Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

Greek, although they coincide in this doctrine with the Romans.

From what has been already said, it is evident that the Greeks differ from the Latins in regard to the worship of images; but the long and desperate struggle on this point failed of a complete triumph for the Greek Church. Two females, the Empress Irene and the Empress Theodora, yielded to the fascinating superstition, and well nigh undid the work of six emperors. The controversy ended in a compromise strictly prohibiting images in relief or embossed work, but allowing the use of rough paintings and engravings in copper or silver. (Encyc. Amer.) Representations of the Father are forbidden by the Greek Church. Yet my own observation in the East, coinciding with the testimony of other travelers, proves that this rule is frequently violated. The Infinite Father is often seen coarsely painted as a venerable man, supporting in his hand a globe, symbolizing creation and providence. Representations of the Holy Ghost descending upon Christ at his baptism are common in the Greek Churches, while pictures of saints and of the Virgin are almost universal.

If it be said that the worship of God is debased by this worship of pictures, the plausible Platon is ready with this apology: First. That the doctrines of the Church forbid to draw upon the canvas a representation of the unseen and incomprehensible God. Second. That these pictures of the Saviour and of saints are not made for deification, but for commemoration, that they may stimulate to deeper piety or to the imitation of the good. Third. That the obeisance is not made to the pictures, but to the beings represented. And finally, that the worship offered before the picture of the Saviour should consist in the deepest humility of soul; while the reverence to the pictures of saints should be such as we render to them out of a loving heart, as his favorites and as of the same nature and of the same Church and members of the same body with ourselves. This apology would do credit to the skill of a Jesuit. But common observation proves, that if the more philosophic make this distinction, the masses do not; that "the images and saints of the learned are the gods of the vulgar." An old Byzantine hymn to the famous picture of Odessa attests the character of the worship rendered:

"How can we with mortal eyes contemplate this image whose celestial splendor the host of heaven presumes not to behold? He who dwells in heaven condescends this day to visit us by his venerable image; he who is seated on the cherubim visits us this day by a picture, which the Father has delineated with his immaculate hand, which he has formed in an ineffable manner, and which we sanctify by adoring it with fear and love." Indeed, the eleventh century was vexed with the grave question "whether these pictures were endowed with proper and inherent sanctity." This question of the learned is soon answered in the affirmative by the feeble and unlearned, as the Russian peasant promptly replied to the inquiry, "Whose likeness is that?" "It is our only Lord God, St. Nicholas;" or as another suddenly cut short his devotions when he found that the sacred picture which he supposed himself to be worshiping had been removed, exclaiming, "Impossible to pray without a God to pray to." The design at first doubtless was to assist the feeble and ignorant mind to raise its conceptions to spiritual and heavenly things; but they became a hinderance. They were designed as symbols with which to apprehend the symbolized; but they filled the fancy with material images, and arrested the soul in its aspirations after an infinite spiritual being.

The Greek Church rejects the Roman doctrine of the celibacy of the clergy. As late as the third century no rule was prescribed. But the question was raised in the first general council by the delegates from the West. When the Eastern clergy failed to reply, the valiant old monk Paphnutius, although he had chosen this ascetic rule for himself, roughly but honestly exclaimed, "Lay not this heavy yoke on the clergy; all cannot bear it. Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled. Marriage itself is continence." The blunt plea was effective, and ever since the Eastern Church has allowed," and now almost enjoins marriage on all its clergy before ordination, without permitting it afterward.” This regulation has contributed largely, during the lapse of centuries, to preserve the Greek Church from the dissoluteness which has debased so many of the Latin clergy.

The Greeks discard the Roman doctrine of purgatory, drawn from the pagan theory of the purification of departed souls by

(6

means of a certain kind of fire. Again and again have theyissued their protest. "We own no purgatory fire," is their explicit language to the Council of Basle in the fifteenth century; we own no purgatory fire, nor any temporal punishment by fire which shall have an end; for we received no such thing by tradition, nor doth the Eastern Church confess it. . . . The doctrine proposed of a purgatory fire is to be cast out of the Church," etc. (Elliott's Delin. of Romanism, ii, 12.) Yet they encourage masses, prayers, and contributions for those who die apparently penitent but with the work of grace incomplete. The Council of Bethlehem, A. D. 1672, affirmed the existence of discipline in Hades for such as, having committed mortal sin, repent while in the body, yet have not brought forth fruits for repentance. From this decision the Russians dissent. The regulations are merely local. Money is nowhere paid for masses in behalf of the dead. "The Church has determined nothing dogmatically about the state of the departed."

Unlike the Roman Church, the Greeks practice a triple immersion in baptism. And here the practice of the Greek Church indicates a belief in baptismal regeneration without the influence of the Holy Spirit and the exercise of faith. Indeed, one of the petitions in the baptismal service is the following: "Let us pray that this water be the laver of regeneration for the remission of sins, and for the garment of incorruption." And again: "Fashion thy Christ in him who is now to be regenerated." Yet the formula of the Church declares that the invisible effects, namely: regeneration and reconciliation with God, can be attained only by faith in Christ; and if any be lost, (the language is explicit,) he is lost not on account of his not having been plunged in water, but because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God, for the words of the Gospel remain unalterable: "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

In regard to the eucharist, the Greeks differ from the Romans in administering the elements in both kinds to the laity, and in the use of leavened bread. In this, as in baptism, they seem to recognize a sacramental efficacy. In the liturgy of St. Basil this petition occurs: "Give us till our last breath

worthily to receive the portion of thy hallowed things for a viaticum of eternal life, for an acceptable defense at the terrible tribunal of thy Christ." And says the Council of Bethlehem: "To the godly these elements procure remission of sins, and eternal life." This council, in 1672, decided the question which has been raised for years, whether the Greek Church accepts the doctrine of transubstantiation. "We believe," says the seventeenth article, in their decisions, "that in the celebration of this mystery our Lord Jesus Christ is present, not in a figurative or imaginary manner, but verily and indeed; so that after the consecration of the bread, the bread is changed, transubstantiated, etc., into the very true body and blood of our Lord which was born in Bethlehem and that the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the very true blood of the Lord which was shed for the life of the world when he suffered upon the cross."

The veneration of pictures already mentioned is (as we should naturally expect) accompanied by the invocation of saints and of the Virgin. This is sometimes denied; but the evidence of it is so direct and full as to be conclusive. The Trisagon concludes a petition thus: "Make safe our goings. through the prayers and supplications of the glorious Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, and all thy saints." Again: "Do thou our instructor, by thy words, father John Chrysostom, intercede to the Word, Christ our Lord, that our souls may be saved." And again: "Through the intercessions of the holy mother of God, and all the saints who have pleased thee since the beginning of the world." These are samples of the evidence which might be adduced to an indefinite extent. I am aware that apologists declare this invocation to be very different from the invocation of God, and that the Greek ritual would explain the invocation of departed saints to be like the request which the Apostle makes of the saints on earth: "I beseech you, brethren, that ye strive together with me, in your prayers to God for me;" that this invocation does not lay aside the all-powerful mediation of Christ, which is the necessary foundation both of our prayers and of the intercession of saints. But the apology, though plausible, is unsatisfactory. Facts dissipate the illusion. One writer describes as not uncommon an occurrence which shows that the devotee would insult

+

Jesus rather than dishonor the saint. Two men who had deposed before a tribunal to certain facts of which they professed themselves witnesses, by kissing the cross, after being called upon to depose to the same facts in the church and in the name of the saint, actually refused to do so, leaving no doubt on the minds of all present that they had perjured themselves in the name of Christ, while they could not venture to attest a falsehood in the name of the saint.

If the reports of travelers be true "the peasant from Parnes, or the shepherd from Hymettus, or the boor of Russia, kneeling before the picture of the holy Virgin, is animated by the same hopes and faith, in view of the graceless fig ure before him, as were wont to inflame the piety of his pagan ancestor when he worshiped before the statue of Minerva."

As a consequence of such fatal errors in practice, formalism readily usurps the place of faith in Christ. The direction in the order of "the lesser habit" coincides with this tendency, namely: "By fasting and prayer thou must obtain the mercy of God." An illustration is at hand. A Russian princess inquired of her priest confessor what good thing she must do to inherit eternal life? "Never," he replied, "will you be perfect until you have learned to live on mushroom skins." This formalism is strikingly exhibited in their high regard for fasts and feasts. The Greek Church observes eight fasts, which occupy in all about two hundred days in the year. The Greeks are in general more austere in their fasts than the Romans. They have also more than fifty feast days; so that the Greek Christian, mistaking the means for the end, is subjected to a continuous alternation of fasting and feasting. And in proportion as the rigor of the fasting has been preserved, so much the more excessive is the degree of gluttony and relaxation when the announcement "Christ is risen" has issued from the mouth of the archbishop. During Easter week they run into every kind of excess, as if rioting, debauchery, gambling and drinking, were as much a religious observance as starving had been before.

We know that the tendency to formalism is common in all Churches, even the most evangelical; but therefore it should be the more carefully guarded against. We are glad to

« ForrigeFortsæt »