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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 Maniple is the fourth article which the priest vests himself with. It is a small strip of precious cloth, of the same material as the Stole and Chasuble, having three crosses embroidered upon it—one in the middle, and one at each of its extremities. It is worn on the left wrist, to which it is fastened either by a pin or a string. Its whole length is generally about two feet, and its breadth about four inches. When fastened on, it hangs equally on both sides.

Ancient Names given the Maniple.—The Maniple was anciently known by as many as ten different names—viz., Mappula, Sudarium, Brachial Cincture, Mantile, Linteum, Aer, Sacerdotale Cincticulum, Maniple, Mappa Parva, and Phanon (Gavantus, Thesaur. Sacr. Rit., p. 130).

Originally it was intended solely for wiping the perspiration from the face of the wearer, and drying the hands so that the sacred vestments may not be soiled by them. In fact, it served in every way as a handkerchief, as we see from what the ancients have written about it. Thus Alcuin, in the ninth century, speaks of it as follows: “The little kerchief which is worn on the left hand, wherewith we wipe off the moisture of the eyes and nose, designates the present life, in which we suffer from superfluous humors” (Bona, Rer. Liturg., 281).

Amalarius also, who lived about the same period, writes of it thus: “We carry a handkerchief (Sudarium) for the purpose of wiping the perspiration” (ibid.)

The Maniple, as we have said, was fastened to the left wrist. The ancient form of the Chasuble, of which we shall give a full account further on, required this disposition; for if it were kept anywhere else it would be almost wholly out of reach of the priest, who was enveloped on all sides, as our print will show (see figure). As long as the ancient ample Chasuble remained in use the Maniple was not allowed to rest on the wrist until the priest was about to ascend the altar-steps. Then the Chasuble was folded up by the deacon and subdeacon, and the left arm being thus entirely free, the Maniple was fastened to it, and thus did it remain until the end of Mass. A vestige of this ancient practice is yet preserved in a Bishop’s Mass, where the Maniple is not fastened to the prelate’s wrist until the “indulgentiam”—that is, a little before he ascends the steps.

According to the best authorities, the Maniple served the purpose of a handkerchief until about the twelfth century. After this it became a liturgical ornament (Kozma, Liturg. Sacr. Cathol., 44), with no other office but a symbolic one. Our holy Church is always loath to part with any of her ancient apparel.

Material of the Maniple.—Whilst the Maniple served as a handkerchief it used to be made of fine white linen, and was frequently carried in the hand during divine service instead of being fastened to the wrist; but when it passed into a liturgical ornament, then the material of which it was made changed to suit that of the Stole and Chasuble. In some parts of England it was customary to attach little bells of gold and silver to its edging (Dr. Rock, Church of Our Fathers, i. 422).

The Maniple is put on with the following prayer: “May I deserve, O Lord! to bear the Maniple of weeping and sorrow, in order that I may joyfully reap the reward of my labors.” The reference in the words “weeping and sorrow” is to what frequently occurred in days gone by during the sacred ministrations at the altar, when many holy men wept, sometimes with joy at being allowed to assist at so tremendous a sacrifice, and sometimes with sorrow for their unworthiness. Durandus, in his Rationale Divinorum, p. 110, says that St. Arsenius used to be so affected.

Mystical Meaning.—The mystical meaning, then, of the Maniple is that it reminds the priest of the trials and troubles of this life, and the reward that awaits him if he bears them in a Christian-like manner.

Maniple of the Orientals.—The Orientals wear two Maniples, one on each arm, which are usually denominated Epimanikia, a barbarous word, from the Greek ἐπί, upon, and the Latin manus, a hand—that is, something worn upon the hand. In form the Epimanikia differ from our Maniple considerably, although there is no doubt but that at one time both served the same purpose. They are shaped somewhat like the large, loose sleeves of a surplice, and are fastened to the wrist by a silken string. The rule requires that they be fastened tightly, for they are intended to remind the wearer of the cords that fastened our Lord’s hands to the pillar of flagellation.

The Oriental bishops are accustomed to wear upon their Maniples an icon, or image of our Divine Saviour, which they present to the people to be kissed.

With the Syrians the Epimanikia are called Zendo; with the Armenians, Pasban; with the Russians, Poruche (hand-pieces); and with the Copts, Manicæ.

A Russian priest, in donning these articles, says, when putting on the right-hand one: “The right hand of the Lord hath pre-eminence; the right hand of the Lord bringeth mighty things to pass”; and when putting on the left-hand one: “Thy hands have made me and fashioned me; oh! give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.” In the sentence, “the right hand of the Lord hath pre-eminence,” there is a reference to the tradition that the Jews first nailed our Saviour’s right hand to the cross, and then the left (see Goar, Euchologium Græcorum, p. 111; Neale, Holy Eastern Church, vol. i. p. 307; Renaudot, Liturg. Orient. Collect., i. 162; Denzinger, Ritus Orientalium, p. 131; and Gavantus, Thesaur. Sacr. Rit., 131).








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