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alone. This extreme devotion was, and is, particularly remarkable in the Church of Rome: the impetuous passión, só characteristic in the natives of Italy, prompted them to the performance of ceremonies absurd and revolting, and actuated them to increase, in an impious degree, the number of saints and martyrs.
CHARLES. Then this explains why the foreign calen', dars contain a saint's name for every day throughout the year.
Mrs. ConstaNCE. It does: and such was the vehemence of encomium, and fanaticism, of the devotees of the Church of Rome, that they not only recorded in their calendar a vast number of saints destitute of every saintly qualification, but in the end became ignorantly blind to real religion, giving themselves up to the practice of absurdity and gross folly, only exceeded by the dark idolatry of pagan worship. The Reformation, (c) however, at length shedding its light abroad, scattered the errors of the Catholic Church; and it is from this fact, Charles, that you will receive an answer to your question, why so small a number of saints or martyrs is recorded in our calendar; for the English Reformers found it necessary to abolish entirely all unlawful addresses, and to “ limit the original sort of commemorations to a moderate list of persons indisputably worthy of them.”
CHARLES. Of course, then, the persons recorded in our calendar, may be relied on as worthy of the honour conferred upon them.
Mr. Constance. They may: the Church of England required of all the saints whom she received and honoured with a proper service, that their faith should be found in the Gospel, and the acts of their lives proved to have been in conformity with their professions. Notwithstanding which, you must be prepared to hear of strange and wonderful miracles having been performed through their in
fluence, obtaining for them the superstitious attachment of their followers, and giving rise to many absurd and impious tales, which, in the end, exceeded all reasonable belief. But please to inform us, William, why this month is called February.
WILLIAM. There has been a difference of opinion on that point, Sir; some etymologists deriving it from Februalia, a feast held by the Romans, for the manes of the deceased, when they were accustomed to burn expiatory sacrifices for the purifying of souls; and others attributing its origin to Februa, Februaca, or Februalis, names of Juno, who was held to preside over the purification of women.
MR. CONSTANCE. Our Saxon ancestors also had a particular name for it. What was it, William ?
WILLIAM. They called it Sprout-kele; by kele meaning the kele-wort, called by us colewort, a nutritious plant, which begins to appear this month. The broth made from this herb was the chief sustenance of the Saxon husbandman; and, in consequence of its worth in this respect, and from its being the first herb that showed forth wholesome sprouts in February, it became customary to name the month after so valuable a plant. Nor will this appear strange, when I tell you that the ancient Romans also entertained so high an opinion of it, as to use it both for meat and medicine; eating the wort for sustenance, and drinking the water in which it was boiled, as a sovereign cure for all kinds of disorders. February, it must also be remembered, is one of the two additional months which Numa Pompilias added to the calendar of Romulus; and in his anxiety to soften the natural ferocity of his countrymen, and to cultivate the arts of peace, he placed it second in the year, thereby giving it a nominal consequence over the ten months which before composed the calendar.
Mrs. Constance. What is the number of remarkable days in this month ?
WILLIAM. There are nine, Ma'am. The first is styled the Purification of the Virgin Mary: it is a day of high antiquity, and is still celebrated by a church festival, on the ?d of this month. The Jewish law of purification ordered all women who were delivered of a male child, to separate themselves from the public congregation for forty days; and, in compliance with the commandment of God, that the first-born of their cattle should be reserved for sacrifices, and the first-born of their children be presented to himself, to serve at the altar, it was customary for parents to present their first child to the priest, and afterwards redeem him at the price of five shekels. In fulfilment, therefore, of this ordination of the law of Moses, the Virgin Mary brought Jesus, her first-born, to the Temple, to be consecrated to God; at the same time making an offering of a pair of turtle-doves for her own purification : and it is in remembrance of our Saviour's being thus presented that the day is now kept by us; the ceremony of the Purification denoting the day when the event of his presentation took place. • Mrs. CONSTANCE. From this ancient ordinance is derived the present one, of “ Churching” after child-birth, The grateful offering of the heart being esteemed more valuable than any that can be made, the custom of presenting a young lamb, a pair of doves, or pigeons, as practised under the Mosaical law, has been dispensed with. In the ancient Christian churches, an abundance of lights were used in the celebrating of this day, in allusion to the prophetic words of Simeon, to whom it had been revealed, that “he should see the Lord's Christ before he died.” When the infant Jesus was brought into the Temple, he gave utterance to his gratitude, by exclaiming—“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,—for mine eyes have seen thy
salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” Hence the name of Candlemas-day: and although the practice of lighting our churches has been discontinued since the reign of Edward VI. in 1548, yet in all Catholic communities the custom is still observed, and processions, &c. actually made for the candles.
ANGELINA. Yes; and Lady Morgan, when residing in Rome, in the year 1820, saw this ceremony performed by the Pope himself. After blessing the candles (she says), he distributed one to each individual in the place, who knelt at the throne to receive it. They were given first to the cardinals, then in succession to the meanest officers of the church, and last of all to the Roman senate and people. The candles were then lighted; and the Pope being mounted in his chair of state, was carried in procession round the ante-chapel, with hymns chanting, and music playing. The throne was afterwards stripped of its splendid hangings, the Pope and cardinals changed their dresses of crimson and gold for others less ornamental, and the usual mass of the morning was said. This “ Blessing of the Candles” takes place in all churches throughout Catholic countries.
Mr. CONSTANCE. Such a ceremony appears a striking piece of unnecessary formality, to those accustomed to the simplicity displayed in the mode of worship adopted in the reformed churches of our own country; and creates a feeling of surprise, not unmixed with pity, to hear our Saviour and the Deity himself addressed in formal prayers, that the “ Creature of Wax” might receive the heavenly benediction. Catholic allegorists, however, have contrived to spiritualize these burning ornaments of their temples, for the edification of the devout: according to their account, candles or tapers represent Christ; the wax signifies his flesh; the fire, his deity; the wick, his humanity:
the light, his doctrine. Thirteen candles, in Catholic worship, are also an allegory of Christ and the twelve Apostles; and in one of its ceremonies the candles, denoting the twelve Apostles, are extinguished at intervals during the service, until one only is left, which represents Christ deserted by the disciples; and in the end that one is put out, to signify his death.
WILLIAM. Is it not probable, Sir, that such ceremonies are the relics of Pagan idolatry?
Mr. CONSTANCE. There is little doubt of it, I think. The use of torches and tapers in churches, both by day and night, has prevailed in Catholic worship from the third century to the present hour; and Sir Isaac Newton remarks, speaking of the custom, that “they also lighted torches to the martyrs in the daytime, as the heathens did to their gods.” But now, William, proceed to an account of St. Blaise, whose name, I perceive, is noted on the 3d of this month.
WILLIAM. St. Blaise was Bishop of Sebastia, a city of Armenia: he was a pious and good man, and suffered martyrdom for his defence of the oppressed Christians; but in what year is not exactly known, some asserting it to have been under the reign of Dioclesian, in 289, and others, that it was in 316, under the persecution of Licinius, by command of Agricolus, governor of Cappadocia and the Lesser Armenia ; but all agree that it was effected by severe whipping with scourges, and tearing his flesh with “ combs of yren.” The effigy of St. Blaise is carried about in the great wool counties of England, by the woolcombers, who very improperly attribute the invention of their art to him. Establishments for the manufacture of clothing existed at the time of the Roman conquest. I believe my brother has seen the procession of the woolcombers.
MR. CONSTANCE. You must remember, though, William, that the clothier's art was unknown in this country