Is that it's not raining. The Roman Missal celebrated today's feast of the martyrs Saints Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abachus (am not sure about the declension of the name, honestly) from 1570 forward (and Pius X restored it in Divino afflatu) but between 1670 and 1911, the feast of the martyr King Saint Canute was celebrated instead (with Saints Marius et al commemorated)-- in other words, today the Persian saints have their feast (Introibo, Wiki) with that of Saint Canute commemorated.
Cardinal Schuster in his Liber sacramentorum.
This group of Persian martyrs, consisting of husband, wife, and two sons, now buried, some at the deaconry of St Adrian and some at the title of St Praxedes, were originally interred ad nymphas Catabassi, at the thirteenth milestone of the Via Cornelia. Their Acta appear to have been added to considerably, and their feast, which is not found in the ancient Roman Sacramentaries, occurs for the first time in a Vatican Calendar of the twelfth certtury. The reason of this silence is probably to be found in the circumstance that before the time of Paschal I these martyrs who were buried in a property at a great distance from Rome were not considered as being Romans at all, and therefore the city had no reason for celebrating their feast. It is very likely that the first insertion of this festival in the Roman Calendar occurred at the time of the translation of their bodies to St Praxedes. The Mass is quite ancient in its essence and evidences a period of the very best liturgical taste....
I'd copy Dom Prosper Guéranger's text for the feast but it's only online in French, so far as I know. Holy Mass is streamed from Saint-Eugène at 1000.
Not the usual Christmas Oratorio, and not the usual time to hear one either. James MacMillan’s massive new piece-- 90 minutes of thrilling choral and orchestral music that took the prolific Scottish composer the best part of a year to write-- was supposed to have its premiere in London in December, but the lockdown intervened.So the responsibility of introducing it to the world, under the composer’s direction, fell to the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. And a magnificent job they did of bringing this teeming score to life.Broadcast live on Saturday afternoon from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, it remains free to enjoy on the Dutch radio website. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Even by MacMillan’s standards this is stunning music: profusely, lushly lyrical and often grounded in traditional tonality, yet infused with dazzlingly original instrumental and vocal ideas that, time and again, had me asking myself: “How did he do that?”Unlike Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, MacMillan’s doesn’t reflect chronologically on the nativity. Indeed, most of Part 1 is taken up by the tragic later events in the story — Herod’s slaughter of the innocents and the holy family’s forced exile in Egypt — while Part 2, which sets a mighty chunk of Milton as well as the famous opening to St John’s Gospel, is more focused on the coming of light and redemption.In both parts, however, MacMillan’s handling of narrative and poetry (he also sets John Donne and the martyred Catholic priest Robert Southwell) is remarkably fluid. He creates an ever-changing soundworld of block-chord chanting, ecstatically interweaved polyphony and, for the soprano Mary Bevan and baritone Christopher Maltman (both in top form), operatically heightened solo writing.All that is then meshed with virtuosic orchestral writing. At one point a solo violin embarks on what sounds like a miniature concerto over the top of a hymn-like choir passage. Elsewhere, there are string lines of Mahlerian expression and opulence, and one astonishing prestissimo passage for full orchestra that is as terrifying as that tearaway fugue in Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony.There are enigmatic things too. For such a profound and, in places, dark and disturbing work, the opening is strangely lightweight and skittish, and the ending drifts into nursery tinkles rather than finishing with joyous fortissimos. Perhaps this is MacMillan’s way of signalling that he is attempting to rise above the mundane commercialisation and infantilism of the modern Christmas. Either way, the work deserves many more outings, whatever the season.