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

Lights are significant of great respect, and hence they were used on occasions of great moment. The Athenians employed them on the feasts of Minerva, Vulcan, and Prometheus, and the Romans used them on all their solemn days (Notes and Illustrations on the Reasons of the Law of Moses, by Rabbi Maimonides, p. 411). Out of the great respect that the Jews had for the garments of their high-priest, a light was kept constantly burning before them as long as they remained deposited in the tower called “Antonia” at Jerusalem (Josephus, Antiq. of the Jews, book xviii. chap. iv. 3). The grand lama, or sovereign pontiff, of Tartary is never seen in his palace without having a profusion of lamps and torches burning around him (Burder, Relig. Customs and Ceremonies), and it is a well-known fact that a certain European dignitary—a son of one of the crowned heads—upon occasion of his visit to this country some years ago, refused to sit down in the apartments assigned him in one of our fashionable hotels until two wax candles had been brought and lighted before him. This etiquette is very common in the East (see Religious Ceremonies and Customs, by Burder, p. 502 and passim).

Lights at Funerals and Graves.—Eusebius gives a glowing account of the profusion of lights used at the funeral obsequies of Constantine the Great, who died A.D. 337, and St. Jerome speaks of the quantity used at the burial of the pious St. Paula. When the body of St. John Chrysostom was conveyed from Comana to Constantinople vast crowds of people came to meet the cortége in ships on the Bosphorus, and so numerous were the lights that burned on the occasion that the whole sea appeared as if ablaze (Hierurgia, p. 403). Lights were kept constantly burning in Westminster Abbey, London, before England’s great heroes, and the old story of lamps being found burning in sepulchres after the lapse of ages clearly shows how important it was considered by the ancients to show this mark of respect to the dead.








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