Sunday, September 29, 2013

Michaelmas

Today is Michaelmas; it's historically an important date, although we don't really use it anymore. It was one of the major feasts for Catholics until the 18th century. I don't know if they still do ever, but early Lutherans took the Feast of St. Michael pretty seriously. Here is a Michaelmas hymn by no less than Philip Melanchthon:

Lord God, we all to Thee give praise,
Thanksgivings meet to Thee we raise,
That angel hosts Thou didst create
Around Thy glorious throne to wait.

They shine with light and heav'nly grace
And constantly behold Thy face;
They heed Thy voice, they know it well,
In godly wisdom they excel.

They never rest nor sleep as we;
Their whole delight is but to be
With Thee, Lord Jesus, and to keep
Thy little flock, Thy lambs and sheep.

The ancient dragon is their foe;
His envy and his wrath they know.
It always is his aim and pride
Thy Christian people to divide.

As he of old deceived the world
And into sin and death has hurled,
So he now subtly lies in wait
To undermine both Church and state.

A roaring lion, round he goes,
No halt nor rest he ever knows;
He seeks the Christians to devour
And slay them in his dreadful pow'r.

But watchful is the angel band
That follows Christ on ev'ry hand
To guard His people where they go
And break the counsel of the foe.

For this, now and in days to be,
Our praise shall rise, O Lord, to Thee,
Whom all the angel hosts adore
With grateful songs forevermore.

Michaelmas used to be a very important holiday. It was one of the times of the year when people would reckon accounts and peasants would elect their reeves, so it became a marker-post through the year, a kind of standard due-date that was convenient for everyone to use. And it was an important feast, so people would have nice meals of goose and bannock, or whatever the local feasting dish was.

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