Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

OF THE ANNUAL FESTIVALS, OR HOLI

DAYS.

Besides the weekly festival of the Lord's day, the ancient Christians celebrated annual festivals in honour of our Saviour, such as the Nativity and Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost. The antiquity of these holidays, the reason of their institution, and the manner in which they were solemnized, will be shewn more particularly, when each is separately considered. At present it will be sufficient to remark, that these days were solemnly observed throughout the whole Christian Church.

Other annual festivals were likewise instituted at an early era, in commemoration of the Apostles, and of Martyrs, by whose exertions or sufferings Christianity had been propagated and maintained. At what precise period these festivals began to bę observed cannot, I apprehend, be ascertained; but it is certain that they were solemnized in the second century The memories of the Martyrs, and the “ annual observance of the days on which they suf“ fered inartyrdom,” are frequently mentioned by CYPRIAN and TERTULLIAN: and before either of them the circular letter of the Church of Smyrna, on the martyrdom of POLYCARP their Bishop, who suffered in 168, had informed their fellow Christians, that “after " the body was burned, they collected and decently “ interred his bones," which, they observe, were " to “ them more valuable than gold and diamonds. At 5

“ the

[ocr errors]

“ the place of interment,” they add, we mean as

soon as God will permit, with joy and triumph to s assemble, in order to solemnize his birth-day *, " not only in honour of the memory of the Martyrs “ departed, but as an example and encouragement “ to those, that are to come.'

At their first institution, the festivals of Martyrs were not, like the annual festivals of our Lord, universally observed by the whole body of the Catholic Church. They were usually celebrated only in those particular Churches where the Martyrs had lived or suffered; where they had been best known, and their memory was held in the highest veneration. Thus the birth-day of POLYCARP was observed at Smyrna, and that of St. CYPRIAN at Carthage, of which places they had respectively been Bishops! and it is probable that the festivals of St. Paul and St. Peter , who are reported to have both suffered martyrdom at Rome, were observed at first only by that Church, or at most only by the Churches, to which they had written or preached. These festivals are styled by JEROM, seasons appointed in honour of the Martyrs,

The festivals of Martyrs were, in the language of the Church of that age, their birth-days; on which they were born to a new life, the life of immortality and glory. “When you hear of " the birth-day of a Saint, think not," says CHRYSOLOGUS, " that ** it means the day on which he was born on earth in the * flesh; but the day on which he was born from earth to heaven, “ from labour to rest, from torment to delight, from misery to of happiness."

# Wliether Peter was ever at Rome has been doubted by sgmę lcgrned moderns,

according according to the different usages of different countries * : yet the festivals of such Martyrs, as were more eminent, and especially of the Apostles and Evangelists, were in a short time universally appointed to be observed, nearly in the same manner as they are by the Church of England at this day.

CYPRIAN, during his exile, exhorts his Clergy carefully to note the particular days, on which the Martyrs suffered, that the anniversary of their festival might be commemorated at the proper season.

In these commemorations it was customary to recite authentic do cuments of the acts and sufferings of the Martyrs : and the Council of Carthage, which prohibits the reading of any book in the Church, except canonical Scripture, permits the sufferings of the Martyrs to be read on the anniversaries of their festivals. The reading of such narrations in the Latin and African Churches is often mentioned by the Western Fathers. Of the Legenda, Legends, or Narratives to be read, honourable mention is frequently made in the earlier ages; but the forgeries of the latter Monks, and the fabulous stories of the lives of saints admitted into the Breviaries, have so far disgraced the term, that a legend now signifies a Romish, or romantic fiction, a narrative equally unauthentic, and incredible.

To admonish others of their duty, and to excite them to an imitation of the fortitude and virtues of the Martyr, whose festival was commemorated, Orations were delivered. At the oblation of the Eucharist, which was always administered on these occasions, praises and thanksgivings were offered up for the good example of the Martyr in particular, and in general of all “ Christ's servants departed this life:" and sometimes prayers were made for them, as well as for the faithful, who were still alive.

* Tempora in honore martyrum pro diversa regionum varietate instituta. In Gal. iv.

werc

From the Calendars, or records kept in different Churches to preserve the memory of primitive Martyrs, as well as of reputed saints and confessors of more modern date, general accounts were formed; and the number in the martyrologies at length was found to be so immense, that Churches in general appointed one day for the common commemoration of all saints. Each individual Church, however, assigned especial days for the particular observance of the festivals of the Apostles, of their own indigenous saints, and of such of those of other countries, as had obtained superior celebrity,

In this state were found the calendar and offices of the Church of England at the time of our Reformation. Whatever had been publicly practised or taught, in the preceding ages, was then scrupulously examined ; and either preserved, as it was deemed decent and useful, or rejected as unprofitable or offensive. Our Reformers retained as many of the holidays, as they thought conducive to the advancement of Religion and true piety, taking care, however, to correct some erroneous notions, that had been entertained respecting the Saints, whose anniversaries they still continued to commemorate.

I am persuaded that the Compilers of our Liturgy, and the founders of our Protestant Church, originally intended, that all the festivals should be observed in the same manner with Sundays; that on each of them men should attend the public worship, and rest, except in cases of necessity, from their ordinary occupations of life. Let the reader judge what were their intentions from the words of the statute *. « Foraso much as at all times men be not so mindful to laud " and praise God, so ready to resort and hear God's “ holy word, and to come to the Holy Communion s and other laudable rights, which are to be observed in every Christian congregation, as their bounden

duty doth require; therefore to call men to remem« brance of their duty, and to help their infirmity, it “ hath been wholesomely provided, that there should s be some certain times and days appointed, wherein " the Christians should cease from all other kinds of labours, and should apply themselves only and

wholly unto the aforesaid holy works, properly per“ taining unto true Religion ; the which times and “ days specially appointed for the same are called .holidays, not for the matter or nature either of the time or day, nor for any of the saints sake, whose memories are had on those days (for so all days and times considered are God's creatures, and all

of like holiness) but for the nature and condition

of those godly and holy works wherewith only God is to be honoured, and the congregation to be edi

5 and 6 Edw. VI. C. 3.

fied,

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »