aA
aA
aA
History of the Christian Church, Volume III: Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity. A.D. 311-600.
« Prev Festivals of the Saints Next »

§ 85. Festivals of the Saints.


The system of saint-worship, like that of the worship of Mary, became embodied in a series of religious festivals, of which many had only a local character, some a provincial, some a universal. To each saint a day of the year, the day of his death, or his heavenly birthday, was dedicated, and it was celebrated with a memorial oration and exercises of divine worship, but in many cases desecrated by unrestrained amusements of the people, like the feasts of the heathen gods and heroes.

The most important saints’ days which come down from the early church, and bear a universal character, are the following:

1. The feast of the two chief apostles Peter and Paul,848848   Natalis apostolorum Petri et Pauli. on the twenty-ninth of June, the day of their martyrdom. It is with the Latins and the Greeks the most important of the feasts of the apostles, and, as the homilies for the day by Gregory Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, and Leo the Great show, was generally introduced as early as the fourth century

2. Besides this, the Roman church has observed since the fifth century a special feast in honor of the prince of the apostles and for the glorification of the papal office: the feast of the See of Peter849849   Festum cathedrae Petri. on the twenty-second of February, the day on which, according to tradition, he took possession of the Roman bishopric. With this there was also an Antiochan St. Peter’s day on the eighteenth of January, in memory of the supposed episcopal reign of this apostle in Antioch. The Catholic liturgists dispute which of these two feasts is the older. After Leo the Great, the bishops used to keep the Natales. Subsequently the feast of the Chains of Peter850850   Festum catenarum Petri, commonly Petri ad vincula, on the first of August. According to the legend, the Herodian Peter’s-chain, which the empress Eudoxia, wife of Theodosius II., discovered on a pilgrimage in Jerusalem, and sent as a precious relic to Rome, miraculously united with the Neronian Peter’s-chain at Rome on the first contact, so that the two have since formed only one holy and inseparable chain! was introduced in memory of the chains which Peter wore, according to Acts xii. 6, under Herod at Jerusalem, and, according to the Roman legend, in the prison at Rome under Nero.

3. The feast of John, the apostle and evangelist, on the twenty-seventh of December, has already been mentioned in connection with the Christmas cycle.851851   Comp. § 77, volume 3

4. Likewise the feast of the protomartyr Stephen, on the twenty-sixth of December, after the fourth century.852852   · Ibid.

5. The feast of John the Baptist, the last representative of the saints before Christ. This was, contrary to the general rule, a feast of his birth, not his martyrdom, and, with reference to the birth festival of the Lord on the twenty-fifth of December, was celebrated six months earlier, on the twenty-fourth of June, the summer solstice. This was intended to signify at once his relation to Christ and his well-known word: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He represented the decreasing sun of the ancient covenant; Christ, the rising sun of the new.853853   Comp. John iii. 30. This interpretation is given by Augustine, Serm. 12 in Nat. Dom.: “In nativitate Christi dies crescit, in Johannis nativitate decrescit. Profectum plane facit dies, quum mundi Salvator oritur; defectum patitur, quum ultimus prophetarum generatur.” In order to celebrate more especially the martyrdom of the Baptist, a feast of the Beheading of John,854854   Festum decollationis S. Johannis B. on the twenty-ninth of August, was afterward introduced; but this never became so important and popular as the feast of his birth.

6. To be just to all the heroes of the faith, the Greek church, after the fourth century, celebrated a feast of All Saints on the Sunday after Pentecost (the Latin festival of the Trinity).855855   This Sunday is therefore called by the Greeks the Martyrs’ and Saints’ Sunday, ἡ κυριακὴ τῶν ἁγίων πάντων, or τῶν ἁγίων καὶ μαρτύρων. We have a homily of Chrysostomon it: Ἐγκώμιονεἰς τοῦς ἁγίους πάντας τοῦς ἐνὅλῳ τῷ κόσμῳ μαρτυρήσαντες, or De martyribus totius orbis. Hom. lxxiv. Opera, tom. ii. 711 sqq. The Latin church, after 610, kept a similar feast, the Festum Omnium Sanctorum, on the first of November; but this did not come into general use till after the ninth century.

7. The feast of the Archangel Michael,856856   Festum S. Michaelis, archangeli. the leader of the hosts of angels, and the representative of the church triumphant,857857   Rev. xii. 7-9; comp. Jude, vs. 9. on the twenty-ninth of September. This owes its origin to some miraculous appearances of Michael in the Catholic legends.858858   Comp. Augusti, Archaeologie, i. p. 585. Michael, e.g., in a pestilence in Rome in the seventh century, is said to have appeared as a deliverer on the Tomb of Hadrian (Moles Hadriani, or Mausoleo di Adriano), so that the place received the name of Angel’s Castle (Castello di S. Angelo). It lies, as is well known, at the great bridge of the Tiber, and is used as a fortress. The worship of the angels developed itself simultaneously with the worship of Mary and the saints, and churches also were dedicated to angels, and called after their names. Thus Constantine the Great built a church to the archangel Michael on the right bank of the Black Sea, where the angel, according to the legend, appeared to some ship-wrecked persons and rescued them from death. Justinian I. built as many as six churches to him. Yet the feast of Michael, which some trace back to Pope Gelasius I., a.d. 493, seems not to have become general till after the ninth century.



« Prev Festivals of the Saints Next »

Advertisements


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |