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

Considerable diversity exists in the East in relation to the devices employed in stamping the altar-bread. The Syrians use only a number of small crosses; the Nestorians the same. The Coptic Host has upon one side, “Ἅγιος, Ἅγιος, Ἅγιος, Κύριος Σαβέωθ”—that is, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Hosts; and upon the other, “Ἅγιος, Ισχυρός”—Holy Strong One. The latter is part of the famous Trisagion which the Eastern Church employs in every day’s service, but which the Latin Church only repeats once a year, in the Mass of Good Friday. This sacred hymn has a peculiar and interesting history attached to it. In the time of Theodosius the Younger, A.D. 446, Constantinople was threatened by so dreadful an earthquake that all believed the end of the world at hand. The wildest confusion reigned throughout the city as the first signs of this untoward calamity manifested themselves. Men, women, and children ran frantic through the streets, and the utmost consternation was depicted on every countenance. In this dreadful juncture Theodosius addressed a petition to St. Proclus, archbishop of the imperial city, earnestly beseeching him to ask of Almighty God to avert the impending calamity. The saintly man acceded at once to the emperor’s wishes. He accordingly formed a procession of all his clergy and people, and, with the attendance of all the members of the royal court, marched a little outside the city, and then knelt down with the entire multitude in solemn and earnest prayer. They had not been kneeling long when, to the great astonishment of all, a child was seen in the clouds above them, moving from one place to another, and singing loud enough to be heard by the spectators. After the lapse of about an hour the child descended, singing, “Ἅγιος, Ισχυρός, Ἅγιος ὁ Θεός, Ἅγιος Αθάνατος, ἐλέησον ἡμᾶς”—that is, Holy Strong One, Holy God, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us! Upon being questioned as to the object of this singing, the child replied that he had heard the angelic choir sing this sacred anthem at the throne of God, and that if the people wished to avert the terrors of the earthquake they should sing it also. It was taken up at once, and tranquillity was restored (Goar, Euchol. Græcorum, p. 126; Neale, Holy Eastern Church, i. p. 367). The emperor afterwards issued a decree causing it to be universally adopted, and it is said that St. Proclus had it inserted in the liturgies of Constantinople (Ferraris, Bibliotheca; Butler’s Lives of the Saints, Oct. 24, St. Proclus).

 

HOST OF THE COPTS.

The small crosses that appear on the face of the Coptic bread are in memory, it is said, of a celebrated discourse of St. John Chrysostom on the divinity of our Lord, in which the word cross appears several times. Martène tells us that the seals used by the Oriental patriarchs for stamping the altar-bread differ much from those used by the priests. The inscription on the Greek Host—viz., “IX. NIKA”—is translated “Jesus Christ conquers.”








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