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March 27.

St. John of Egypt, Hermit, A.D. 394. St. Rupert, or Robert, Bp. of Saltzbourg.

St. John of Egypt

Was a hermit, inured to obedience by an ancient holy anchoret, "who made him water a dry stick for a whole year, as if it were a live plant." He walled himself up at the top of a rock, "from the fortieth or forty-second to the ninetieth year of his age," and "drew the admiration of the whole world on him," says Butler, by "the lustre of his miracles,["] and the "fame of his predictions."


1801. The peace of Amiens between France and England was signed in France.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday.

This is the first Sunday before Easter, and is sometimes called Passion Sunday. It is denominated Palm Sunday, because on this day the Roman catholic church ordains boughs or branches of palm trees to be carried in procession, in imitation of those strewed before Christ when he rode into Jerusalem. In this monkish procession the host was carried upon an ass, branches and flowers were strewed on the road, the richest cloths were laid down, and others were hung up. The palms were consecrated by the priest, and after they were used they were preserved to be burned for holy ashes, to lay on the heads of the people on Ash Wednesday in the following year, as before-mentioned (see p. 261,) on that day.

On Palm Sunday, the palm flowers and leaves to be consecrated by the officiating prelate or priest were laid upon the high altar, and those for the poor laity being placed upon the south step of the altar, the priest arrayed in a red cope proceeded to consecrate them by a prayer, commencing "I conjure thee, thou creature of flowers and branches, in the name of God the Father," &c. This was to displace the devil or his influences, if he or they lurked or were hidden in or about the "creature of flowers and branches." Then followed a prayer wherein he said with crosses, "We humbly beseech thee that thy truth may  +  sanctify this creature of flowers and branches, and slips of palms, or boughs of trees, which we offer," &c. Then the "creature of flowers and branches" was fumed with smoke of frankincense from the censers, and there were other prayers with crossings, and they were sprinkled with holy water with this supplication: "Bless  +  and sanctify  +  these branches of palms, and other trees and flowers," &c. Then the sacrists distributed the palms to the abbots, priors, and nobler persons, and the flowers and leaves to the others. When this was done the procession moved, and afterwards made a stand while two priests brought a Pascal in which the crucifix was laid; afterwards the banner and cross-bearers filed off to the right and to the left, and the boys and monks of the convent arranged themselves, and, after a short service, the priests with the tomb, headed by the banner and cross, passed between the monks, who knelt as they passed. When they came to the city-gates they divided again on two sides, and the shrine being put on a table, was covered with cloth. Above the entrance of the gates, in a place handsomely prepared with hangings, were boys with other singers whom the chanter had appointed, and these sang, "Gloria, Laus," "Glory, praise," &c. After having made a procession through the city, they returned to the convent-gate, where the shrine was laid on the table and covered with cloth, and a religious service was performed. The monks then returned to the church, and stood before the crucifix uncovered, while mass was performed; and after they had communicated, the deacon first and the rest afterwards, they offered their palms and flowers, at the altar.* [1]

It was also an old Roman catholic custom on Palm Sunday, to draw about the town a wooden ass with a figure on it, representing Christ riding into Jerusalem, and the people strewing palms before it. Googe's Naogeorgus says:—

A woodden Asse they have, and
    Image great that on him rides,
But underneath the Asse's feete
    a table broad there slides,
Being borne on wheeles, which ready drest,
    and al things meete therfore,
The Asse is brought abroad and set
    before the churche's doore:
The people all do come, and bowes
    of trees and Palmes they bere,
Which things against the tempest great
    the Parson conjures there,

And straytwayes downe before the Asse,
    upon his face he lies,
Whome there an other Priest doth strike
    with rodde of largest sise:
He rising up, two lubbours great
    upon their faces fall,
In straunge attire, and lothsomely,
    with filthie tune, they ball:
Who, when againe they risen are,
    with stretching out their hande,
They poynt unto the wooden knight,
    and, singing as they stande,
Declare that that is he that came
    into the worlde to save,
And to redeeme such as in him
    their hope asured have:
And even the same that long agone,
    while in the streate he roade,
The people mette, and Olive-bowes
    so thicke before him stroade.
This being soung, the people cast
    the braunches as they passe,

Some part upon the Image, and
    some part upon the Asse:
Before whose feete a wondrous heape
    of bowes and braunches ly;

This done, into the Church he strayght
    is drawne full solemly:
The shaven Priestes before them marche,
    the people follow fast,
Still striving who shall gather first
    the bowes that downe are cast:
For falsely they beleeve that these
    have force and vertue great,
Against the rage of winter stormes
    and thunders flashing heate.

In some place wealthie citizens,
    and men of sober chere,
For no small summe doe hire this Asse
    with them about to bere,
And manerly they use the same,
    not suffering any by
To touch this Asse, nor to presume
    unto his presence ny.
For they suppose that in this thing,
    they Christ do lightly serve,
And well of him accepted are,
    and great rewardes deserve.

When the wooden ass had performed in the church procession, the boys hired him:

The Sexten pleasde with price, and looking
    well no harme be done:
They take the Asse, and through the streets
    and crooked lanes they rone,
Whereas they common verses sing,
    according to the guise,
The people giving money, breade,
    and egges of largest sise.
Of this their gaines they are compelde
    the maister halfe to give,
Least he alone without his portion
    of the Asse should live.

On the Romish processioning on Palm Sunday, it is observed by an old writer that, "Among x thousand, scarce one knew what this meant. They have their laudable dumme ceremonies, with Lentin crosse and Uptide crosse, and these two must justle til lent break his necke. Then cakes must be caste out of the steple, that al the boyes in the parish must lie scambling together by the eares, tyl al the parish falleth a laughyng. But, lorde, what asses-play made they of it in great cathedral churches and abbies. One comes forth in his albe and his long stole (for so they call their girde that they put about theyr neckes,) thys must be leashe wise, as hunters weares their hornes.— This solempne Syre played Christe's part, a God's name. Then another companye of singers, chyldren and al, song, in pricksong, the Jewe's part—and the Deacon read the middel text. The prest at the Alter al this while, because it was tediouse to be unoccupyed, made Crosses of Palme to set upon your doors, and to beare in your purses, to chace away the Divel." * [2]

Dr. Fulke, opposing the Catholics, observes on their carrying of the host on Palm Sunday, —"It is pretty sport, that you make the priests carry this idol to supply the room of the ass on which Christ did ride. Thus you turn the holy mystery of Christ's riding to Jerusalem to a May-game and pagent-play." In the accounts of St. Andrew Hubbard's parish, there are Palm Sunday charges for the following items: In 1520, eightpence for the hire of an angel. In 1535-7, another eightpence for a priest and a child that played as a messenger: in that year the angel was hired for fourpence. By the churchwardens of St. Mary-at-hill, in 1451, fourpence was paid to one Loreman for playing the prophet on Palm Sunday. Though Roman catholic ceremonies were generally disused under Henry VIII., yet he declared that the bearing of palms on Palm Sunday was to be continued and not cast away; and it appears, that they were borne in England until the second year of Edward VI. In "Stowe's Chronicle," by Howes, the pracitice is said to have been discontinued in 1548.* [3]

It was likewise a Roman catholic custom to resort to "our lady of Nantswell," at Little Conan, in Cornwall, with a cross of palm; and the people, after making the priest a present, were allowed to throw the cross into the well; if it swam, the thrower was to outlive the year; if it sunk, he was not.† [4]

Recently, it is related, that on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, the boys of the grammar-school at Lanark, according to ancient usage, parade the streets with a palm, or, its substitute, a large tree of the willow kind, salix cafrea, in blossom, ornamented with daffodils, mezereon, and box-tree. This day there is called Palm Saturday, and the custom is supposed to be "a popish relic of very ancient standing." ‡[5] Mr. Douce, in a manuscript note, cited by Mr. Ellis, says "I have somewhere met with a proverbial saying, that he that hath not a palm in his hand on Palm Sunday, must have his hand cut off."

According to Stowe, in the week before Easter, there were great shows in London for going to the woods, and fetching into the king's house a twisted tree, or withe; and the like into the house of every man of note or consequence.

Palm Sunday remains in the English calendars. It is still customary with men and boys to go a palming in London early on Palm Sunday morning; that is, by gathering branches of the willow or sallow with their grey shining velvet-looking buds, from those trees in the vicinity of the metropolis: they come home with slips in their hats, and sticking in the breast button holes of their coats, and a sprig in the mouth, bearing the "palm" branches in their hands. This usage remains among the ignorant from poor neighbourhoods, but there is still to be found a basket woman or two at Covent-garden, and in the chief markets with the "palm," as they call it, on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, which they sell to those who are willing to buy; but the demand of late years has been very little, and hence the quantity on sale is very small. Nine out of ten among the purchasers buy it in imitation of others, they care not why; and such purchasers, being Londoners, do not even know the tree which produces it, but imagine it to be a "real" palm tree, and "wonder" they never saw any "palm" trees, and where they grow.


Sweet scented Jonquil. Narcissus Odorus.
Dedicated to St. John of Egypt.

Notes [all notes are Hone's unless otherwise indicated]:

1. Fosbroke's British Monach. Brand's Pop. Antiq. &c. [return]

2. From a "Dialogue, concerning the chyefest ceremonyes by the Imp of Anti-Christ, 1554." 12mo. quoted by Brand. [return]

3. Brand. [return]

4. Carew. [return]

5. Sinclair's Statist. Acc. [return]