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

Another ancient liturgical utensil, which perhaps we should have spoken of sooner, was the comb, employed for the purpose of keeping the celebrant’s hair in order during divine service. Those were for the most part made of ivory, but we find them of silver and gold very frequently, and studded in many cases with pearls. The Cathedral of Sens has yet among its ancient curiosities a liturgical comb of ivory, with the inscription, “Pecten sancti Lupi”—“The comb of St. Lupus”—engraved upon it. St. Lupus was bishop of this place in the year 609, from which we see that the comb is of a very high antiquity (Church of Our Fathers, ii. p. 124).

The Cathedral of Sarum, in England, had a vast number of ivory combs of this nature beautifully finished; and as a curious bit of information we mention that among the spoils carried away from Glastonbury Abbey by the English Nabuchodonosor, Henry VIII., there is mentioned “a combe of golde, garnishede with small turquases and other course stones” (Dugdale, Mon. Ang., tom. i. p. 63, from Dr. Rock).

When the bishop officiated the deacon and subdeacon combed his hair as soon as his sandals had been put on; when the celebrant was a priest the office of combing was first performed for him in the vestry, and then at stated times during Mass. The rule in this respect was that whenever the officiating minister stood up after having been seated for some time, and took off his cap, his hair was combed before he ascended the altar. While the process of combing was going on a cloth was spread over the shoulders to prevent the sacred vestments from being soiled.

Durandus, who is always ready with a mystic meaning for everything, says that the stray hairs which lie upon the head now and then are the superfluous thoughts which trouble us from time to time and hinder us from paying the attention that we ought to our sacred duties (Rationale, pp. 149, 150).

The use of the comb in the Western Church is now entirely unknown, but it may yet be seen in some churches of the East, for nearly all the Eastern clergy allow the beard to grow freely down the face after the manner of the ancient patriarchs (see Romanoff, Rites and Customs of the Greco-Russian Church, p. 401), for which reason combing becomes frequently necessary in order to present a neat and becoming appearance.








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