Page images
PDF
EPUB

a body of lawyers in 1563; but the members are no longer confined to that profession. Its object is the relief of prisoners confined for debt, particularly those whose industry and previous good character are an evidence of honesty and upright intentions. Many of the directors, though not all, being members of the law, their professional opportunities enable them at once to discover and relieve the true objects of such charity. The bank was opened in 1605, and ten years afterwards was fixed in the present magnificent establishment; but in 1807, at the suppression of the banks under the French, this also was merged in the Banca delle due Sicilie. Their means, therefore, are less ample than at former periods ; but they still effect a great deal of good. They maintain an hospital for the sick of the prisons; and on five of the principal festivals of the year, liquidate the debts of a certain number of prisoners, selecting those whose circumstances appear to involve the greatest degree of hardships and distress. These, however, though the primary and principal, are not their only works of charity. They distribute considerable alms, and bestow at stated periods, dowries of two hundred ducats each on the most deserving inmates of one of the conservatories already named.

But the most interesting of all these institutions is the Monte di Misericordia. It was established in 1601, by seven Neapolitan noblemen, who bound themselves by mutual agreement to practise in common the seven corporal works of mercy. Their obligation at first was limited to visiting the sick in the hospital every Friday. Besides their personal attendance, they contributed considerable sums of money, partly from their own resources, partly collected from the charity of the faithful. The funds thus at their disposal were applied to the maintenance of a certain number of patients, and to other charitable objects connected with the hospital. In 1604 they opened a charitable ba nk, for which they obtained the sanction of the government, as well as a bull of Paul V, dated November 5, 1605. The primitive fervour of the brethren remains unabated. The administration is distributed into seven departments, corresponding with the seven coporal works of mercy; and it is a rule of this institute, that each member shall serve during a given period in each department. As a specimen of the pains which are taken by this pious brotherhood to ameliorate the condition of the poor, we may mention that among their other works of charity they supply every year to three or four hundred poor the means of visiting the baths of Casamiccia in the island of Ischia, where they are lodged and maintained for twenty days at the expense of the confraternity. This is a trife in itself, but it tends to display the spirit by which they are actuated.

Lastly, in addition to these and numberless other institutions, each of which has its own specific destination, there is a general commission of charity, which may serve as a supplement to all. We allude to the Commissione della Real Beneficenza. It is a species of royal almonry, not limited by any specific obligation, and intended to relieve all urgent cases of destititution of what kind soever they may be. This commission dispenses annually at least thirty thousand ducats.

The length to which this notice has already swelled precludes us from offering any observations, of our own. Nor, indeed, is observation necessary. The charity of Naples is beyond all the praise which it is in our power to bestow, and we shall content ourselves with summing up, in one sentence of Eustace, the character of this often misrepresented city:—" There are more retreats open to repentant females, and more means employed to secure the innocence of girls exposed to the dangers of seduction, than are to be found in London, Paris, Vienna, and Petersburgh united; and it must be confessed that in the first and most useful of virtues, in the grand characteristic quality of the Christian, charity, she surpasses many, and yields to no city in the world."*

• Eustace's Classical Tour in Italy, vol. ii. p. 357.

From “Rome as it was under Paganism, and as it became under the Popes.” MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF THE PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANS.

From its earliest promulgation, Christ's kingdom had numbered amongst its subjects, individuals of all ranks and pursuits in life. They were found in the court, in the camp, in the liberal professions ; but the lowliest and most forgotten of society, slaves, artizens, the weaker sex, and those on whom devolved the weight of drugery in town and country, formed such and overwhelming majority in the church, that the few exceptions were overlooked; and the christians were stigmatized with epithets significant of mean and contemptible occupations, and reviled continually, at least for the first two centuries, as being an aggregate of the lowest dregs, ignorant, imbecile, lost to fame and patriotism, and in every respect despicable, and deserving of execration. They labored in all the machanic trades interiningled with the heathens; exposed their wares and productions with theirs in the common markets; but, although there were painters, sculptors, engravers, and workers in the precious metals, at all times among the Christians, still for the first two centuries they were rather averse than otherwise to the cultivation of the fine arts, on account of their remote or immediate connection with paganism.

To sign his forehead with the cross was the Christian's first act on awakening before the dawn; he repeated this royal sign (as it was called in those ages) before commencing to dress. His costume differed in nothing from that usually worn by persons of the same rank with himself, except that it was always in keeping with that modesty and freedom from ostentation which characterised his entire bearing and conduct wherever he appeared. The pallium

was generally preferred to the toga, it being the garb of philosophers, and those of a grave and ascetic turn. As to the females, they were equally free from vanity and display; at the same time that they conformed in their style of dress to the fashion of the circle and time in which they lived, and a inoderate degree of ornament was not rejected either by matrons or the unmarried.

Having dressed and carefully washed both face and hands, not through superstilion, but for sake of a bodily cleanliness which he was taught to regard as an emblem of that mental purity which he was ever bound to cherish, the Christian, again signing himself with the cross, commenced his inorning prayer -adoring the Divine Majesty, and giving thanks for having been preserved during sleep and brought, invigorated by repose, to the beginning of a new day. If there were many of the faithful in the same house, they assembled together for this prayer, which was recited by the father of the family, unless some one of the clerical condition happened to be present. This was called the matin prayer, but it was afterwards called “ lauds,” because it consisted for the most part of psalms and hymns of praise. The Christian's posture was indicative of reverential feeling and fervor while he prayed. On Sundays, and during paschal time, or from Easter day to Penticost, he prayed standing erect, (to remind him of the resurrection,) with eyes elevated towadrs heaven, and arms extended, like those of his Saviour on the cross, and always looking towards the east; for as the orient splendours disperse the shades of night, and illuminate the world, so did the appearance of his Divine Master, “the orient from on high,” dispel the darkness of sin, and enlightened those who sat in the shadow of death.

His matin prayer concluded with outpourings of glory to God on high; the Christian again made the sign of the cross; and, issuing from his abode, with meek countenance and recollected step, proceeded to the church, or in seasons of persecution, to some crypt, or catacomb, to assist at the Divine mysteries. He did not enter the holy place till he had first performed another lustration at a fountain of holy water in the atrium. This was done not for bodily neatness, for the Christian never came to church with soiled hands or face, but as a sign of the spotless purity he should bring into the Divine presence; and having once entered the church or oratory, he took care not to depart until the class of the congregation to which he belonged had been formally dismissed.

After the appointed prayers and hymns, portions of the Old and New Testaments were recited, and the bishop, or a priest appointed by him, delivered a homily or familiar discourse, in which he expounded what had been read, and enforced its edilying examples and lessons of virtue by fervent exhortations ; then followed the prayers for the catechumens, and the classes of penitents permitted to come beyond the atrium, and into the first division of the nave. This portion of the service, called the mass of catechumens, was terminated by the “ite missa est,” or a proclamation, by a deacon, to the unbaptized and penitents to withdraw.

When they had done so, under the inspection of the subdeacons and ostiarii. or those who had charge of the doors, the faithful approached the altar with their offerings of bread and wine. The oblation ended, the bishop or priest, appointed to celebrate, having washed his hands while reciting a prayer and ihen kissed the altar, made the offeratory, or act of presenting to the heavenly Father, with appropriate prayer that portion of the bread and wine prepared for the offerings, by the deacon, for the purposes of sacrifice. The latter was careful to pour some drops of water into the chalice, in conformity with the example of our Lord and his apostles, before he presented it to the celebrant. Some other prayers having been recited, the bishop said, elevating his hands, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” And the people having responded that it was just and right so to do; he commenced the preface, or, as the Greeks call it, the triumphal hymn, somewhat to the following effect:

“Verily it is meet, just, equitable, and salutary, that always and everywhere, we give thanks to thee, O holy Lord, Father Omnipotent, Eternal God through Christ our Lord,—through whom the angels praise thy Majesty, the dominations adore, the powers celestial tremble, and the entire heavens, with their mighty spirits and the blessed seraphim, exult, and with one voice entone and celebrate their canticles of adoration. With whom we implore that our voices also may be commanded to unite in accents of supplication."

At these words the choir, joined by the whole congregation, took up the angelic hymn:

“Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabboath, full are the heavens and the earth of thy glory, Hosanna in the highest !" that is, “We hail Thee,—Thee we supplicate, who art in the highest heavens.”

Then commenced the canon, or as it was sometimes called, the action of the sacrifice, during which the celebrant frequently made the sign of the cross over the bread and wine about to be changed, by the word of our Lord, into his own most adorable body and blood. After imploring peace, union, and the aid of heaven upon the church, and recommending to the Divine favor of the various ranks of the hierarchy, of the faithful, and of all not yet aggregated to the fold; and having commemorated the holy apostles and saints, the awful words of consecration (as they are set down by St. Paul) were pronounced first over the bread, and then over the chalice, according to the Divine institution. Then, after the prayers, commeorative of the passion, death, and resurection, and ascension of our Lord, and the memento for the dead, or prayer for the souls of the faithful departed, the priest said aloud the "pater noster," or Lord's prayer. The pax, or kiss of peace, followed, when the male portion of the congregation, placed in the isle to the right of the entrance, embraced each other in token of mutual forgiveness, and fraternal charity; and the females did the same, in their own portion of the church, which was in the left aisle, and separated from that of the men by the nave,-allotted to catechumens and penitents, and by the chancel, or choir, immediately before the altar ; while the clergy performed

this holy ceremony as they stood, according to their rank, on either side of the the bishop's throne placed in the basis, and immediately in front of the altar steps.

After the communion of the celebrant, the deacons sung : “Come taste and see how sweet the Lord is.”—This being an invitation to all (for in those days no Christian came to the Divine mysteries, but with a pure conscience,) to partake of the blessed eucharist. Having adored and received the blessed sacrament, repeating “ Amen," when the priest or deacon said, “ Behold the body of Christ,” the Christian devoutly abided the rest of the Liturgic prayers, and, having made his thanksgiving, returned 'in deep recollection to his dwelling. And so early did the Christians rise, and such was the admirable punctuality and order of the Divine offices (called antelucanæ, from being celebrated before the dawn,) that the Christian was ever among the first at his peculiar trade or avocation, to which he applied having as usual signed himself with the cross. But if a father, or one having guardianship of others, he took care first to instruct his children and dependants in the points of the sermon or discourse he had heard, and in the Christian doctrine generally

A little before noon the labourer or the artizan suspended his task, and the housewife and handmaid their domestic employments, and the short interval before the midday repast was given to a prayer, a hymn, and a lecture, (called sert, because said at the sixth hour,) that the soul as well as the body might have its proper aliment, and that servor, so liable to fall away, might be invigorated. All were taught to meditate during their occupations, or to relax the mind, and beguile time with pious songs, but no disedifying expression, or one that did not savor of truth and virtue, ever escaped their lips.

Before reclining at table, some one, the father of the family, unless in presence of a priest or cleric, used to make the sign of the cross over the viands, the water and wine, repeating a brief prayer. Instead of voluptuous music and indecencies, in which the pagans delighted, a chorus of young voices shed an angelic charm over the Christian's refection; and when they pledged each other, the cup was signed with the cross, and the name of Christ invoked. After the thanksgiving, they entertained one another for a while with hymns, or in listening while one read from the sacred volume. Then instead of indulging in sloth, or giving a lose rein to the passions, they either resumed their occuppations as before, or betook them, during the quiet time when the pagans lay buried in debauchery or sleep, to visit and console the captive and confessors in prison, to welcome pilgrims and wash their feet, supplying them with every entertainment, or in carrying alms to widows and orphans in their distress.

Nones, a form of prayer like those appointed for the first, third, and sixth, was recited at three o'clock, the ninth hour of the day. It a field labourer, or one whose craft called him from his own house, the Christian on returning at even-tide to his family, was surrounded by his children, to wliom he dispensed

« PreviousContinue »