Hocus pocus and the Croxton Play of the Sacrament. (2024)

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The modern catch phrase 'hocus pocus' derives from aseventeenth-century magician, who used the corrupt Latin phrase todistract his audience from the illusion of his trick. (1) The recorderof the phrase calls hocus pocus 'a dark composure of words'deployed to intentionally 'blinde the eyes of the beholders, tomake his Trick pass the more currantly without discovery'. (2) Theterm's association with magic suggests its role in eliding theboundaries between the real and illusory, a dichotomy crucial tomedieval discussions of the real presence. A disbelief intransubstantiation casts the priest's consecration as a magictrick, as hocus pocus, not a sacramental tenet. Jonathas, of the CroxtonPlay of the Sacrament, believes just that--'be pe myght of hys wordmake yt flessh and blode--/And thus be a conceyte pe wolde make vsblynde' (202-3). (3) As the magician does when he utters'hocus pocus', Jonathas argues that 'be pe myght of [thepriest's] word' parishioners are made 'blynde' tothe transubstantiation trick, spurring on him and his fellow Jews todisprove the real presence. They parody the consecration and put thehost through a series of tests, but when it miraculously survives all ofthe tortures, and Jesus bursts out of an oven, the audience learns thatthe Jews' parody of the liturgy, not the liturgy itself, is thereal hocus pocus.

In a stage world, though, where all is hocus pocus--the magic oftheatre manipulating fake hosts, fake clergy, and even fakeheretics--how can the real presence be made real? Ultimately, theCroxton Play finds that words alone can accomplish this feat. The playsituates power in the priest's and bishop's words, whichrepresent and enforce the ecclesiastical structures of the church;however, the play also situates power in its heretics' words, whichenact confessions and subsequent conversions (themselves mediated bythose very same ecclesiastical structures). While language thus servesas the vehicle for the protagonists' dissent (and descent), it alsoenables their reconciliation: the Croxton Play aligns the transformativepower of the consecratory words with the transformative power ofbelievers' confessions of faith, wherein both enact atransubstantiation and make manifest the real presence of Christ.

Much of the scholarship on the Croxton Play addresses its relianceon blatantly illusory staging to prove a doctrine criticized asillusion, that the bread and wine are not really bread and wine.Scholars such as Sarah Beckwith, David Lawton, and John Parker areskeptical and often highly critical of the play's antitheticalproject of creating 'one illusion [that] would ... demonstrate thetruth of another illusion, in other words, by pretending to puncture itsillusions'. (4) Beckwith even contends that 'the play can donothing but intensify that doubt in the very act of alleviatingit'. (5) In these readings, then, the host becomes 'anunstable sign' and a 'mere stage prop' because'having the host on stage implies that the host can bestaged'. (6) According to these arguments, the mimesis of themiracles always fails precisely because it shows that miracles can beinauthentically reproduced.

Other scholars, however, have shown more clemency concerning theplay's theatrics, arguing that they ultimately serve to overcomethe audience's doubt. David Bevington, Richard Emmerson, and GailMcMurray Gibson find the play's theatricality orthodox,particularly in connection to its endorsem*nt of the real presence.Bevington emphasizes that 'the acceptance of dramatic miracle inthe Sacrament play is therefore synonymous with the acceptance of thedoctrine of transubstantiation, not abstractly but vividly andimmediately', and Emmerson suggests an analogue betweenChester's Antichrist and the Croxton Play, as both rely on'miraculous use of divine power to confront doubt' about thereal presence. (7) Gibson acutely observes that the 'miracle ofstagecraft' performs a reverse transubstantiation, turning thephysical Christ who has just spoken to the audience back into the hostthat will be processed before them at the play's conclusion. (8)For these scholars, suspended disbelief leads to imminent belief.

The Croxton Play does resolve the tension, which Beckwith andothers highlight, inherent in its false presences to enact the realpresence; however, it does not do so through theories of mimesis orrepresentation, as scholars like Emmerson and Gibson suggest. The playinstead resolves the tension by a simple shift in terms, upholdingconversion as the ultimate transubstantiation, the ultimate miracle.Within this framework, the miracle of conversion, a miracle the playclearly intends the audience to experience, trumps even the mostfantastic of staged host miracles; thus, by aligning transubstantiationwith conversion, this framework makes belief in the less immediatelyaccessible miracle, the real presence itself, much more palatable.Lawton hints at such a connection, only to dismiss it as pointless giventhe play's heavy dependence on illusory theatricality:

 The pattern of doubling and exchange extends to the move from transformation, Host into Christ, to conversion, Jew into Christian. It would not be hard to mount a structural case for the equivalence of these two processes; but the transformation is inherently problematic if its purpose is to persuade doubters of the truth of transubstantiation, for it depends entirely on an egregious theatrical illusion. What makes this illusion credible is that the Jews are persuaded, indeed converted, by it--they are its guarantors in the world of the performance. But there is nothing here that asks us to overlook the fact that we are watching a play. (9)

The conversion of the Jews does not underwrite the possibility oftransubstantiation, however, as much as the audience's (presumed)prior conversions. The audience's own experience of such atransformation makes them the guarantors of the play. The Jews'staged conversions only serve as reminders for those experiences.

In both of these transformative miracles--transubstantiation andconversion --the common element is the efficacy of language, especiallythe spoken word. The ecclesiastical language of the priest and bishopthat effects transubstantiation parallels the ecclesiastical language ofthe Jews' and Aristorius's confessions that endorses theirconversions. The Croxton Play affirms the efficacy of such language byemphatically demonstrating 'pe myght of [the priest's]word' (202) and the commandments of Christ to the Jewish convertsthrough his 'woordys of grete favore' (945).

The Croxton Play differs from its Continental analogues byreconciling the Jews through conversion rather than punishing them asheretics. (10) Some scholars view this conversion critically, as akinder prequel to Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice. (11) But,regardless of the cultural contexts informing the author's choiceof such events, the Jews within the play convert of their own accord,'a voluntaristic act which displays the depth of their contrition,and makes their confession valid'. (12) Ann Eljenholm Nicholskeenly notes that 'the full play title focuses on the conversionthrough miracle'; (13) indeed, the text titles itself 'pe Playof pe Conuersyon of Ser Jonathas pe Jewe by Myracle of pe BlyssedSacrament' (80 sd). Modern scholarship has dropped the first partof the title, shortening it to the Play of the Sacrament, placingemphasis on the host miracles rather than the miracle of the conversionof Jonathas through the sacrament. (14) Both of the text'sreferences to its title also use the singular 'myracle' (80sd, 1007 sd), indicating a singular event like the conversion, ratherthan the plural, which would be more appropriate if the referents werethe host-miracles themselves. The title's linking of conversion andthe transubstantiated sacrament stresses the play's goal ofreintegration rather than punishment through the adoption of orthodoxbelief in the real presence, a goal played out physically during theplay's healing of Jonathas's hand and its concluding hostprocession.

Tellingly, Christ's first words to the Jews are 'OMirabiles Judei, attendite et videte/Si est dolor sicut dolor meus'[O you strange Jews, behold and see if any sorrow is like My sorrow](717), (15) which he then partially translates into English as 'Ohye merveylows Jewys' (719). As Parker notes, the word mirabiles isa non-biblical addition to the passage from Lamentations that follows.(16) The authorial addition highlights that the play's true miraclelies in the conversion of the Jews. Christ also relegatesJonathas's physical healing of his hand as secondary to hisspiritual healing brought through conversion:

 Thow wasshest thyn hart with grete contrycion; Go to the cawdron--pi care shalbe the lesse-- And towche thyn hand to thy saluacion. (775-7)

This healing miracle recapitulates Jonathas's internal,miraculous healing through conversion and further highlights theplay's association of conversion with the transubstantiated host.Jonathas rejected the host earlier by chopping it off, along with hisown hand, but now the two--host and Jonathas --are reconciled, bothspiritually and physically. The play equates the miracle of the realpresence and the miracle of conversion quite graphically here on thestage.

The host procession that follows offers another moment of thisconflation, for it is the procession of the bishop with the Jews thatcauses the priest to speculate on the impetus:

 Sum myracel, I hope, ys wrowght be Goddys myght; The bysshope commyth processyon with a gret meny of Jewys; I hope sum myracle ys shewyd to hys syght. (843-5)

The priest bookends his observation of the Jews' conversionand declaration of faith in the procession with references to theassumed miracle, and the procession itself imparts and reiterates themiracle of conversion to the audience. The host procession reminds theaudience that the transubstantiated host that goes before them is areflection of their own transubstantiated selves.

Jonathas's healing and the host procession that followsphysically illustrate the Plays juxtaposition of transubstantiation andconversion; however, the play also focuses on the verbal underpinningsof the two, as the medium of words enacts both substantialtransformations. This exploration of transubstantiation and conversionspeaks directly to the play's historical context and originalaudience(s)--the 'gaderyng that here ys' (73)--who wereimmersed in the contemporary conflict between the orthodox church andthe spreading Lollard heresy. The Play confirms the transformative powerof ecclesiastical utterances, which transubstantiate the host by'pe myght of [their] word' (202); but it also confirms thepower of the laity's confessions and subsequent conversions, whichthe play casts as 'woordys of grete favore' (945).

'This Gaderyng That Here Is'

The Croxton Play survives in a unique manuscript, as part of acompilation of Irish origin. The text sets its own terminus post quem byclaiming that the events enacted were 'don in the forest of Aragon,in the famous cite Eraclea, the yere of owr Lord God Mcccclxj'(1007 sd). The manuscript's watermark dates to 1546, however,furnishing an approximate date for the play's transcription. Theroughly one hundred years of interim provide an enclosed, if broad,period within which its composition, production(s), and transmissionwere likely. While some scholars simply accept the text's 1461date, most scholars posit windows of time between the last quarter ofthe fifteenth century and the first quarter of the sixteenth. (17)

The text's concluding note that 'IX may play yt atease' may suggest that the play travelled; (18) however, its EastMidland dialect and the internal allusions to East Angliangeography--such as the injunction to 'Inquyre to pe colkote, forther ys hys loggyng,/A lytyll besyde Babwell Myll' (620-1)--suggesta limited range of circulation within East Anglia. As the banns record,the play was performed, at some point, to 'thys gaderyng that hereys' at 'Croxston' (73-4), near Bury St Edmunds. The abbeyoffered a particularly appropriate environment for a miracle playbecause it boasted its own host miracle in 1464, when, despite extensivefire damage to its main church, the abbey's hosts survived,unharmed. (19)

The Croxton Plays late-medieval dating and East Anglian provenanceprovide crucial context for its theological discussions, as itcirculated in a region battling Lollardy, whose primary points ofdoctrinal dissent were disbelief in the real presence and advocacy foran English translation of the scriptures. As Gibson notes, in thefifteenth century Lollardy 'was rampant in East Anglia'. (20)As John A.F. Thomson observes, East Anglian Lollards were particularlyradical in some of their beliefs, and persecution of them persistedthroughout the fifteenth century. (21) Moreover, heresy trials inNorwich in the 1430s prosecuted fifty-five supposed heretics, 'thelargest number of accusations in a single campaign recorded in thefifteenth century'. (22) The region's numerous trials alsopoint to a reactionary impulse in such a heresythick atmosphere: aresort to and reinforcement of the church's structures and a callto repentance and conversion as means of preserving orthodoxy. For manyfifteenth-century Lollards, the outcomes of both these approaches werethe same, for repentance and conversion meant an acceptance of thedoctrinal and ecclesiastical systems of the church. The conflictunfolding in East Anglian ecclesiastical courts was also transpiring inthe Croxton Play, which stages the transubstantiated host as a mirrorfor believers' transubstantiated selves.

This socio-religious context also provides a nexus ofinterpretation for the play's Jewish protagonists, who have longbeen the focus of critical attention, in part because their presence iscurious given England's official expulsion of Jews in 1290. Thisostensible historical absence has led some scholars to read them as merestand-ins for contemporary Lollards, while others proffer a spectrum ofanti- and philo-Semitic characterizations based on contemporarydepictions of Jews, both from within England and from the Continent.(23)

Lawton more clearly articulates this somewhat simplisticapproach--'it is ... a logical error, and nothing more, to arguethat if Jews in the play stand for heretics they cannot also stand forthemselves'. (24) Miriamne Ara Krummel collapses this criticalhistory by identifying the Jews as an 'Everythreat',representing 'all heresies that pose a threat to the medievalChristian hegemony', including both Judaism and Lollardy, (25) andher framework considers the dramatic possibility of multiplesignifications. While the play's protagonists are certainly Jews,and signify as such, they can also simultaneously signify as Lollards.Critics need not pick and choose the play's heretics--there areenough to go around.

Heresy--Jewish, Lollard, or otherwise--clearly pervades the play.What qualified as heresy, and hence heretics, vacillated throughout themedieval period, and the word itself accommodates such fluidity. TheOxford English Dictionary defines 'heresy' as'theological or religious opinion or doctrine maintained inopposition, or held to be contrary, to the "catholic" ororthodox doctrine of the Christian Church' and hypothesizes itsfirst use in 1225 in the Ancrene Rule. (26) As the OED's definitionsuggests, heresy is not simply disagreement with or criticism oforthodoxy, but rather a doctrine that is maintained despite its explicitopposition to orthodoxy. Heresy, like orthodoxy, is officially defined;thus, heresy and orthodoxy are symbiotic because their respectivedefinitions necessitate an opposite.

Fifteenth-century heresy, however, was not merely confined toopposing 'opinion or doctrine' but became reified in specificactions. Archbishop Thomas Arundel's Constitutions (1409), whichoutlined heresy in response to the rise of Lollardy, emphasizes thatheresy is found in both 'word and deed'. (27) Arundel takesgreat pains to delineate these unauthorized 'deed[s]', and, infact, all thirteen of the constitutions forbid specific actions. (28)The Croxton Play itself is highly attuned to matters of heresy, and itprovides a nuanced discussion of heterodoxy, from multiple perspectives,rather than simply coding it generically as anything dissenting fromorthodoxy. Surprisingly, the play's heretics put the word intocurrency first, only to have it redefined by orthodoxy at theplay's conclusion.

Arundel's preface associates contemporary heretics with'Pagans, Jews, and other infidels, and wicked miscreants'through whom 'the reverend holy mysteries ... [are] profaned',(29) and this becomes true for Aristorius and the Jews within the play.The first reference to heresy comes from Aristorius, who fears that ifhe is caught stealing the host, 'to pe biysshope pei wolde go tellpat dede/And apeche me of eresye' (301-2). He fears his heretical'dede', his disrespectful treatment of the host, will bereported to the bishop. The sincerity of his claim is doubtful, as heappears to have both the priest and clerk in his pocket, and his morelikely motivation is to use the suspected danger as a bargaining chip toraise the price of the host. But his fear, genuine or otherwise,demonstrates how the church's system of authority structures heresywithin the play--Aristorius does not fear retribution or damnation fromGod but rather the bishop and the ecclesiastical structures which'apeche' heretics. His fear returns (perhaps more earnestly)in the concluding scene, when the bishop leads the procession of thehost: he confides to his priest, 'For an heretyke I fear he wyll metake' (857), again fearing the ecclesiastical bishop, not Godhimself. He even admits, 'I were worthy to be putt in brennyngfere' (907), more likely alluding to the earthly punishment forunrepentant heretics than eternal damnation. (30) This disclosure againstresses the authorized channels dealing with heresy, as Aristoriusattempts to absolve himself by first confessing to the priest, thenseeking absolution from the bishop, and finally performing penanceduring the host procession. The Jews also discuss heresy, but theyreappropriate the term into their own theological paradigm: Jason, amidexpounding the Christian doctrine of the incarnation, assures'Ageyns owr law thys ys false heresy' (415). Jasdon similarlyconfirms the Christian heresy of Christ's resurrection: 'Andsyth how he styed by hys own power; /And thys, ye know well, ys heresyfull playn' (423-4). This dramatic irony, of course, conveys theorthodox doctrine while simultaneously confirming the Jews as heretics.

The term's signification finally solidifies when Jesus, whospeaks only at the play's conclusion, fixes the notion of heresy inthe expected orthodox terms, such as a denial of Christ'ssacrificial death on the cross (724, 733), failing to keep hiscommandments (729), and rejecting his divinity (730). Jesus also callsthe Jews' disbelief in the real presence 'blasphem(y)'(731). Then, the bishop, not Christ, explicates orthodoxy in hisconcluding sermon and procession. The replacement of Christ by thebishop on stage and the transubstantiation of Christ back into the hostto be carried in the bishop's procession both emphaticallyreiterate the play's casting of heresy in ecclesiastical terms. Ineach of the above references to heresy, the heresy is mediated throughorthodox channels--Aristorius fears the wrath of the bishop, the Jewsevoke their 'law' to define heresy, and Jesus calls them torepent of heresy by confessing before the bishop, a task Jonathasconfirms he will do: 'The bysshoppe wyll I goo fetche to se owroffens/And onto hym shew owr lyfe, how pat we be gylty' (796-7).The bishop's arrival at the play's conclusion authorizes thereconciliation of the Jews, Aristorius, the priest, and ultimately theaudience.

'Pe Myght of Hys Word'

The Croxton Play assumes orthodoxy (and thus heresy) is rooted inthe ecclesiastical structures of the church, and it combats theJews' anti-sacramental, anti-ecclesiastical attack through thosevery structures. While the play deliberates on a number of Christiandoctrines, the central focus is undoubtedly on the real presence,particularly the role priests' words play in it. The play'sheretics signify as such primarily because of their disbelief intransubstantiation, and the play's prologue makes this explicit:

 For pat pe dowghtys pe Jewys than in stode-- ... Was yff pe Sacrament were flesshe and blode; Therfor they put yt to suche dystresse. (69, 71-2)

Jonathas confirms his own disbelief within the play, confiding inthe audience that

 Pe beleve of thes Cristen men ys false, as I wene; For pe beleue on a cake--me thynk yt ys onkynd. And all they seye how pe prest dothe yt bynd, And be pe myght of hys word make yt flessh and blode-- And thus be a conceyte pe wolde make vs blynde-- And how pat yt shuld be he pat deyed upon the rode. (199-204)

Jonathas not only denies transubstantiation but also the powerimplicit in the priest's words to effect such a change, casting theconsecration as a kind of hocus pocus. He challenges not just thetheological doctrine but also the ecclesiastical power structures thatunderwrite it. Masphat also expresses his heretical doubt a few lineslater, when he asserts, 'That was neuer he that on Caluery waskyld, /Or in bred for to be blode yt ys ontrewe als' (214-15).Lastly, Masphat's summation of their intent speaks to a disbeliefin the real presence, as he says 'We wyll not spare to wyrke ytwrake, /To prove in thys brede yf per be eny lyfe' (459-60). TheJews' disbelief in transubstantiation, and particularly theirobjections to the priest's power to enact it, clearly signify theirheretical status.

But the Jews are not the play's only heretics. Lauren Lepowviews Aristorius as a Lollard, finding a pun on his vow to 'amendemyn wyckyd lyfe' (973) as referring to his 'Wycliffelife', a vow that Jonathas makes as well, 'owr wyckyd lyuyngfor to restore' (965). (31) Aristorius is a fair-weather Christianat best, and from the opening scenes, he, like the Jews, is clearlyirreverent towards the ecclesiastical structures of the church, usingthe clerk as his errand boy and duping the priest out of the host. Mosttellingly, he is also guilty of commodifying the host by inserting itinto a material economy Jonathas places an opening bid for the host attwenty pounds (282) but ups it later to forty (309), bypassing theexpected price of thirty pieces of silver. Even heresy, apparently, issubject to inflation. But Aristorius holds firm at his price of onehundred pounds, repeating the price twice before Jonathas understandsthat it is not a negotiation. Aristorius becomes an anti-model of aChristian merchant, more akin to Jonathas, who is 'chefe merchaunteof Jewes' (196). (32) For analogues of a materialized host, therecertainly remained a long tradition of host desecration tales involvingJews, but this threat was also a local, contemporary concern: forinstance, the Sparke brothers, in their 1457 East Anglian trial forLollardy, discuss the host in purely economic terms. They werequestioned on their assertion that

 Item, quod triginta panes huiusmodi pre Vno Vendeuntur obolo, Vbi tamen christus venditus erat pro triginta denariis; Et quod huiusmodi fictione sacramentum propter auariciam sacerdotum erat primitus adinuentum. [Thirty breads of this sort are sold for one halfpenny, but Christ was sold for thirty pence. The sacrament after this fashion is therefore a figment devised to enrich priests.] (33)

The Sparkes argue that the host is purely material (selling for themarket price of one halfpenny) and that its supposed spiritual value isonly a tactic to inflate its price. Aristorius's similar disregardfor the host's spiritual qualities and his own reduction of thehost to a commodity questions its 'sacred immunisation' to thematerial world. (34) The Croxton Play stages the possibility of amaterial exchange of the sacrament but shows another economy withinwhich the host is indeed immune to exploitation: an economy of words.

The banns first speak to such an economy when they emphasize thetransubstantiating power given to priests:

 Thus be maracle off pe Kyng of Hevyn, And by myght and power govyn to pe prestys mowthe, In an howshold wer conuertyd iwys elevyn. At Rome pis myracle ys knowen welle kowthe. (53-6)

Here the Primus Vexillator attributes the miracle and thesubsequent conversions to both God's power and the power of thepriest's words. The consecration scene takes place offstage,reserving the mimetic recitation of its liturgy for the play'sheretics. The play does not debase the liturgy by earnest mimesis butinstead codes the mimesis as parody. Whereas Jonathas initially caststhe priest's consecration as hocus pocus, used to obscure theabsence of transubstantiation from the congregation, the play in turncasts Jonathas's parodic consecration as the real hocus pocus,attempting to obscure the real presence from the audience.

When Aristorius hands the host over to Jonathas, he confirms thatit has been 'sacred newe' (379) by the priest's'skyll' (363), and the play's ensuing actionunequivocally demonstrates its real presence. Jonathas himself detailsthe source and continuation of priests' powerful words:

 And thys powre he gaue Peter to proclame, And how the same shuld be suffycyent to all prechors; The bysshoppys and curatys saye the same, And soo, as I vnderstond, do all hys progenytors. (405-8)

This verbal consecratory ability, first instituted by Jesus andcontinued through priests, sharply contrasts with the Jews' ownmock consecration.

Underscoring the doctrine of the real presence and the play'sendorsem*nt of the clergy is an emphasis on confession, anotherlogocentric sacrament. (35) As Cecilia Cutts notes, 'the duty ofauricular confession to a priest ... by the fourteenth century hadbecome firmly and inseparably attached to the Sacrament of theEucharist' and this tenet, she finds, 'is almost as stronglystressed as the Eucharistic doctrine itself' in the play. (36) Thebanns describe the Jews' conversions as both induced by thesacrament and confirmed by the priest through the sanctioned, authorizedact of confession:

 The Holy Sacrement sheuyd them grette fauour; In contrycyon thyr hertys wer cast And went and shewyd ther lyues to a confesour. (50-2)

One vexillator reiterates the importance of confession when hedirectly addresses the audience, admonishing them 'with all yourmyght/Vnto youer gostly father shewe your synne' (65-6). Christhimself commands confession as well, when he directs the Jews to'Ite et ostendite vos sacerdotibus meis' [Go show yourselvesunto my priests] (765). (37) The priests mediate between the penitentand Christ, so Christ's command in the play to confess to themrather than directly to himself is extremely significant, for itundergirds the orthodox church's sacraments and clericalstructures. The church used this very biblical passage, 'Go shewyourselves to the priests' (Lk 17: 14), to rebuke Lollards duringheresy trials, (38) likely because the heretical sect vehemently deniedany man's power to forgive and absolve sins: 'For no man butGod assoyles of synnes, but if we clepe assoylynge schewyng of presetispat God hymselfe assoyled'. (39) Thomas Hoccleve accuses theLollard Sir John Oldcastle of a similar objection--'Thow seist"confessioun auriculeer/Ther needith noon"', and in hiscorresponding marginal note he cites the exact verse Christ speaks inthe Croxton Play: 'Scriptum est "Ostendite vossacerdotibus"' [The Scripture is 'shew yourselves to thepriests']. (40) Thus, conversion and confession are intrinsicallylinked, and, at the play's conclusion, the Jews demonstrate theirown conversions when they echo Christ's commandment on confession.Jonathas says, 'The bysshoppe wyll I goo fetche to se owroffens/And onto hym shew owr lyfe, how pat we be gylty' (796-7),and Masphat relates, 'In contrycyon owr hartys he cast/And bad takevs to a confessore' (946-7). Indeed all of them submit to theecclesiastical structure when they confess to the bishop, seeking'generall absolucion' (930).

'Woordys of Grete Favore'

While the Croxton Play endorses 'pe myght of [thepriest's] word' (202) in consecration and absolution, it alsoendorses the might of the laity's word in confession andconversion. To elucidate such power, the play stages a complexsoundscape among its heretical figures, one that begins in a register ofliturgical parody but moves ultimately to one of penitential confession.Amid its fantastic menagerie of severed limbs, bleeding hosts, andbursting ovens, the text's focus remains didactic. The proportionof verbal instruction to grotesque stage action is very high,emphasizing words above deeds as an avenue for conversion. For instance,the Jews deliberate Christian doctrine for eighty-three lines beforethey initially stab the host, and the stabbing itself only spans a mereeleven lines (though staging of the scene can obviously vary in length).These preliminary speeches, in which the Jews parodically speakregarding orthodox doctrine, recapitulate the play's ideologicalconcerns regarding language.

Scholars such as Mikhail Bakhtin and C.L. Barber have demonstratedthe prevalence of parodic structures in medieval culture, and thesestructures inform the Croxton Play. Critics have long recognized theplay's parody of the passion. The Jews put Christ through a'new passyoun' (38) by stabbing the host five times, nailingit to a post, boiling it in oil, and baking it in an oven. Their tormentis certainly parodic overkill, beating a dead host, so to speak. But theJews parody in more than deed. Their verbal parody interrogates therelationship between words and meaning by taking signifiers out of theiroriginal contexts and forcing them to change significations. Parody thusinherently disrupts the univocity of words and meaning by demonstratingthat all words and all meaning are subject to the contexts within whichthey are placed. Their words demarcate the boundary between orthodox andheterodox biblical language within the play, a boundary shored up by theplay's insistence on the real presence as verbally dependent.

In the rising action, before the climactic torment of the host, theJews parody both the words and the actions of the consecration liturgy.After Jonathas receives the host from Aristorius, he remarks, 'Nowin thys clothe I shall the cure/That no wyght shall the see'(383-4). The stage directions then indicate that he 'shall goo tope tabyll' and 'lay the Ost on pe tabyll' (384 sd, 392sd). Both of these actions--wrapping the host in cloth and placing it ona table--mimic a priest's actions during consecration. The SarumMissal instructs priests during consecration to 'reverently ...replace [the host] before the chalice', returning it to the altar.(41) The missal also provides instructions regarding when to cover anduncover the host (and paten). (42) The staging of this scene could beeven more parodic, as the scene prior depicted Aristorius and the priestdining at a table on 'lyght bred' and 'wyne' (342,339). (43) The bishop, moreover, concludes the host procession when he'entre[s] pe chyrche and lay pe Ost on pe auter' (865 sd),indicating a possible third use of the table space--first, as the siteof material bread and wine; second, as an altar for a parodicconsecration; and lastly, as the home of the restored host. The visualcues of the parody are quite clear.

Then, following this highly suggestive staging, Jonathas introducesa parodic liturgical register, focusing primarily on the consecrationliturgy:

 They say pat pis ys Jhesu pat was attaynted in owr lawe And pat thys ys he pat crwcyfyed was. On thes wordys ther law growndyd hath he That he sayd on Shere Thursday at hys sopere: He brake the brede and sayd Accipite, And gave hys dyscyplys them for the chere: And more he sayd to them there, Whyle they were all togethere and sum, Syttyng at the table soo clere, Comedite Corpus meum. (395-404)

In this scene, Beckwith reads Jonathas as 'a grotesquepriest', (44) and his recitation clearly mimics the actual liturgy:

 Who, the day before he suffered, took bread in his reverent and holy hands, and lifting his eyes to heaven ... to you his own omnipotent Father, giving thanks to thee, he blessed, he brake ... and gave it to his own disciples, saying, Take and eat ye all of this, for this is my body. (45)

Somewhat incongruously, Jonathas retains the Latin phrases for thewords of Christ, 'Accipite' [Take] and 'Comedite Corpusmeum' [Eat, {this is} my body], during the parodic consecration,while delivering the rest of the liturgy in English. This reservation,while possibly an authorial decision to maintain orthodoxy in thevolatile East Anglian religious landscape, reproduces the aural qualityof the liturgy and adds force to the parody by highlighting thedisjunction between the Latin passages quoted, supposedly demonstratingreverence to Christ by leaving his words in Latin, and the imminent hostdesecration to come. The reverence is only a parodic reverence, and theconsecration actually intends to demonstrate the real absence ratherthan the real presence. This disconnect between parodic and real priestand parodic and real presence manifests in the ensuing stage action,when the bleeding host sticks to Jonathas's hand and both arenailed to a post. On the one hand (so to speak), Jonathas'spresence merges with the real presence, but on the other hand, he splitsthis merger by leaving both host and hand dangling on the post.

Jonathas's companions, too, join in on the parody of thedivine office, as they each in turn delineate a parodic creed. Theycover all major points of Christian doctrine and echo the Nicene Creedin structure, content, and even sound, but they are careful to qualifyeach tenet as 'heresy full playn' (424). As withJonathas's mock consecration, the Jews' simultaneousrecitation and rejection of the doctrine reminds the audience of thepower of these words when spoken in earnest but also the potentialcorrupting of them when spoken in disbelief. Jason begins by explainingthe incarnation, followed by Jasdon, who expounds on Christ'sresurrection, both crucial doctrines addressed early in the NiceneCreed. Next, Masphat describes the sending of the Holy Spirit andChrist's ascension:

 When pe Holy Gost to them come, They faryd as dronk men of pymente or vernage; And sythen how pat he lykenyd hymself a lord of parage, On hys fatherys ryght hond he hym sett. (425-30)

The verbal echo to the Creed is strong, with the allusion to Christsitting at the right hand of the Father mirroring the Creed's line,'He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of theFather'. (46) Structurally, this line in the Creed follows itsaffirmation of the incarnation, resurrection, dispensing of the HolySpirit, and ascension, a sequence the Jews' own discussions ofthose doctrines mimic. Lastly, Malchus describes the last judgment:

 How they that be ded shall com agayn to Judgement, And owr dredfull Judge shalbe thys same brede, ... To turn vs from owr beleve ys ther entent-- For that he sayd, judecare viuos et mortos. [to judge the living and the dead] (434-40)

The parody here reaches its peak as Malchus even quotes the NiceneCreed: 'Et iterum venturus est cum gloria judicare vivos etmortuos' [And he will come again in glory to judge the living andthe dead]. (47) This direct reference concludes the performance of theJews' parodic mass.

The Jews do not remain heretics, however, and, when their doctrinalbeliefs convert to orthodoxy, their language converts as well, shiftingthe soundscape into a more solemn register and evidencing that they nowserve Christ in both word and deed. Given the Lollards' objectionsto the sacred role of Latin in the church, the Plays use of the languageas its litmus test for orthodoxy further confirms its endorsem*nt of thetraditional ecclesiastical framework of the church. The clearestdemonstration of such transformation comes in the Jews' employmentsof Latin, before and after their conversion.

Surprisingly, Jonathas is the first character to use Latin in theplay, not the two vexillators, the priest, or the clerk. The Latin thatJonathas initially employs appears in his parodic consecration of thehost, with 'Accipite' [Take] (399) and 'Comedite Corpusmeum' [Eat, {this is} my body] (404). (48) Then Malchus wields asnippet of Latin in his discussion of judgment, quoting 'judecareviuos et mortuos' [To judge the living and the dead] (440) from theNicene Creed, and Jonathas concludes the doctrinal discussion with anallusion to 'Tinctis Bosra vestibus' [{Who is this that comethfrom Edom} with dyed garments from Bozrah] (448). (49) Jonathas'sfirst two phrases are the words of Christ, and the second two quotationsare prophetic, casting the Jews as (ironic) prophets. But a completelydifferent register, and indeed miraculous knowledge, of Latin introducesitself after the Jews' conversion. Lawton vaguely refers to thisnew register as the 'language of poetic penance', (50) but thewords indicate more than mere penance. They indicate completeconversion, both spiritual and linguistic.

Jesus introduces this orthodox register of Latin in his first wordsafter bursting forth from the oven: 'O mirabiles Judei, attenditeet videte/Si est dolor sicut dolor meus' [O you strange Jews,behold and see if any sorrow is like My sorrow] (717-18). (51) This linenot only reiterates the play's emphasis on the miracle ofconversion but also marks the first sustained use of Latin in the entireplay. Then, in turn, the Jews demonstrate their conversion verbally byechoing this orthodox Latin, quoting scriptural passages in refrain atthe conclusion of each of their stanzas. Jonathas's first wordsafter Jesus's entrance are 'Tu es protector vite mee; a quotrepidado?' [You are the protector of my life, of whom should I beafraid?] (741). (52) This address is a far cry from the fragments ofliturgy he invokes earlier, with the line significantly longer and morecomplex than his previous use of the language to signal clearly hisconversion. Jason similarly concludes his confession with 'Lacrimisnostris conscienciam nostram baptizemus!' [With our tears may webaptize our conscience] (749) and Jasdon remarks, 'Ne grauissompnus irruat' [May grievous sleep not seize us] (753). (53)Masphat and Malchus, too, cry 'Miserere mei, Deus!' [Havemercy on me, Lord!] (757) and 'Asparges me, Domine, ysopo, etmunadabor' [Sprinkle me with hyssop, Lord, and I shall be clean](761). (54) This highly orthodox, systematic use of Latin, both biblicaland liturgical, stands in direct opposition to the Jews' earlierparodic employment of the liturgy. After their conversion, the Jewsquote five complete biblical or liturgical passages in Latin; before,they quoted fewer than a dozen words. Moreover, while those parodicquotations came from Christ or prophets, the passages evoked here areall penitential and suppliant, drawing almost exclusively on the Psalms.Even the Jews' English passages evoke a biblical register, withallusions such as 'owt of dyrknes to lyght' (752) and'forgyfe me my mysded!' (756). (55) Their concluding Englishlines also change register as an anaphoric chorus of 'Oh'sexhibits their praise (742, 746, 750, 754, 756, 778, 780, 782).

Jesus confirms the orthodoxy of this speech model again bypeppering his remaining stanzas with biblical passages--'Ite etostendite vos sacerdotibus meis' [Go show yourselves unto mypriests] (765) and 'Et tunc non auertam a vobis faciem meam'[And then I will not turn My face from you] (769). (56) The bishop alsojoins this register, as his first words upon his entrance pick up theanaphora with 'Oh Jhesu' (806), and he also quotes Latin atlength: 'Estote forte[s] in bello et pugnate cum antico serpente,/Et accipite regnum eternum, et cetera' [Be strong in battle andfight with the old serpent, and receive the eternal kingdom, and so on](8 66-7). (57) By the end of the play, the Jews, Jesus, and the bishopall speak in the same unified, penitential register marked aurally byextended uses of Latin and liturgical phrases and devices.

Spoken words tellingly effect the miracles of the Jews'conversions, like the consecration of the host. Indeed, a hosttransforming into a boy and bursting from an oven has some persuasiveappeal, but even the power originally instilled in it to perform suchdeeds arose from the priest's consecratory words. Ovens aside, asMasphat relates, their conversions stemmed from Christ's words, nothis miraculous deeds:

 There spake he to us woordys of grete favore In contrycyon owr hartys he cast, and bad take us to a confessor. (945-7)

His words cast their hearts into contrition, not his actions.Likewise, his emphasis on the external, spoken words of confession, to aconfessor, reiterates the orthodox, ecclesiastical framework thatundergirds conversion. Conversion will lead to more spoken words, asAristorius proclaims that he will, in turn, 'teache thys lesson toman and wyfe' (975). The play itself recapitulates this theme, asits own text encourages both conversion and evangelism.

The church therefore intends its final incorporation of theplay's heretics to be recapitulated in the audience as well.Bevington finds the bishop's final speeches 'profoundlyritualistic, deliberately confounding the distinction between dramaticperformance and religious service'. (58) The bishop's Latinquotations become the site of both theatrical collapse and communalreintegration, and the audience, vicariously and perhaps earnestly,experiences confession and conversion as well. Although there isscholarly debate as to the extent of audience involvement, many scholarsspeculate that the host procession within the play included theaudience, as processions would have outside of the dramatic sphere, andmedieval theatre practices, as we know them, show little concern formaintaining a fourth wall. The bishop's shift to direct address inthe text is quite clear and his inclusiveness is emphatic:

 Now folow me, all and summe, And all tho that bene here, both more or lesse, Thys holy song, O sacrum Conuiuium, Lett vs syng all with grett swetnesse. (838-41)

The bishop clearly invites the audience to participate in theprocession and the song along with the characters. The two concludinghymns, the Sacrum Convivium and the Te Deum Laudamus, appear incontemporary processionals, which further conflates the mimesis of theliturgical practice with the practice itself. The Sacrum Conviviumserves as the antiphon of the Magnificat for the vespers of the feast ofCorpus Christi and, more significantly, a processional antiphon for thefeast of Corpus Christi. Sister Nicholas Maltman records the antiphon infull:

 O sacrum convivium in quo Christus sumitur: recolitur memoria passionis ejus, mens implentur gratia, et futurae gloriae, nobis pignus datur, Alleluya. [O sacred banquet in which Christ becomes our food, the memory of his passion is renewed, the soul is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is given us.] (59)

She views the play's action as 'a dramatization of theantiphon', with the procession as the text's high point. (60)The second liturgical song Te Deum Laudamus, continues this unificationunder the auspices of the liturgy, as it 'figured prominently inthe Durham Corpus Christi procession' and concluded many liturgicaldramas. (61) Its placement in the play's final line serves as thesegue between the staged and real moments of conversion andreconciliation. The song 'redefines audience as congregation'.(62) These hymns invite the audience to join in the orthodox soundscape,particularly if the play's immediate audience suggests a possiblesignification to local Lollards, who were also heretics in need ofconversion. Gibson notes that 'in at least one fifteenth-centuryheresy case, in Lincolnshire, the penance assigned to a convictedLollard was the take part in a Corpus Christi procession', (63)much like the one that punctuates the Croxton Play. The procession thusaccomplishes a physical and verbal reincorporation of all heretics,staged or otherwise, by means of conversion through the sacrament.

The Croxton Play vividly demonstrates that the act of consecrationis analogous to the consecrating act of conversion: both rely on spokenwords, that the ecclesiastical structures of the church underwrite, toenact a substantive transformation. This juxtaposition endorses theorthodox church's stance against Lollardy's denial oftransubstantiation and resistance to conversion. It also exposes theheretics' parodic words and deeds, wielded to disprove the realpresence, as the real hocus pocus, and in turn offers otherwords--authorized and orthodox--as the primary tool for authentictransubstantiation of both hosts and heretics. For the Croxton Play,words can make the real presence real. Even in theatre.

DOI: http: //dx.doi.org/10.12745/et.17.2.1202


My deepest thanks to Nicole Guenther Discenza, Sara Munson Deats,and David Bevington, who read drafts of this argument as a chapter of mydissertation 'Bite on Boldly': Staging Medieval and EarlyModern Heretics. Their feedback has been invaluable. All remainingerrors are my own.

(1) See 'hocus-pocus, n.', Oxford English Dictionary(oed) and John Parker, The Aesthetics of Antichrist: From ChristianDrama to Christopher Marlowe (Ithaca, 2007), 241. Parker attributes thephrase to a corruption of the consecration liturgy 'Hoc est corpusmeum' [this is my body]; oed cites this etymology as conjectural,however, based solely on a reference by John Tillotson in 1694 in one ofhis sermons: 'In all probability those common juggling words ofhocus pocus are nothing else but a corruption of hoc est corpus, by wayof ridiculous imitation of the priests of the Church of Rome in theirtrick of Transubstantiation'. OED offers another source for theetymology, from Thomas Ady's Candle in the Dark in 1655: 'Iwill speak of one man ... that went about in King James his time ... whocalled himself, The Kings Majesties most excellent Hocus Pocus, and sowas called, because that at the playing of every Trick, he used to say,Hocus pocus, tontus talontus, vade celeriter jubeo, a dark composure ofwords, to blinde the eyes of the beholders, to make his Trick pass themore currantly without discovery.'

(2) 'hocus-pocus, n.', OED.

(3) All quotations taken from Non-Cycle Plays and Fragments. NormanDavis (ed.), The Croxton Play of the Sacrament, Early English TextSociety (Oxford, 1970).

(4) Parker, Aesthetics of Antichrist, 126.

(5) Sarah Beckwith, 'Ritual, Church and Theatre: MedievalDramas of the Sacramental Body', David Aers (ed.), Culture andHistory 1350-1600: Essays on English Communities, Identities, andWriting (Detroit, 1992), 68.

(6) David A. Lawton, 'Sacrilege and Theatricality: The CroxtonPlay of the Sacrament', Journal of Medieval and Early ModernStudies 33.2 (2003), 297, DOI: http: //dx.doi.org/10.1215/10829636-33-2-281; Beckwith, 'Ritual, Church andTheatre', 75, emphasis mine.

(7) David Bevington, From Mankind to Marlowe: Growth of Structurein the Popular Drama of Tudor England (Cambridge, 1962), 39; RichardEmmerson, 'Contextualizing Performance: The Reception of theChester Antichrist', Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies29.1 (1999), 99.

(8) Gail McMurray Gibson, The Theatre of Devotion: East AnglianDrama and Society in the Late Middle Ages (Chicago, 1989), 38.

(9) Lawton, 'Sacrilege and Theatricality', 297.

(10) See Davis, Croxton Play, lxxiv and Lawton, 'Sacrilege andTheatre', 288.

(11) See Miriamne Ara Krummel, 'Getting Even: Social Controland Uneasy Laughter in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament', SandraM. Hordis and Paul Hardwick (eds), Medieval English Comedy (Turnhout,2007) and, to a lesser extent, Lawton, 'Sacrilege andTheatricality'.

(12) Beckwith, 'Ritual, Church, and Theatre', 71. Seealso Donnalee Dox, 'Medieval Drama as Documentation: "RealPresence" in the Croxton Conversion of Ser Jonathas the Jewe by theMyracle of the Blissed Sacrament ', Theatre Survey 38.1 (1997),DOI: http: //dx.doi.org/10.1017/S004055740000185X.

(13) Ann Eljenholm Nichols, 'The Croxton "Play of theSacrament": A Re-Reading', Comparative Drama 22.2 (1988), 127.

(14) Dox, 'Medieval Drama', does use the play's fulltitle and uses Conversion as her short title.

(15) Translation Walker's.

(16) Parker, Aesthetics of Antichrist, 132. See Lam 1: 12.

(17) See Cecilia Cutts, 'The Croxton Play: An Anti-LollardPiece', Modern Language Quarterly 5 (1944), 45-60, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/00267929-5-1-45; David Bevington, From Mankind toMarlowe, 49; Lawton, 'Sacrilege and Theatricality', 286;Michael Jones, 'Theatrical History in the Croxton Play of theSacrament', English Literary History 66.2 (1999), 224, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/ elh.1999.0016; Gibson, The Theatre of Devotion,34; and Nichols, 'The Croxton "Play of theSacrament"', 131. Cutts limits her scope to the late-fifteenthcentury, and Bevington and Lawton agree. Jones dates it morespecifically to 'somewhere around the 1480s', while Gibsonsuggests the early-sixteenth century. Nichols relies on IanLancashire's dating of 1461-1511 (131).

(18) See Bevington, From Mankind to Marlowe, 49. Aside from thetext itself, however, we do not have any evidence of the play'sperformance history.

(19) See Cutts, 'The Croxton Play', 55; Gibson, Theatreof Devotion, 36; and Dox, 'Medieval Drama as Documentation',107.

(20) Gibson, Theatre of Devotion, 30.

(21) John A.F. Thomson, The Later Lollards: 1414-1520 (Oxford,1965).

(22) Gibson, Theatre of Devotion, 30.

(23) See Cutts, 'The Croxton Play'; Gibson, Theatre ofDevotion; Lauren Lepow, Enacting the Sacrament: Counter-Lollardy in theTowneley Cycle (Rutherford, 1990); Dox, 'Medieval Drama asDocumentation'; Beckwith, 'Ritual, Church and Theatre';and Elisa Narin van Court, 'Socially Marginal, Culturally Central:Representing Jews in Late Medieval English Literature', Exemplaria12.2 (2000) 293-326.

(24) Lawton, 'Sacrilege and Theatricality', 292.

(25) Krummel, 'Getting Even', 179.

(26) 'heresy, n. 1a', OED.

(27) 'From the Constitutions of Thomas Arundel', LynnStaley (ed.), The Book of Margery Kempe (New York, 2001), 187.

(28) Items one through five and ten through eleven establishparameters for preaching, teaching, and education; items six and sevenforbid reading heretical texts, including Wyclif's Englishtranslation of the scriptures; and items twelve and thirteen specify theconsequences of violating the constitutions. Items eight and nine doaddress more ideological prohibitions, such as asserting doctrinecontrary to the church and disputing articles of faith; however, eventhese proscribed acts are grounded in activities, such as preaching andteaching. See 'From the Constitutions of Thomas Arundel',189-96.

(29) Ibid, 188.

(30) See 'De Haeretico Comburendo', The Statutes of theRealm (Buffalo, 1993), 127-8.

(31) Lepow, Enacting the Sacrament, 31. Lepow notes that ThomasNetter also invokes this pun in his Doctrinale Fidei EcclesiaeCatholicae contra Wicklevistas et Hussitas, referring to Wyclif as'cognomento impiae vitae' or 'Wicked-Life'.

(32) Aristorius's and Jonathas's opening alliterativecatalogues of their riches demonstrate this parallel well. See lines89-116 and 157-87.

(33) Quoted in Beckwith, 'Ritual, Church, and Theatre',69. Translation Beckwith's.

(34) Beckwith, 'Ritual, Church, and Theatre', 70.

(35) Confession is also prerequisite before receiving thesacrament.

(36) Cutts, 'The Croxton Play', 48.

(37) For translation, see The Croxton Play of the Sacrament, ed.Greg Walker (Oxford, 2000), 213-3. See Lk 17: 14.

(38) See Cutts, 'The Croxton Play', 49.

(39) Anne Hudson, The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts andLollard History (Oxford, 1988), 294.

(40) Hoccleve's Works, Frederick J. Furnivall (ed.), EarlyEnglish Text Society (1892), 11. Cutts notes this similar usage (49).

(41) R.P. Blakeney (trans.), 'The Mass According to the Use ofSarum', from The Book of Common Prayer, its History andInterpretation, 2nd edn (1866), reprinted in Charles Wohlers, 'TheSarum Missal', The Book of Common Prayer, http: //justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/Sarum/index.htm. The Sarum Missal was the most widelyused missal in late medieval England.

(42) Ibid.

(43) Lawton also points out this parallel. See Lawton,'Sacrilege and Theatricality', 287.

(44) Beckwith, 'Ritual, Church, and Theatre', 75.

(45) Sarum Missal. 'Qui pridie quam pateretur accepit panem insanctas ac venerabiles manus suas: et elevatis oculis in crelum ... adte Deum Patrem suum omnipotentem ... gratias agens benedixit, fregit ...deditque discipulis suis, dicens, Accipite et manducate ex hoc omnes.Hoc est enim Corpus meum'.

(46) Sarum Missal. 'Et ascendit in crelum, sedet ad dexteramPatris'. Translation mine.

(47) Sarum Missal. Translation mine.

(48) Translations Walker's.

(49) Translations Walker's. See Is 63: 1.

(50) Lawton, 'Sacrilege and Theatricality', 287.

(51) Translation Walker's. See Lam 1: 12.

(52) Translation Walker's. See Ps 26: 1.

(53) Translations Walker's. Sister Nicholas Maltman,'Meaning and Art in the Croxton Play of the SacramentEnglishLiterary History 41.2 (1974) 156, DOI: http: //dx.doi.org/10.2307/2872502. Maltman finds this an allusion to a liturgicalCompline hymn sung during Lent.

(54) Translation Walker's. See Ps 50: 9.

(55) See 1 Pt 2: 9, Ex 10: 17, and Ps 24: 18.

(56) Translations Walker's. See Lk 17: 14 and Ps 26: 9.

(57) Translation Walker's. See Rv 20: 2.

(58) Bevington, From Mankind to Marlowe, 38.

(59) Maltman, 'Meaning and Art', 151. TranslationMaltman's.

(60) Ibid.

(61) Clifford Davidson, Festival and Plays in Late Medieval Britain(Burlington, 2007), 73.

(62) Beckwith, 'Ritual, Church, and Theatre', 78. SeeDavidson, Festival and Plays, 72 also.

(63) Gibson, Theatre of Devotion, 34.

Cameron Hunt McNabb ([emailprotected]) is an assistantprofessor in the English department at Southeastern University.

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Hocus pocus and the Croxton Play of the Sacrament. (2024)


What is the Croxton play of the sacrament about? ›

The Croxton Play of the Sacrament is a late-fifteenth century dramatization of a Host desecration perpetrated by a group of Jews. The Jews' abuse of the Host results in a series of miracles – including a reenactment of Christ's Passion – and, in response, the abusers' conversion to Christianity.

What is the Catholic origin of hocus pocus? ›

During the early 1600s, Hocus Pocus was a name commonly adopted by a juggler or magician. The name, and the words 'hocus pocus,' which were often chanted during tricks involving sleight of hand, is believed to be a perversion of the Latin blessing from the Catholic mass, Hoc est corpus meum, or “This is my body.”

What was the purpose of the sacrament? ›

The sacraments help to make people holy and build-up the body of Christ. They are a way to relate to God throughout life's transitions and help us to give praise and worship to God.

What did they teach or think about the sacrament? ›

In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, "the sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament.

What does Hocus Pocus symbolize? ›

/həʊkəsˈpʌʊkəs/ Hocus-pocus is an illusion or a meaningless distraction that tricks you in some way. Some people believe in astrology, while others think horoscopes are nothing but hocus-pocus.

Why is Mary's mouth crooked in Hocus Pocus? ›

During her conversation with EW, Najimy also explained what made her come up with the crooked smile in the first place. "It's just something I came up with the first week," she said of shooting the first movie. "This is a big comedy, so you don't have to be subtle or have a 40-page Shakespearean backstory."

What is the true story behind Hocus Pocus? ›

CNN reported that the Sanderson sisters are fictional characters. There were not three sisters named Winifred, Sarah and Mary who were executed for practicing witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts. However, even though they might be fictional, CNN said that there were really three sisters who were accused of witchcraft.

Is the sacrament based on a true story? ›

A. J. Bowen and Joe Swanberg play VICE journalists who document their co-worker's (Kentucker Audley) attempt to locate his sister (Amy Seimetz) after she joins a reclusive religious commune. The film's plot is inspired by the real-life events of the Jonestown Massacre of 1978.

Is sacrament a Mormon? ›

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, most often simply referred to as the sacrament, is the ordinance in which participants eat bread and drink water in remembrance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

What is the point of the seven sacraments? ›

The purpose of the sacraments is to make people holy, to build up the body of Christ, and finally, to give worship to God; but being signs, they also have a teaching function.

Why was the disputation of the Holy Sacrament made? ›

The Disputation of the Holy Sacrament (also known as the Disputation over the Blessed Sacrament or the Triumph of Religion), painted by Raphael between 1508 and 1511, represents Christianity's victory over the multiple philosophical tendencies shown in the School of Athens fresco painted on the opposite wall.

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