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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

Our duty would be but half discharged did we pass by unnoticed the Oriental Schismatic Church, which forms so large a part of Eastern Christendom and runs side by side with the Catholic Church in all the Eastern regions. This Church may be thus divided: First, into the Church of the Russian Empire; secondly, into that within the Turkish Empire, with Constantinople as capital; thirdly, into the Church of the kingdom of Greece. We ask the reader to bear this division carefully in mind, for numberless mistakes are made for want of due attention to it, and to remember at the same time that all these churches are wholly independent of one another, in temporals as well as in spirituals; and that they hold no intercommunion whatever, unless in so far as common charity or civility would dictate. The Church of the Russian Empire, at one time under the immediate control of the Archbishop of Moscow, and subsequently ruled by a patriarch, is now at the sole mercy of the “Holy Synod of St. Petersburg,” and, though it would scorn to avow it, is to all intents and purposes a tool in the hands of the Czar, for without his sanction no change in the existing order of things can be made—not even can a council be convoked without first humbly asking his permission. This church uses the same liturgies and ceremonies as the Greek Church, and agrees with it in every point of discipline, save that it says Mass in the Sclavonic language.

The church within the Turkish Empire is made up of the four Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. Constantinople, the headquarters of the Ottoman Empire, is also the chief patriarchal seat, and still rejoices in the proud title of New Rome. The Sultan is virtually the head of this church, and, though they would fain deny it, its bishops and patriarchs are forced to confess that he is the supreme and final arbiter in every important dispute. Of so vast an extent is this division of the Eastern Church that it includes within its limits people who celebrate Mass in nine different languages—viz., in Latin, Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopic, Chaldean, Sclavonic, and Wallachian.

The Church of the kingdom of Greece, though nominally governed by the Synod of Athens, is as much a creature of the state as that of Constantinople or Russia, for it depends for its entire movement and being upon the will of the reigning monarch. It acknowledges no submission whatever to Constantinople, nor to any other branch of the Eastern Church.

Although these three great divisions of the Oriental Church include within their pale several churches which are both heretical and schismatical at the same time, still, as far as validity of orders is concerned, the Holy See has expressed her doubt of none save of the Abyssinian. The so-called Eastern Church has, therefore, a true priesthood, a true sacrifice of the Mass, and valid sacraments; hence its claim to our attention. But it has another claim which ought not to be passed by unnoticed here; its singular devotion to the ever-blessed Mother of God. This may be considered the great redeeming feature of the Eastern Church, and it is to be hoped that, in consideration of it, she whose glorious prerogative it is to destroy all heresies in the Church may, by her powerful intercession at the throne of her Divine Son, establish a lasting union between the East and West, so that Christ’s Vicar may sing once more, as he sang at the Council of Florence, “Let the heavens rejoice and the earth burst forth in songs of gladness.”

In concluding our Preface we beg leave to remark that no attempt whatever at what is called style has been made in the following pages. Our aim has been, from beginning to end, to give the reader plain facts, with little or no dressing, and to keep steadily in view that golden advice of St. Augustine, to wit, that it is better to endure blame at the hands of the critics than say anything which the people might not understand—“Melius est reprehendant nos grammatici, quam non intelligent populi” (ad Ps. cxxxviii.)

Whatever we have stated may be relied upon—if not relied upon as absolutely true, yet at least in the sense that it is a faithful rendering of the views of the author from whom it was taken. Further than this it would not be fair to hold us responsible.

J. O’B.

MT. ST. MARY’S COLLEGE, EMMITTSBURG, MARYLAND,

Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 1878.








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