrow hallways: otherwise there can be the risk of accidental concussion at every Gloria Patri. While purists may gasp in horror, it is suggested that the two choirs be mixed (with men and women on each side), lest the volume be too unequal.

It is preferable, whether there be a permanent or temporary chapel, to celebrate Vespers before a dressed and decorated altar (eastward facing) upon which the requisite number of lit candles burn. The Alleluia should be hung on the altar front for all to observe clearly. If no medieval tapestry is available, a large piece of cardboard, made to resemble parchment, with the Alleluia y-writ thereon in clearly visible lettering (employing a flowing font with serifs) will suffice, and may be attached to the altar with concealed tape if no hooks are provided.

Benedicamus Domino with doubled Alleluia having been sung, and Vespers concluded with the Fidelium animæ (or, if a bishop be present, after he has imparted his blessing – if several prelates be present, the highest-ranking blesses unless suspended a divinis), immediately two or four of the youngest present (juniores priores) approach the altar, make due reverence, detach the Alleluia in comely fashion, and gently lay it flat, text facing up, on the waiting bier, which has been prepared earlier.

Carrying their cargo with deserved decorum, these bearers then lead a funereal procession out from the chapel, through the house, and around the garden to the grave prepared (which must have been suitably decorated with purple flowers, and supplied with a handy pile of stones nearby). Meanwhile all sing the hymn Alleluia dulce carmen, preferably in polyphony, repeating its verses as necessary until Alleluia be buried into the grave. 

Having assembled at the graveside, the officiant first rolls up the Alleluia if necessary, then with sober deportment deposits it into a coffin or other apt receptacle. After sealing this, he lowers it into the grave. All present then process past this resting place of dead Alleluia, each one laying a stone on top as they pass, thus building a cairn while still singing. All depart the grave in solemn silence after a most liturgical pause.

Following the obsequies, as expeditiously as possible, the host and his attendants (as it were the celebrant and his ministers) should make and distribute purple cocktails to the guests. On no account are any left-over green cocktails to be consumed, under pain of serious sin and excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See. Nonetheless, exceptions to this rule are allowed for those who are allergic to the purple cocktail; or those who are only permitted one alcoholic beverage and who arrived too late to finish their drink before Vespers; or those holding a Papal indult or immemorial privilege: no others.

During the mixing these purple cocktails, it is fitting for guests to retire and shed their green garments in favour of purple ones, if possible. Men of limited imagination may choose simply to change their neck tie. Since the liturgical portion of the evening has been completed (as Compline will be recited in private), guests may innocently disport themselves henceforth as befits any polite social gathering, taking care to remember that utterance of the ‘A’ word is strictly forbidden.

It is appropriate to serve dinner now. Please note that serving only purple food would be considered excessive, not to mention nauseating. A reasonable use of vegetables in such shades would be appropriate, however.