29 December 2010

Five golden rings on the Fifth Day of Christmas

On the Fifth Day of Christmas: five golden rings

Patrick Comerford

The Fifth Day of Christmas, 29 December, is the Feast of Saint Thomas Becket in many parts of the Anglican Communion. In 1170, on the Fifth Day of Christmas, four knights from the court of King Henry II burst into Canterbury Cathedral as the archbishop was on his way to Vespers. Inside the cloister door, they murdered Thomas Becket, whose defence of the rights of the Church had angered his one-time friend, the king. Within three years, Thomas was canonised, and the shrine of Saint Thomas of Canterbury would become one of the most popular destinations for pilgrims.

In his play, Murder in the Cathedral, TS Eliot reconstructs from historical sources the archbishop’s final sermon, preached in Canterbury Cathedral on Christmas Day. It is a remarkable meditation on the meaning of Christmas, martyrdom, and the true meaning of “peace on earth.”

In the Orthodox tradition, this day is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which was observed yesterday in the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions.

The fifth verse of the traditional song, The Twelve Days of Christmas, is:

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
five golden rings,
four colly birds,
three French hens,
two turtle doves
and a partridge in a pear tree.

The Christian interpretation of this song often sees the five golden rings as figurative representations of the Torah or the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The Church of Ireland Lectionary readings for the Eucharist today are: I John 2: 7-11; Psalm 96: 1-9; Luke 2: 23-35.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

1 comment:

Catholic Family Bible said...

Thank you for the information about the five golden rings. Merry Christmas to all. This Christmas I'm planning to give discount on all Catholic goods in my store. Pretty excited about it.