Gaudete Sunday

Advent wreath

Gaudete Sunday is the mid point of the Advent fasting season.  In the Catholic Church every Sunday is a Feast day and you are not allowed to fast on a feast day.  This is why Lent is 46 days rather than 40 days.

For Advent the mid-point Sunday is taken a step further and is a day of rejoicing.  Advent is about the anticipation of Christmas, building the excitement, like a queue for a ride in Disneyworld.  Gaudete is the latin for “rejoice”.  To symbolise the lighter atmosphere the rose coloured candle in the Advent wreath is lit in the church on this day.  Next week it goes back to the violet candles of discipline.

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete.

Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est.

Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum.

Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice.

Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand;

have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.

Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.

Philippians 4:4–6; Psalm 85 (84):1



Aemilia (1631) Galleon of Dutch East India Company

This rude looking word is the name of a Dutch town.  It gets its name from a dike (dijck) built on the river Sloter or Slooter, to prevent flooding from the Zuider Zee.

In the 17th Century the name was adopted for one of the 9 Dutch Galleons which fought the Ming navy for control of the Taiwan strait back in 1633.  The Dutch lost.  Three galleons were sunk and Slooterdijck was boarded and captured by the Chinese.

Slooterdijck was notable because she was a “Kit Ship”, essentially a Flat Pack vessel that was shipped out from Holland and assembled in the Indies.

The Galleon was a development from two earlier ships of exploration.  The Caravel was a small, lateen rigged, shallow draught ship (think of the Niña & Pinta of Columbus).  The Carrack or Nao (Santa Maria for instance) was a larger, square sailed, less stable and unwieldy ship more suited for cargo.  The Galleon combined the best of both.  By lengthening the keel and lowering the forecastle the Portuguese developed a faster and more stable ocean going ship.  Smaller and more maneuverable than the Carrack, the Galleon rapidly developed a reputation as an effective all-rounder for exploration, trade and battle.  Big enough to carry significant armament and stable enough to fight, it became the battleship of its day.

From the mid 16th century Galleons were adopted by Portuguese, Spanish, French, Dutch and English fleets.  They remained in service until they were replaced by more specialised vessels in the 18th Century. Hence, the Galleon ruled the waves for 150 years more or less.  Though the early voyages of discovery were made in Naos or Carracks the great sea empires were built by the Galleon.

As time went by galleons developed for more specialised roles.  Some became larger and more suited to cargo carrying, and evolved into the East Indiamen.  Others were strengthened and became specialised military ships of the line.  Razed galleons were cut lower and lower to the waterline for increased speed and stability and evolved into frigates.

The reasons for these evolutions have more to do with the guns than with the Galleons themselves.  The primary ship to ship battle tactic of the Galleon was boarding.  The guns on board were slow to load and fire.  During the battles of the Spanish Armada it is calculated that each Spanish Gun fired on average only once per day.  By contrast the smaller English ships and their lighter guns could fire once per hour.

As gun technology advanced the gunners designed specialised trucks to carry shipboard guns, which the gun team could haul inboard for reloading, and push outboard for firing.  As the rate of fire increased ship to ship actions developed more into shooting matches than boarding actions.  This culminated in the invention of the broadside, firing of all guns simultaneously to disable an enemy both physically and mentally.

By the Napoleonic wars the Royal Navy had given up on the idea of firing accuracy in favour of reloading speed.  While the French and Spanish ships wasted their effort targeting the masts of British ships to disable them for capture, the British concentrated on closing up to bring the full impact of the broadside to bear.  Once beside their foe the British ship had the advantage of a higher rate of fire.  Even with smaller guns that was often enough to carry the day.

In a gun to gun action the high fore and stern castles of the Galleons, so useful for boarding,  became a liability.  They presented larger targets and made the ship more susceptible to cross winds than a lower vessel.

The only surviving original galleon is the Vasa in Stockholm which sank in 1628 all of 1,400 yards into her maiden voyage, in full view of her audience.  In an incident similar to the sinking of that other famous preserved wreck, the Carrack Mary Rose, it seems she had her lower gun ports open to fire a salute.  A gust of wind caught her by surprise and the gun-ports dipped below the waterline, flooding the ship.

If you have read this far, well done you salty old sea dog.  You are clearly a lover of all things nautical.  So here is another treat for you.

Psalm 107:23 (KJ V)

 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;

 These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.

For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.

They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.

 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.

Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.

He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.

Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

Slane Girl and Texas Rose


Edward Armitage:  The Siren (Leeds Art Gallery)

A dreadful tale of woe broke in Ireland over the last few days. Pictures of a girl engaged in sexual acts with young men at the Eminem concert in Slane went viral. As the story matures you get the sense of it unfolding layer after layer like an onion.
As with anything that goes viral, you get imagery or happenstance with no back story. The photos from Slane were greeted with black and white reaction. Half the world celebrated her “freedom” of sexuality while the other half condemned her as a slut. How many even commented on the young men involved, other than to laugh and say “good man”?
The double standards we apply to men and women in such situations are really quite sickening. He is given a pat on the head for sowing his wild oats and she is vilified and disgraced.
But then the details of the back story begin to emerge. She reported a sexual assault to the police at the concert. So, maybe this was not all “free love” and promiscuity. Or did she make the report to cover her embarrassment? Another layer of the onion peels away.
She is admitted to hospital in a distressed state. She has to be sedated before they can even carry out tests. There are suggestions that her drink was tampered with at the event. Another layer of the onion peels away.
Suddenly the image of a gang of young males cavorting around the young girl in the photo takes on a far more sinister look.
The layers of the onion keep peeling. With every layer her life is ruined further. Only a small population saw the images before they were removed by internet service providers for breach of terms. But the bottom feeding frenzy continues to trawl up copies of the images and the story. The news media are all over it like a juicy bone. And as for Slane Girl, well she is just collateral damage.
What is very clear is that we continue to live in a society beset by double standards. Male chauvinism is alive and well and women remain largely confined to the role of sluts or “lovely girls”. We saw all the lovely girls doing their little party pieces down in Tralee. Congratulations all round to the Texas rose. A lovely girl. A nice clean and respectable girl that you might marry.
But in the western male dominated sexist society is there any real difference between Slane Girl and Texas Rose? The point here is that women are dangerous, unless they are under the control of men.
Our literature is replete with the tales of men who have been seduced and subsequently ruined by women. The Sirens on the rocks sang beautiful songs to lure sailors to their deaths. Queen Circe used magic to transform men into animals, and Odysseus was instructed by the gods to subdue her with force to bend her to his will. Only then was she safe to take to bed (for a year).
Look at the fascination we have with women like Sada Abe, Mata Hari, Wallace Simpson or Christine Keeler who lured men onto the rocks with their siren song of sexuality.
The Christian church began with a woman, Mary Magdalene, in a position of power. It did not take long to root out the women and turn it into a men’s only club, at least in the power positions. Men may rule the church, but women may only serve.
Look at what happened to “wise women” and women healers through history. They were labelled as witches and burned at the stake. Medicine is too profitable a business to allow any control to women.
Westerners frequently criticise oriental practices such as purdah and the Arabic attitudes to covering up women. What short memories we have. Western women are only recently freed from their own forms of “control” clothing. In many countries (Mediterranean especially) widows are expected to don black for the remainder of their lives as a means of desexualising an available woman. Here in Ireland it was expected that women would cover their heads with a hat, or scarf or shawl as recently as the 1970s, and it was insisted upon in church.
Some African societies employ the dreadful practice of female circumcision as a means of amputating the sexual power from the female.
Slane girl was controlled by capturing her image and posting it to the world. She immediately became labelled as a slut, and that is a powerful form of control. What hope does she ever have of rising to a power position without that little indiscretion coming out? She will have to bow her head and hide away below the radar for the rest of her life.
Texas rose of Tralee does not have to hide away. She can celebrate her celebrity. We men will allow her that, because it is a celebrity given to her by men, for being a lovely girl.
A free-thinking, mature, powerful, sexual female is the most frightening thing in the world for the average male chauvinist. The male fantasy of the nymphomaniac is in truth a nightmare.

Siren Song; by Margaret Attwood
This is the one song everyone
would like to learn: the song
that is irresistible:

the song that forces men
to leap overboard in squadrons
even though they see beached skulls

the song nobody knows
because anyone who had heard it
is dead, and the others can’t remember.
Shall I tell you the secret
and if I do, will you get me
out of this bird suit?
I don’t enjoy it here
squatting on this island
looking picturesque and mythical
with these two feathery maniacs,
I don’t enjoy singing
this trio, fatal and valuable.

I will tell the secret to you,
to you, only to you.
Come closer. This song

is a cry for help: Help me!
Only you, only you can,
you are unique

at last. Alas
it is a boring song
but it works every time.