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

DURING the persecutions the faithful were accustomed to turn the tombs in which the martyrs were interred into altars, and offer the Holy Sacrifice upon them. This can be proved by innumerable testimonies, and even by ocular demonstration at this great distance, if trouble be taken to visit the Roman Catacombs and read their sacred inscriptions. “In the midst of these venerable symbols,” says D’Agincourt (tom. ii. p. 86), “upon a large slab of marble which completely covered the sarcophagus of the martyr, the first ministers of the Christian worship celebrated the mysteries of our faith in the time of persecution.” Hence the origin of such appellations as “Memoria,” “Confessio,” “Martyrium,” and “Apostolia” given by the ancient Fathers to such places, and subsequently applied to the churches erected over or near them (Kozma, 21, note; Hierurgia, 496). The name “Martyrium,” however, was not always confined to the altar nor to the church built over a martyr’s tomb; it was sometimes given even to an ordinary church when the latter was erected through the zeal of any private individual. Thus, Constantine the Great called the church he built at Jerusalem a “Martyrium,” as being a monument or witness of his good feelings towards the Christian people (Riddle, Christian Antiquities, p. 704).








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