Page images
PDF
EPUB

anthems-Ecce lignum crucis, Crucem tuam adoramus, Dum Fabricator mundi, and the hymn Pange, lingua.

' It was also the custom of the celebrant to repeat, besides the seven penitential psalms, a prayer before the cross. A11 the sacramentaries contain prayers to be said when the cross is adored.'

Following the ceremony of adoration on Good Friday was another, which, according to Rock, was 'not insisted on for general observance,' but was a rite which might follow the prayer of adoration. This ceremony is worth quoting because it shows how literally the cross was the 'symbol of Christ. In this very simple liturgical drama the cross plays the role of Christ's person in the burial and resurrection. I quote the description in Fosbroke's British Monachism:

Because on that day was the burial of our Savior, an image of a sepulchre was made on a vacant side of the altar, and a rail drawn around it, where the cross was laid until it should have been worshiped, . . . The deacon's bearers wrapping it in the places where it had been worshiped, i. e., kissed, brought it back to the tomb, singing certain psalms, and there laid it with more psalmody. There it was watched till the night of Easter Sunday, by two, three, or four monks singing psalms. On easter day, the seven canonical hours were to be sung in the manner of the canons; and in the night, before matins, the sacrists, because our lord rested in the tomb, were to put the cross in its place. Then during a religious service four monks robed themselves, one of whom in an alb, as if he had somewhat to do, came stealingly to the tomb, and there, holding a palm branch, sat still till the responsory was ended; then the three others, carrying censers in their hands, came up to him, step by step, as if looking for something. As soon as he saw them approach, he began singing in a soft voice, “Whom seek ye?' to which was replied by the three others in chorus, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.' This was answered by the other, ‘He is not here, he is risen.' At which words the three last, turning to the choir, cried, 'Alleluia, the Lord is risen.' The other then, as if calling them back, sang, ‘Come and see the place,' and then rising, raised the cloth, showed them the place with

"A fairly close translation from the Regularis Concordia Monachorum ascribed to Dunstan, or with more probability to Ethelwold (Anglia 13. 426-428).

[ocr errors]

out the cross, and linen cloths in which it was wrapped. Upon this they laid down their censers, took the cloths, extended them to show that the Lord was risen, and singing an anthem, placed them upon the altar.

(g) Private Worship In the Canons of Ælfric it is written' that Christians should "pray to the holy rood so that they all greet the rood of God with a kiss." But in his sermon on the Invention of the Cross, Ælfric says: Christian men truly should bow to the hallowed rood in the name of Jesus, for although we have not that on which he suffered, its likeness is nevertheless holy, to which we can ever bow in our prayers to the Mighty Lord who suffered for men; and the rood is a memorial of his great passion, holy through him though it grew in a wood. We ever honor it for the honor of Christ, who redeemed us with love through it, for which we thank him as long as we live.' ?

Moreover, it is written in the life of Alcuin that whenever he saw the cross he bowed towards it, whispering these words:* ‘Tuam crucem adoramus, Domine, et tuam gloriosam recolimus passionem.' Ceolfrith also, 'worshiped' the cross which accompanied him when he set out from Wearmouth for Rome. The deacons of his church went with him on board the vessel, carrying lighted tapers and a golden cross. When he had reached the other side of the river 'he worshiped the cross, then mounted his horse and departed.'

It is evident from these examples alone that the worship of the cross was not restricted to the 'adoration of Good Friday, or even to the customary devotion paid to it in the church,' but was practised by individuals in private.

* A. S. Laws, ed. Thorpe, p. 449. *Hom., 2, 306. Vita, etc., Patrolog. Lat. 100. * The same prayer is in the Durham Ritual, p. 149. * Bede, Hist. Abb. 2. 392, ed. Giles. Durham Rit., pp. 149-150.

(h) The Nature of the Adoration But whatever this adoration may have amounted to in practice, in theory it was not a worship of the cross itself, Ælfric concludes his sermon for the fifth Sunday in Lent thus: “Through the tree came death to us, since Adam ate the forbidden apple; and through the tree came to us again life and redemption. In the holy rood-token is our blessing, and to the cross we pray, by no means however to the tree itself, but to the Almighty Lord who hung for us on the holy rood.' So also Alcuin, who was foremost in honoring the cross, says: 'We prostrate ourselves bodily before the cross, mentally before the Lord; we venerate the cross by which we were redeemed, and we invoke him who redeemed us.'This is clearly indicated by the prayer of the Adoration ceremony, already quoted, and the same thing is true of all other prayers 'to be said when the cross is adored.' The cross was the visible symbol of Christ; to this the worshiper bowed his head, but in the words of his prayer he invoked Christ.

However, it was a distinction difficult to maintain, and, as we shall find later, the cross became, probably as a result of this adoration, endowed with a personality to the point of being deified. In the early days of the faith the Christian repudiated the name of 'cross-worshiper,' but at the time which we are studying there was no longer reproach in the name. Aldhelm, for example, calls himself 'worshiper of the cross

as a synonym for Christian.”

III. THE SIGN OF THE CROSS

The visible, material cross-crux exemplatawas not more important in the service of the church and the life of the Christian than the cross in its invisible or imaginary

1 Homilies 2. 240.
* Patrolog. Lat. 75. 479.

* Pref. Liber de Virgin., Fatrolog. Lat. 89. 103. Lingard 2. 107 gives references to the author of the Life of St. Willibald, and one of his correspondents, who uses the same term.

form, the sign of the cross' or crux usualis. Long before the Christian dared to expose the symbol of his Lord in outward, visible form, this was his countersign among his fellow-disciples, his profession of faith before his enemies, and his comfort and resource for every event, from the trivial details of daily life to the deepest experiences of joy

or sorrow.

The original method of making the sign was to mark a cross on the forehead with the thumb or fore-finger. The same mark could also be applied to blessing parts of the body or other objects. In the sixth century another method had risen into favor, in which the hand was raised to the forehead, then drawn down to the heart, then to the left shoulder, then to the right. These were the two chief methods—the small cross and the large cross—and there were in the making of the latter a variety of methods of holding the fingers, with a corresponding variety of significations.

Both the small and the large cross were known in Anglo-Saxon England. In the Egbert Pontifical the sign is referred to as made cum pollice or cum digito. Alcuin, in speaking of the celebration of the Mass, evidently has the cross in mind.' Boniface says: ‘Habete Christum in corde, et signum sanctæ crucis in fronte,'* and there are many other references to this small cross upon the brow. According to William of Malmesbury's account of the Life of St. Dunstan, this usage persisted in his day; for, as the saint beheld Edgitha making the sign frequently upon her brow, he cried, ' May that hand never decay!' And it was proved

* Kraus, Realencyl. Christ. Alt. p. p. 252.
? ibid.
* Egbert, Pontif., pp. 36. 40.

* Patrolog. Lat. 100. 499: 'Crucem in fronte ponit diaconus, . deinde in pectore.'

Opera, ed. Giles, 2. 97.

[ocr errors]

after her death that the hand that made the sign remained uncorrupted.

Possibly the long life of this earlier use among the Anglo-Saxons was due to the great number of legends with which they were familiar which went back to the time when the small cross was the only one in use; and also to their adherence to rituals which were probably of very early origin. But in the Blickling Homilies Christians are exhorted to bless all their bodies seven times with Christ's rood-token. In this the reference seems to be to the large cross. Ælfric describes this as follows: ‘A man may wave about wonderfully with his hands without creating any blessing, unless he make the sign of the cross. In that case the fierce fiend will soon be frightened on account of the victorious token. With three fingers one must bless himself for the Holy Trinity.'

By the same authority we are told that the sign of the cross in its origin goes back to Christ himself;* therefore, since the Savior gave this token to his disciples, it had the added dignity of a sacrament.

8

(a) The Sign in Ritual The idea which underlay the use of the sign in the ritual of the church was its power to purify the person or object so blessed from the presence of evil spirits. This is brought

* Zöckler, p. 247, refers to this princess as an example of self-inAicted cross-torture, that she scratched the sign of the cross upon her forehead an innumerable number of times with her sharp thumbnail. The only reference to anything of the sort whatever is the passage mentioned above, wherein I find no hint of anything beyond the usual crossing of the forehead. The passage is as follows: Viderat eam sanctus Dunstanus in consecratione basilicæ beati Dionisii ... pollicem frequenter dextrum protendere et signum crucis fronti a regione pingere.' Wm. Malm., Gesta Pontif., p. 189.

op. 47.
3 Homilies 1. 462.

* ibid. 2. 508. Also Gospel of Nicodemus, ed. Thwaites, p. 17: *And se Hælend . . . rõde tācen ofer Adam geworhte.'

« PreviousContinue »