Monday, April 2, 2018


The ancient Romans gave to this month the Latin name Aprilis, traditionally thought to be derived from the verb aperire ("to open"), a supposed reference to the spring season's budding of flowers and trees. April was the second month of the original Roman calendar. After January and February were added by King Numa Pompilius, April became the fourth month. The 30th day was added by Julius Caesar. The Roman Robigalia was celebrated on April 25, which survived in Christianized form as the “Greater Litanies,” until suppressed by Pope Paul VI in 1969. In the Christian calendar, April is also when Easter most frequently occurs. In 2018, Easter was celebrated yesterday on April 1 by Western Latin Christians and will be observed next week later on April 8 by Eastern Orthodox Christians.

The dating of Easter, once a source of such intense conflict in the early Church (and still a point of contention between Western and Eastern Christians), now remains as a quiet protest against the tyranny of the secular, commercial calendar, which, thankfully, the Church so stubbornly ignores when it comes to celebrating its greatest festival.

In the secular world, April is also National Poetry Month. I hardly ever read any poetry anymore, but I appreciate having had to memorize so many poems in my schooldays. (I can still recite some of them.)  It was a good educational experience to have to hear and recite poetry, as well as just read it. If nothing else, it teaches one to appreciate the sound of words as well as their sense!

And, speaking of poetry, we have, of course, the modern poet T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), who began The Wasteland (1922) with these famous words about April:

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

 (Photo: April from the famous Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry, an early 15th-century prayer book, which is widely considered perhaps the best surviving example of medieval French Gothic manuscript illumination)

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