« PreviousContinue »
In the references to texts and authorities, the abbrevia* tions in the foot-notes should be recognized without special mention. Where the name of an author only is cited, the work is the only work facing his name in the bibliography, in the edition there mentioned. Some texts of the Patrologia Latina are reprints from other editions. In these the paging of the original is preserved by black-faced numerals. As the references in the indices of these volumes is to the original rather than to the actual paging, I have followed that system here.
VARIETIES OF CROSS-WORSHIP The event of supreme importance in the history of the worship of the cross as an emblem of the Christian faith was the conversion of Constantine, which occurred in the year 312. This was the starting-point for all the adoration of the cross in the Middle Ages, and the one event which at a bound lifted the emblem from disgrace, and crowned it with glory and honor.
Up to that time the cross had been the Christian's reproach. While to him it was associated with the sacrifice of his Redeemer, to the world it meant only shame and misery. And because, with Paul, he gloried in the cross of Christ, he was taunted with being a 'worshiper of the cross' (crucicolus), a term which the Fathers resented and repudiated. So, to avoid the charge of staurolatry, and to save the symbol of the faith from the sport and malice of the pagans, the early Christians as a rule refrained from open representations of the cross. Instead, they used emblems, the 'cruces dissimulatæ,' such as the letter Chi, the anchor, the so-called Swastika cross, and, chief of all, the famous Chi Rho monogram.
But after the vision of the cross in the heavens, and the subsequent conversion of the Emperor, the cross needed no longer to remain in hiding. Shortly after his conversion Constantine forbade magistrates or great land-owners any longer to use the cross as an instrument of punishment. So, while at first the ideas of ignominy were yet too freshly associated with the cross for it to be exalted publicly, and the monogram remained the favorite emblem, it came to pass that, as actual scenes of crucifixion faded from memory, the monogram steadily receded, and the cross came to the front. By the time of the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons
the cross had replaced its former associations of shame by those of honor, its praises were sung like those of a god, and it was ' adored' by a formal ceremony of the church.
In the year 597, the missionary band led by Augustine landed in Kent, and established the Christian faith once more on British soil. Then followed a period of some four centuries and a half before the coming of the Normans. It is in the remains of this period that we must look for the ideas of the cross as they prevailed among the AngloSaxons.
Without a minute knowledge of the literature and rituals of the Roman, the Gallic, and the British churches it is impossible to define the sources for all the Anglo-Saxon ideas and practices under this head. But it is possible to give the facts as they are found, and to examine them in the light of such a general survey of the previous history of the Christian church as may be gained from authoritative works of reference. We may take as a starting point the legendary history of the cross.
I. THE CROSS IN LEGEND
(a) The Wood of the Cross The root of the mediæval legends of the True Cross is in the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. Just after the announcement is made in hell that Christ is on his way to release the prophets and patriarchs, Seth, at his father's bidding, relates the ancient prophecy made to him by the archangel Michael (14. 3-8) :
I, Seth, when I was praying to God at the gates of Paradise, beheld the angel of the Lord, Michael, appear to me, saying, I am sent unto thee from the Lord; I am appointed to preside over human bodies. I tell thee, Seth, do not pray to God in tears and entreat him for the oil of the tree of mercy wherewith to anoint thy father Adam for his headache, because thou canst not by any means obtain it till the last day and times, namely till five thousand and five hundred years be past. Then will Christ, the most merciful Son of God, come on earth to raise again the human body of Adam, and