26 April 2007

Oh Holy Cow!

I know I should be writing about Saint Mark Evangelist* as it is his feast, but I thought of something far more interesting (at least to me) today.

I was poking through the Gospel of Saint Luke today, and I read the parable of the prodigal son just for fun.
"But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate." (St. Luke 15.20b-24, RSV)
Watchman Nee pointed out that Christ wasn't just illustrating God's grace toward us, but he was also pointing to himself, and the sacrifice that was to come. Nee writes in his commentary:
"Verse 32. [This] Signifies the rich Christ killed on the cross for the believer's enjoyment. God's salvation has two aspects: the outward aspect, signified by the best robe, and the inward, subjective aspect, signified by the fattened calf. Christ as our righteousness is our salvation outwardly; Christ as our life for our life is our salvation inwardly. The best robe enabled the prodigal son to meet his father's requirements and satisfy his father, and the fattened calf satisfied the son's hunger. Thus the father and the son could be merry together."
I never realized the Eucharistic value to this passage; typically we think of Christ as the 'Lamb of God' or the 'Lion of Judah'. But a fatted calf? Huh? Perhaps the Hindus were right after all in their veneration of the sacred cow. So I had a little fun with the Angus Dei in the liturgy for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Holy Cow, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

Holy Cow, you take away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

Holy Cow, you take away the sins of the world,
grant us peace.
Did I raise a few eyebrows? Moo!


*Why is it in modern times we add 'the' to a saint's feast? Even as late as our 1928 Prayer Book, we called rendered Saint John the Baptist's day as "The Feast of Saint John Baptist". Is it perhaps a carryover of Norman French? In French it's rendered, 'La fête de la Saint-Jean-Baptiste'. If you know the answer, tell me. I mean, although not a saint, do we call the Son 'Jesus the Christ'?


ghostofeden said...

In the Orthodox Akathist service, the Blessed Mother is called (with the utmost of respect, obviously) "Holy Heifer, who gave birth for the faithful to the unblemished sacrificial Victim[...]"

It made me smile when I read that. (Which, coincidentally was just last night! Weird.)

Screeching in the Angelic Choir said...

I love the Akathistos to the Blessed Virgin! One of my favourites is the Akathistos of Thanksgiving by the Metropolitan Thryphon (sometimes attributed to Gregory Petrov who died in a Soviet prison camp in 1940). John Taverner composed an amazing rendition of it.

Here's a link-


Luiz Coelho said...

ow gawd

Holy cow?


Jane R said...

Love the Holy Cow.

But "la" Saint Jean-Baptiste is not the equivalent of "John the Baptist" (or more accurately, John the Baptizer); that would be Jean le Baptiste (or more accurately Jean le Baptizeur!). The "la" is simply there to indicate the particular day, as a sort of ellipsis for "la fête de Saint Jean-Baptiste." The French just use definite articles a lot. E.g. la Pentecôte = Pentecost, la Chandeleur = Candlemas.

The question is more why the French would use the feminine form of the definite article (la. as opposed to le and yes, this is still in use, and not just in Normandy) but as I said above, it's likely because it's an abbreviation of la fête de..., the feast of...