Quasimodogeniti

When Victor Hugo wrote “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1831) he chose the name “Quasimodo” for the main protagonist of his story.  Quasimodo was the hunchback, a disfigured but kind-hearted recluse who had been shunned all his life for being different, but who found refuge in the magnificent cathedral in the center of Paris.

How did Victor Hugo pick that name?  As a newborn infant, the hunchback was dropped off at the door of Notre Dame the Sunday after Easter.  Historically, the Sunday after Easter was known as Quasimodogeniti Sunday – named after the Introit (theme verse) for that day from 1 Peter 2:2 “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.”  

Quasimodogeniti is Latin for “newborn infants.”  The Introit for that day was supposed to be a continuation of the Easter joy that had been celebrated the week before.  In reality, the Sunday after Easter is often the most depressing Sunday of the season since all the hoopla had been focused on Easter and by the next Sunday it is all over.  The number of people who show up for the Sunday AFTER Easter is often miniscule compared to Easter Sunday.  (Many pastors take off the Sunday after Easter as well.)

It would seem that Victor Hugo understood the religious culture of his day (and ours) and named the hunchback after the most useless Sunday of the season – reflecting the attitude that people who were supposed to be religious, but in reality, they easily disparaged this poor soul just as much as they ignored the Sunday after Easter.  Even the people who took the child in couldn’t come up with a better name than Quasimodo – named after the day he was dropped off.

Here we are in the month after Easter and there are so many things to do.  The farmers are planting, the sports teams are filling in just about every day with games and meets, the upper classmen are getting ready for prom, the teachers are trying to get all their material taught before the end of the semester – and a million other things.  Our culture moves on past Easter to get us back into the ways of the world.  Those ways are so often getting meaner and more divisive.  

If you have read this far, there is, of course, good news.  You are probably still interested in “the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may continue to grow up into salvation – now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.”  Earlier, Peter had also written, “Above all, let your love for one another be INTENSE, because love covers a multitude of sins.”

There is a maturing process that happens when the Spirit of God is able to work in people.  The world is seen for what it is and the focus instead becomes the love that becomes so intense that even the sin that pervades our culture can be overcome.  The early Christians were celebrated for their love that set them apart from the rest of the culture in which they lived.  Should our (modern) lives be any different?

One wonders what they would have named the child if he had been dropped off on the SECOND Sunday after Easter.  The Introit for that day was Misericordias Domini (“The Mercy of the Lord”).

Rev. Paul M. Mehl