« PreviousContinue »
ancients built their temples looking forth. Nor was the contrary rule as stated by Vitruvius less plain in meaning ; the sacred houses of the immortal gods shall be so arranged, that if no reason prevents and choice is free, the temple and the statue erected in the cell shall look toward the west, so that they who approach the altar to sacrifice and vow and pray may look at once toward the statue and the eastern sky, the divine figures thus seeming to arise and look upon them. Altars of the gods were to stand toward the east.
Unknown in primitive Christianity, the ceremony of orientation was developed within its first four centuries. It became an accepted custom to turn in prayer toward the east, the mystic region of the Light of the World, the Sun of Righteousness. Augustine says, “When we stand at prayer, we turn to the east, where the heaven arises, not as though God were only there, and had forsaken all other parts of the world, but to admonish our mind to turn to a more excellent nature, that is, to the Lord.” No wonder that the early Christians were thought to practise in substance the rite of sun-worship which they practised in form. Thus Tertullian writes : “ Others indeed with greater truth and verisimilitude believe the sun to be our God. ...: the suspicion arising from its being known that we pray toward the region of the east.” Though some of the most ancient and honoured churches of Christendom stand to show that orientation was no original law of ecclesiastical architecture, yet it became dominant in early centuries. That the author of the “ Apostolical Constitutions' should be able to give directions for building churches toward the east (ó oikos ¢otw émiunkūs, katavarodàs Tetpappévos), just as Vitruvius had laid down the rule as to the temples of the gods, is only a part of that assimilation of the church to the temple which took effect so largely in the scheme of worship. Of all Christian ceremony, however, it was in the rite of baptism that orientation took its fullest and most picturesque
1 Lucian. De Domo, vi. Vitruv. de Architectura, iv. 5. See Welcker, vol. i. p. 403.
form. The catechumen was placed with face toward the west, and then commanded to renounce Satan with gestures of abhorrence, stretching out his hands against him, or smiting them together, and blowing or spitting against him thrice. Cyril of Jerusalem, in his 'Mystagogic Catechism,' thus depicts the scene : “Ye first came into the ante-room of the baptistery, and standing toward the west (upòs ràs dvouàs) ye were commanded to put away Satan, stretching out your hands as though he were present. . . . . And why did ye stand toward the west? It was needful, for sunset is the type of darkness, and he is darkness and has his strength in darkness; therefore symbolically looking toward the west ye renounce that dark and gloomy ruler.” Then turning round to the east, the catechumen took up his allegiance to his new master, Christ. The ceremony and its significance are clearly set forth by Jerome, thus: “In the mysteries (meaning baptism] we first renounce him who is in the west, and dies to us with our sins; and so, turning to the east, we make a covenant with the Sun of righteousness, promising to be his servants.” This perfect double rite of east and west, retained in the baptismal ceremony of the Greek Church, may be seen in Russia to this day. The orientation of churches and the practice of turning to the east as an act of worship, are common to both Greek and Latin ritual. In our own country they declined from the Reformation, till at the beginning of the present century they seemed falling out of use; since then, however, they have been restored to a certain prominence by the revived medievalism of our own day. To the student of history, it is a striking example of the connexion of thought and rite through the religions of the lower and higher culture, to see surviving in our midst, with meaning dwindled into symbolism, this ancient solar rite. The influence of the divine Sun upon his rude and ancient worshippers still subsists before our eyes as a mechanical force, acting diamagnetically to anljust the axis of the church and turn the body of the worshipper.
1 Augustin. de Serm. Dom. in Monte, ii. 5. Tertullian. Contra Valentin. iii.; Apolog. xvi. Constitutiones Apostolicæ, ii. 57. Cyril. Catech. Myst. i. 2. Hieronym. in Amos. vi. 14; Bingham, Antiquities of Chr. Church, book viii. ch. 3, book xi. ch. 7, book xiii. ch. 8. J. M. Neale, “Eastern Church,' part i. p. 956 ; Romanoff, 'Greco-Russian Church,' p. 67.
The last group of rites whose course through religious history is to be outlined here, takes in the varied dramatic acts of ceremonial purification or Lustration. With all the obscurity and intricacy due to age-long modification, the primitive thought which underlies these ceremonies is still open to view. It is the transition from practical to symbolic cleansing, from removal of bodily impurity to deliverance from invisible, spiritual, and at last moral evil. Our language follows this ideal movement to its utmost stretch, where such words as cleansing and purification have passed from their first material meaning, to signify removal of ceremonial contamination, legal guilt, and moral sin. What we thus express in metaphor, the men of the lower culture began early to act in ceremony, purifying persons and objects by various prescribed rites, especially by dipping them in and sprinkling them with water, or fumigating them with and passing them through fire. It is the plainest proof of the original practicality of proceedings now passed into formalism, to point out how far the ceremonial lustrations still keep their connexion with times of life when real purification is necessary, how far they still consist in formal cleansing of the new-born child and the mother, of the manslayer who has shed blood, or the mourner who has touched a corpse. In studying the distribution of the forms of lustration among the races of the world, while allowing for the large effect of their transmission from religion to religion, and from nation to nation, we may judge that their diversity of detail and purpose scarcely favours a theory of their being all historically derived from one or even several special religions of the ancient world. They seem more largely to exemplify independent working out, in different directions, of an idea common to mankind at large. This view may be justified by surveying lustration through a series of typical instances, which show its appearance and character in savage and barbaric culture, as being an act belonging to certain well-marked events of human life.
The purification of the new-born child appears among the lower races in various forms, but perhaps in some particular instances borrowed from the higher. It should be noticed that though the naming of the child is often associated with its ceremonial cleansing, there is no real connexion between the two rites, beyond their coming due at the same early time of life. To those who look for the matter-of-fact origin of such ceremonies, one of the most suggestive of the accounts available is a simple mention of the two necessary acts of washing and name-giving, as done together in mere practical purpose, but not as yet passed into formal ceremony—the Kichtak Islanders, it is remarked, at birth wash the child, and give it a name. Among the Yumanas of Brazil, as soon as the child can sit up, it is sprinkled with a decoction of certain herbs, and receives a name which has belonged to an ancestor. Among some Jakun tribes of the Malay Peninsula, as soon as the child is born it is carried to the nearest stream and washed; it is then brought back to the house, the fire is kindled, and fragrant wood thrown on, over which it is passed several times. The New Zealanders' infant baptism is no new practice, and is considered by them an old traditional rite, but nothing very similar is observed among other branches of the Polynesian race. Whether independently invented or not, it was thoroughly worked into the native religious scheme. The baptism was performed on the eighth day or earlier, at the side of a stream or elsewhere, by a native priest who sprinkled water on the child with a branch or twig; sometimes the child was immersed. With this lustration it received its name, the priest repeating a list of ancestral names till the child chose one for itself by sneezing at it. The ceremony is of the nature of a dedication, and was accompanied by rhythmical formulas of exhortation. The future warrior was bidden to flame with anger, to leap nimbly and ward off the spears, to be angry and bold and industrious, to work before the dew is off the ground; the future housewife was bidden,to get food and go for firewood and weave garments with panting of breath. In after years, a second sacred sprinkling was performed to admit a lad into the rank of warriors. It has to be noticed with reference to the reason of this ceremonial washing, that a newborn child is in the highest degree tapu, and may only be touched by a few special persons till the restriction is removed. In Madagascar, a fire is kept up in the room for several days, then the child in its best clothes is in due form carried out of the house and back to its mother, both times being carefully lifted over the fire, which is made near the door. In Africa, some of the most noticeable ceremonies of the class are these. The people of Sarac wash the child three days after birth with holy water.3 When a Mandingo child was about a week old its hair was cut, and the priest, invoking blessings, took it in his arms, whispered in its ear, spat thrice in its face, and pronounced its name aloud before the assembled company.4 In Guinea, when a child is born, the event is publicly proclaimed, the new-born babe is brought into the streets, and the headman of the town or family sprinkles it with water from a basin, giving it a name and invoking blessings of health and wealth upon it; other friends follow the example, till the child is thoroughly drenched. In these various examples
i Billings, ‘N. Russia,' p. 175. 2 Martius, 'Ethnog. Amer.' vol. i. p. 485. 3 Journ. Ind. Archip.' vol. ii. p. 364.
1 Tarlor, New Zealand,' p. 184 ; Yate, p. 82 ; Polack, vol. i. p. 51 : A. S. Thomson, vol. i. p. 118; Klemm, Cultur-Gesch.' vol. iv. p. 304. See Schirren, “Wandersagen der Neuseeländer,' pp. 58, 183; Shortland, p. 145.
2 Ellis, Madagascar,' vol. i. p. 152. 3 Munzinger, Ost-Afrika,' p. 387. 4 Park, “Travels,' ch. vi. o J. L. Wilson, Western Africa,' p. 399. See also Bastian, ‘Mensch,'