Last month, we read from Canticum Salomonis about the liturgical feast of the Liberation of Jerusalem which used to be observed on 15 July by the Crusaders. The Crusades have long been demonised in modern consciousness as oppressive Catholic expeditions into the Holy Land. In an age when demythification is in vogue, some sectors conveniently cling to a cloying mythologised version of history.
Today, however, we turn our attention to a similar feast that celebrates a victory in war, in a coetaneous Crusade that was fought in the Iberian peninsula, a historical milestone now commonly referred to as the Reconquista. To situate our minds on this feast which is still celebrated in some places in the archipelago, a few readings are in order. Here is a piece published today by Canticum Salomonis. Here is a description of the feast, its propers, and its celebration in the Philippines from Dei praesidio fultus. And, lest we forget, a direct offshoot of these Crusades are the so-called bulas de la Santa Cruzada, which granted dietary privileges during times of fasting and abstinence. Read more about this here.
There are two features of this feast that might resonate with the modern Filipino ear. First, the most obvious, the archbishop of Toledo is named Rodrigo Ximénez de Rada, therefore, a namesake of the highest civil power of the country, who was probably named after San Rodrigo de Córdoba, a priest who, steadfast and unwavering in his profession of the Catholic faith, was beheaded under Sharia law under apostasy charges (after his Muslim brother, whose fight with their other areligious brother Rodrigo attempted to break, reported to Muslim authorities that Rodrigo had converted to Islam). His feast day is 13 March, but we all know that compilers of almanaques, from which parents of a bygone age used to choose the names of their children, habitually transferred some saints to other days.
Second, the archbishop of Toledo assiduously and jealously upheld the primacy of the see of Toledo against the pretensions of the sees of Braga and of Tarragona, to such a point that whenever he went to battle, he had the primatial cross processed before him. In fact, one of the many miracles inventoried in the aftermath of the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, which was victory for the Christians, was the fact that, despite the fight to the death, the archbishop’s crucifer, Don Domingo Pascasio, a canon of the cathedral of Toledo, who carried the aforementioned double-barred ferula before the archbishop, sustained no harm. One can contrast this against the limp-wristed stance this government has taken against maritime encroachments into our territorial waters.
Just wars are seldom fought by arms alone. They are fought as well with prayers. Let this feast be a reminder to us that God visits his ire upon those who dishonour His Holy Name.
Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.