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

The Orientals have no variety of Preface at all. Every liturgy has one peculiar to itself, and this is employed the whole year round without any change whatever. It is called by the Easterns the Anaphora (although this word also includes the Canon of the Mass), and begins and ends almost precisely like our own. According to a ritual of Gabriel, Patriarch of Alexandria, directions are given to the priest to make the sign of the cross three different times at the “Sursum corda”: first, upon himself; secondly, upon the attending deacons; and, thirdly, upon the congregation (Renaudot, i. p. 206). In the East, as well as in the West with ourselves, it is customary to stand up always the moment this portion of the Mass begins, and this as a testimony of the great respect that is due it. At Low Mass, however, the rule is to remain kneeling.

The Greeks call the “Holy, holy, holy,” etc., the Triumphal Hymn, as we do. The “Gloria in excelsis” they call the Angelic Hymn. Their Trisagion, or Thrice Holy, which we recite on Good Friday, and of which we have given a full history already, is that which begins with “Holy God, Holy Strong One, Holy Immortal One.” They have another hymn, called the Cherubic, which they recite in the Mass soon after the expulsion of the catechumens. It is worded as follows: “Let us, who mystically represent the Cherubim, and sing the Holy Hymn to the Life-giving Trinity, lay by at this time all worldly cares, that we may receive the King of glory invisibly attended by the angelic orders. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”

In the Ethiopic Liturgy four archangels are particularized in the Preface—viz., Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Suriel, or, as he is more commonly styled, Uriel. The Syriac Liturgy of Philoxenus mentions the celestial spirits after a somewhat singular manner, thus: “The jubilees of Angels; the songs of Archangels; the lyres of Powers; the pure and grateful voices of Dominations; the clamors of Thrones; the thunders of Cherubim; and the swift motion of Seraphim.” Immediately before the conclusion of the Preface in the Liturgy of St. Chrysostom mention is made of the celestial spirits as singing (ᾄδοντα), bellowing (βοῶντα), crying (κεκραγότα), and speaking (λέγοντα). According to some Oriental commentators, the four Evangelists are here mystically represented. The singing with a loud voice alludes to St. John, who, on account of the lofty flight of his genius, is aptly compared to the eagle, and is generally represented in art with this bird by his side. The bellowing refers to St. Luke, who, on account of his setting forth the priesthood of our Lord so conspicuously, has been always represented by an ox, the symbol of sacrifice. By the crying or roaring like a lion St. Mark is meant, as he is said to be pre-eminently the historian of our Lord’s resurrection; and an Eastern tradition has it that young lions are born dead and are brought to life after three days (the time our Saviour was in the grave) by the roaring of their sire. And by the speaking—that is, like a man—St. Matthew is meant, on account of his dwelling so much on the human nature of our Lord. In art he is generally represented by the figure of a cherub, which is supposed to resemble a human being so much (Neale, Holy Eastern Church, i. p. 470; Symbolism in Art, by Clara E. Clement, p. 18; also St. Jerome on the Four Evangelists).

At the conclusion of the Preface the little sanctuary bell is rung to remind the people of the approach of the most solemn part of the Mass, in order that their attention may be fixed upon it more earnestly.








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