Kipling’s Birthday

December 30, apart from being the only ferial day in the Christmas Octave, is also the birthday of British writer Rudyard Kipling. It might behard to think of him as part of the patrimony, given his political contention with Chesterton and Belloc, his Freemasonry, and his decidedly broad churchmanship. But against this might be set his deep love of England’s history – including her Catholic history (his “Puck of Pook’s Hill” really needs to be read in tandem with Belloc’s “Four Men“). In many ways, his muddled apprehension of things spiritual is reflective of the English character itself. But also reflective of that character was the beauty – and occasional truth – he was able to draw out of it. Certainly, Christmas was a recurring theme in his work; usually about its celebration far from home or in unpleasant curcumstances, reminding his readers that for all that, the feast was worth celebrating – a message that resonates in the modern world, with its mobility and frenzied melancholy. So, as we look at an apparently declining American Empire, do his words in “Recessional” resound through the years:

God of our fathers, known of old,
   Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
   Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies;
   The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
   An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
Far-called, our navies melt away;
   On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
   Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
   Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
   Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!
For heathen heart that puts her trust
   In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
   And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!


As fitting for us, 120 years after it was written. Despite his many detractors in and out of academia, Kipling still has legions of fans (of whom this writer is certainly one) – and a most unlikely place of tribute with sundry mementoes on display right here in Southern California!

1 thought on “Kipling’s Birthday

  1. Splitting hairs, there are no “ferial days” in the Octave of Christmas because each day within the Octave of Christmas ranks as a feast in the Roman general calendar. The first three days of the octave (St. Stephen on the 26th, St. John the Evangelist on the 27th, and the Holy Innocents on the 28th) are the only days of the entire liturgical year on which the celebration is split between two offices. On these days, Vigils (or Matins or the Office of Readings), Lauds (Morning Prayer), and Mass follow the office of the saint while Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Compline (Night Prayer) follow the office of the Octave of Christmas. The only celebration that takes complete precedence over the respective day of the Octave of Christmas, and over the feasts assigned to the first three days if they conflict, is the Feast of the Holy Family, celebrated on the Sunday within the Octave (with first vespers on Saturday evening) or on the 30th (without first vespers on the evening before) when there is no Sunday within the octave.

    Of course, the proper calendars of the ordinariates may elevate the festivals of saints who are of particular importance the Anglican patrimony to ranks that would take precedence over a feast in the general calendar.



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