Friday, May 27, 2022

Take the ‘Mas’ Challenge

Ralph Fiennes in Quiz Show, 1994

Attention all lovers of the Roman liturgical tradition and the English language: We have a three-part challenge for you.

First, without scrolling down and seeing the answers, write down as many single-word names as you can of feast days and other liturgical occasions known by a name ending in “mas” or “mass.” The most obvious is Christ’s Mass or Christmas, but there are at least twenty one others (although one entry consists of two words).

Second, after you have compared your list with ours and graded yourself, see how many of the names you can properly define. Some are easy, others surprisingly difficult.
Third, see if you can surpass our list. We found almost all these words by scouring the Oxford English Dictionary, but our search was by no means exhaustive and there may be more. Write your own discoveries in the combox below.
We recently turned this challenge into a parlor game, and it was great fun, especially if your friends fit into that small Venn diagram of being both liturgical and linguistic nerds.
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen on What’s My Line?
The following is an alphabetical listing of masophorous words, that is, words bearing “-mas” (a horrible neologism I just made up):
  1. Andrewmass
  2. Candlemas
  3. Childermas
  4. Christmas or Christenmas
  5. Crouchmas
  6. Ellenmas
  7. Georgemas
  8. Hallowmas
  9. Johnsmas
  10. Kermas
  11. Ladymas
  12. Lammas
  13. Latter Marymass
  14. Lukesmas
  15. Martinmas
  16. Martlemas
  17. Marymass
  18. Michaelmas or Michmas
  19. Petermas
  20. Roodmas
  21. Saumas
  22. Uphalimass
Ann Arbor Dominicans beating a team of Protestant ministers on The American Bible Challenge
The definitions of these words, in chronological order, are:
  1. Uphalimass, Epiphany, January 6--“up” can mean "completed, over" and “hali” is short for haliday or holiday. Epiphany is the end of the Christmas holidays
  2. Candlemas, The Purification of the BVM, February 2--from the blessing of candles on this day
  3. Ladymas, The Annunciation of the BVM, March 25 (although it can also pertain to just about any Marian feast)
  4. Georgemas, St. George, April 23
  5. Crouchmas, “Cross Mass,” the Feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross, May 3
  6. Johnsmas, St. John the Baptist, June 24
  7. Petermas, St. Peter [and St. Paul], June 29. Originally, though, it was the Feast of St. Peter in Chains, August 1
  8. Lammas, “Loaf Mass”, August 1. Lammas Day was never officially on the calendar, but it was still a big deal in England and Ireland, when a loaf made from the first grains of the harvest was taken to church and blessed
  9. Marymass, The Assumption of the BVM, August 15
  10. Ellenmas, St. Helen, August 18 [1]
  11. Latter Marymass. The Nativity of the BVM, September 8. If Assumption Day is the first Mary Mass of the season, Mary’s birthday is the occasion for the “later Mary Mass”--at least before the institution of the Feast of the Seven Sorrows of the BVM on September 15 centuries later
  12. Roodmas, The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September 14.  A “rood” is a crucifix placed on top of a rood screen, that is, lifted high or exalted, as in the "Dream of the Rood". It's amazing how precise our language can be about crosses
  13. Michaelmas, St. Michael the Archangel, September 29
  14. Lukesmas, St. Luke, October 18
  15. Hallowmas, All Saints’ Day, November 1
  16. Saumas, All Souls’ Day, November 2 (not to be confused with a “Soul Mass,” i.e., a Requiem Mass)
  17. Martinmas, St. Martin of Tours, November 11
  18. Martlemas, ibid.
  19. Andrewmass, St. Andrew, November 30
  20. Christmas or Christenmas, December 25
  21. Childermas, Holy Innocents, December 28
  22. Kermas or Kermis, a “church Mass,” that is, the anniversary of the dedication of a church. The term quickly migrated to an “annual fair or carnival, characterized by much noisy merry-making” or, in the U.S., a festival held for charitable purposes.
And in the odd category of pseudo-occasions is #23 1/2, Nevermas, “a time or date which never comes.” The phrase may have been inspired by the use of “latter Lammas,” which means the same thing: Lammas Day commemorates the very beginning of the wheat harvest, so a later Lammas is a contradiction in terms and thus an impossibility. A third liturgical term for never, incidentally, is “when two Sundays come together.” Casually work any of these into conversation when you want to say no to someone.
Did we miss anything? If so, let us know!

The author wishes to thank Dr. Melinda Nielsen, Dr. Reid Makowsky, Katherine Makowsky, Alexandra Foley, and Rosie for making the maiden voyage of this game a grand success.
[1] According to the OED: “St. Helena’s day; but the date intended is uncertain. Two saints of the name were commemorated in England: ‘St. Helen the virgin,’ perhaps the one whose day is May 22; and Helena the mother of Constantine. The latter is probably intended here; her festival is August 18, but the Sarum Martyrology assigns ‘Saynt Elene’ to May 18, the date of her translation.”

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