Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hilary term begins now

[Relief depicting
St. Hilary of Poitiers
blessing St. Triaise c. 1150]

The ordination of St. Hilary of Poitiers form a 14th century illustrated manuscript.

I had a professor at Ohio University, A. Compton Reeves, who would, on his syllabus sheet for the winter quarter, refer to Hilary term. His special field of study was late Mediæval England, he also taught classes on christian civilisation and on english law. Oxford University and the english legal year used that designation for winter, Pascal term (spring), Trinity (summer) and Michaelmas (autumn). Hilary term began in January after all the Christmas season was ended. On the new calendar it was on the 14th, it had been on the 13th. This Monday, the 14th, the church begins ordinary time in the calendar.

St. Hilary of Poitiers (Pictavium in Gaul) may have died on the 13th, maybe, 367, maybe. His exact chronology has been lost in time. He was born at the end of the age when christianity was illegal. He became a christian during the time of legalisation.

What is known about him is of some importance. He was a married man when he was chosen bishop, a rarity then, an impossibility now. His reputation for erudition and virtue was qualification enough. He was the pre-eminent theologian in the latin west before the age of Augustine, Ambrose and Jerome and after the Council of Nicæa. As did Athanasius, he hammered away at the Arian heretics, even unto exile. Since the Arians wrote hymns to espouse their doctrine, he wrote Catholic hymns and is considered the most important hymnist before Ambrose. Much of his œuvre has not survived. In 1851 he was publicly declared a Doctor of the Church.

In Poitiers his renown attracted Martin. As did Martin have his tomb and remains defiled by heretics in the 16th century, so did Hilary. The church in France has been always under attack by the foremost errorists and terrorists of its age

The name Hilary is also the name Hilarius, derived from cheerful in latin. It is name similar in spirit to Felix (happy) and Fortunatus (lucky). To-day, we think of other people with the name Hil(l)ary. Recently, the explorer and hero extraordinaire, Edmund Hillary died on the 11th of January. This intrepid and staminous New Zealander and the Sherpa Tenzing Norgay first trod the tippy top of Everest in 1953. He was celebrated as Lindbergh and Armstrong and Bannister as the first to break a barrier. His accomplishment should be remembered for the history books yet to be written.

The other Hillary we recognize is Mrs. Clinton, who has not been described, at all, as cheerful. Her recent show of sad emotion, may have been, the impetus behind her winning the New Hampshire primary. A Hillary term would set off the anger of many opponents of the Democracy.

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