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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 Oriental disciplinary canons regarding the sacred symbol of salvation are very strict. No service must take place without having the Cross prominent. There is one placed on the altar for the people to kiss the moment they enter the church. It may be seen in all the principal streets of Eastern cities, especially within the Russian dominions, and there is hardly a private house in which the Crucifix and an image of our Blessed Lady, with a lamp burning before them, are not prominently in view (see Porters Travels, p. 54; Romanoff, Greco-Russian Church, pp. 84 and 93).

The Armenians have an extraordinary reverence for the Cross. Before they apply it to use it is first consecrated with much ceremony. To this end it is washed in wine and water, in imitation of the blood and water which flowed from our Saviour’s side, and is then anointed with the sacred oil, or meiron, in token of the Holy Spirit who descended upon him. Following this, several passages from the Psalms, the Prophets, and from the Epistles and Gospels are recited; after which the priest sends up a prayer of invocation that God may give to this Cross the power of casting out devils, of healing diseases, and of appeasing the wrath that visits us on account of our sins. A Cross when thus consecrated is called by the Armenians the “Throne of Christ,” his “Chariot, his “Weapon for the conquest of Satan” (Smith and Dwight, Researches in Armenia, vol. i. pp. 157, 158).

The Nestorians, also, have a singular reverence for it. In order that they may enter the house of God filled with holy recollections, it stands at the very threshold of all their churches (Badger, Nestorians and their Rituals, ii. 135), and not unfrequently is it worn with the prints of their kisses. The two authors just quoted inform us that the first act a Nestorian Christian performs upon entering the church, and before he takes his seat, is to doff his shoes and pay his obeisance to the Cross, which stands on a side altar, by humbly approaching and kissing it (ii. p. 210). One of the greatest festivals in the Nestorian calendar is “Holy-Cross Day,” which is celebrated with great pomp on the 13th of November. As the Rev. Mr. Badger admits, volumes might be written about the veneration paid the Cross by the Nestorians, heretics though they be.

Nor are the Copts behindhand in this sacred duty. Their reverence for it is so great that, in order to have it always before their eyes, they inscribe it on their arms by a process of tattooing; and when any one asks them whether they are Christians or not, the arm thus tattooed is at once displayed in testimony of their belief (Pococke, Travels in Egypt, p. 370).

Protestant missionaries to the East would do well to resume their reverence for the sacred symbol of salvation. As long as they reject it from their service, and ridicule the pious veneration paid to it East and West, their proselytes will be very few. In many parts of the Orient they are looked upon as heathens on this account alone. The authors above cited are forced to make open confession of this fact.








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