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uncertain duration of this happy union. The bread and wine denote their community, or having things in common together. The godfather eats and drinks the remains, to intimate that he has contracted a kind of relationship with them, and that he ought to be an impartial judge, or to be the arbitrator, in any controversies that may afterwards arise between them.
The mourning of the Mingrelians, according to the accounts of several travellers, is like that of persons in the very depth of despair, and consists
not only in weeping, or rather howling, in honour of their Ceremonies. dead, but also in shaving their beards and eyebrows. More
over, when a wife loses her husband, or some other near relation, she rends her clothes, strips herself naked to the waist, tears her hair, scarifies her body, and scratches her face all over. The men likewise behave nearly in the same manner, and are more or less violent, as necessity, inclination, or the circumstances of their mourning prompt them. This continues forty days, with a gradual diminution of their sorrow, as that term draws near to its expiration.
On the ten first days, the relations and intimate friends and acquaintance meet constantly to weep over the deceased. Their cries and howl. ings, their transports of sorrow, and their silence and serenity of mind, alternately succeed each other. On the last day they inter the corpse, on which occasion the catholicos puts upon the breasts of those who die in the faith a letter or petition, in which he humbly beseeches St. Peter to open the gate of heaven for them, and to admit of their entrance. This ceremony is sometimes performed even before they put them in their shrouds. On the fortieth day of their mourning, the Georgians have a funeral entertainment for the relations, friends, and acquaintance of the deceased, at which the men sit at one table, and the women at another. The bishop now reads a mass for the dead, and takes, for his fee or gratuity, everything that was allotted to the service of the deceased.
Sec, 2.–Nestorian Churches. There are several sects of Christians in the Levant, who are known and distinguished by the name of Chaldeans or Syrians : but the most
considerable part of them are those who pass under the denomi
nation of Nestorians, and in reality revere Nestorius, who was Patriarch of Constantinople in the beginning of the fifth century, by invoking him in their prayers.
The occasion of the fatal controversy in which Nestorius involved the church, was furnished by Anastasius, who was honoured with his friendship.
This presbyter, in a public discourse, delivered in 424, declaimed warmly against the title of Mother of God, which was then frequently attributed to the Virgin Mary in the controversy with the Arians, giving it as his opinion, that the Holy Virgin was rather to be called Mother of Christ, since the Deity can neither be born nor die, and, of consequence, the Son of man alone could derive his birth from an earthly parent. Nestorius applauded these sentiments, and explained and defended them in several discourses.
In opposition to him, Eutyches, an abbot at Constantinople, declared
that these natures were so united in Christ, as to form but one nature, that of the Incarnate word. It was an age when men were fast losing sight of the Gospel, and contending about modes and forms; and these opposite opinions threw the whole Eastern world into bitter contention, and gave rise to that great division which continues to this day among the miserable remnant of the Eastern churches. The followers of the former are called Nestorians; the latter, Monophysites.
The Nestorians early became the chief propagators of the Gospel in the East. They enjoyed the patronage of the Persian monarch Pherazes, by whom their opponents were expelled from his kingdom, and their patriarch was established at Seleucia. They established a school at Nisibis under Barsumas, a disciple of Nestorius, from whence proceeded, in the fifth and sixth centuries, a band of missionaries, who spread abroad their tenets, through Egypt, Syria, Arabia, India, Tartary, and China. In the twelfth century, they won over to their faith the prince of Tartary, who was baptized John ; and because he exercised the office of presbyter, was, with his successors, called Prester John. They made converts, also, of the Christians on the coast of Malabar, who, it is supposed, received the Christian faith from the Syrian Mar Thomas, in the fourth or fifth century.
They formed, at one time, an immense body, but dwindled away before the Saracen power, and the exasperated heathen priests and jealous Chinese emperors. They acknowledged but one patriarch until 1551, who resided first at Bagdad, and afterwards at Mousul. But at this period, the Papists succeeded in dividing them, and a new patriarch was consecrated by Pope Julius III., and established over the adherents to the pope, in the city of Ormus. The great patriarch at Mousul, called Elias, has continued, however, to be acknowledged to this day, by the greater part of the Nestorians, who are scattered over Asia.
Throughout this long period, they have maintained considerable purity of doctrine and worship, and kept free from the ridiculous ceremonies of the Greek and Latin churches. Of their present number and religious character we know but little. Probably they are very ignorant, debased, and corrupt. *
We shall now proceed to such religious customs among the Nestorians, as may be more properly thought an essential part of this history. Before
the sixth century, the patriarch of the Nestorians was digniDress of fied and distinguished by the title of Catholic, which he has their Clergy.
retained ever since. His clergy, as well as those of the Greeks in Constantinople, consist of married and monastic priests. The latter, in Syria and Mesopotamia, are dressed in black, with a capuche, or hood, which covers the crown of their liead like a calot, and hangs down upon the shoulders like a veil. Over this they wear a turban, the cap and the linen cloth of which are of a deep blue. The patriarch and the bishops are not distinguished from the priests by any particular dress, but by their pastoral staff and cross, which they carry in their hands, and hold out for the devotees to kiss. The head of the former is made either like a crutch, or a crosier. The vestments of their married priests are all black likewise, or at least dark grey ; but instead of wearing a capuche upon their heads, they have a round cap with a large button upon the top of it.
* Marsh's Ecc. History.
Besides the regular monastic priests, there are several convents in Mesopotamia, the monks of which are not priests, but style themselves runks of the order of St. Anthony. The habit of these Nestorian monks is an open black cassock, which is girt round them with a leathern surcingle, and a gown over it, the sleeves of which are very large. They wear no capuche, but a purple turban instead of it. At midnight, morning, and evening, they repeat the church service, but spend the remainder of the day in tilling their grounds.
The churches belonging to the Nestorians are divided by balustrades, or rails ; and one part of them is always allotted for the peculiar service of
the women. Churches,
The font is erected on the south side. When they say their prayers and pay their adoration to the Supreme Being, they always turn their faces towards the east. Before the entrance into these churches, there is, generally, a large court, with a very small door. This court was originally the place appointed for the reception of penitents, and was made use of as a bar to t e profane, in order to prevent them hearing and seeing the different proceedings and ceremonies of the Christian assemblies.
Independently of the fasts which are generally observed by the Christians of the Greek Church, the Nestorians keep one in particular, which
continues three days; it is called the Fast of Nineveh, Nineveh.
because they therein iinitate the repenting Ninevites, who did
penance for their sins for three days after the preaching of the prophet Jonas. This fast is the introduction to their Lent.
The Christians of Syria and Mesopotamia have added to their calendar one festival in commemoration of the penitent thief, which is not observed by the Roman Catholic Church ; it is called by them LASS-ALJEMIN, that is, the Thief on the right hand. This falls upon the octave of Easter.
The bathing of the Syrian Christians in the river Jordan must be reckoned amongst their religious customs, but the ceremony itself is very
idle and ridiculous. These people, however, practise it as an Religious act of devotion, and Christians of all denominations, as Greeks, Bathing.
Nestorians, Copts, &c., wash themselves naked in the river with great solemnity, in commemoration of Jesus Christ and his baptism. In this instance, they concern themselves as little in regard to the difference of the sexes, as of the sects; for men and women jump promiscuously into the river, and plunge down to the bottom. Some of the most zealous devotees dip their handkerchiefs in the sacred stream ; others carry a quantity of the water away with them in bottles ; and the very dirt, sand, and grass that grows upon the banks, are all looked upon as gacred relics.
The nuptial ceremonies of the Syrians are very singular and remarkable. The bridegroom is conducted to the house of the bride on horse
back, between two drawn swords, which are carried by two Nuptial
men, one before and the other behind him. The relations,
friends, and acquaintance of the bride receive him with their flambeaux lighted, and music preceding them, accompanied with songs, acclamations, and other testimonies of general joy. On the wedding-night the bridegroom gives his spouse an uncourteous kick, and commands her to pull off his shoes, as a token of her submission and obedience.
When a Christian dies at Bagdad, the neighbours assemble, in order to perform his funeral obsequies. At their return from the place of inter
ment, a handsome collation is always prepared for their reFuneral Obsequies.
freshment at the house of the deceased, where every one is
welcome without distinction, insomuch that sometimes a hundred and fifty, or more, appear at these funeral entertainments. The next day, the company meet in order to pray together over the grave of the deceased, which is likewise repeated on the third day; when there is another public entertainment provided for them, and in general the same welcome is given to all as before. These ceremonies are repeated on the seventh day, the fifteenth, the thirtieth, and the fortieth, after the decease.
At Damas, the Christian women sing and weep over their dead. Thevenot saw a company of these female mourners, accompanied by two men with lighted candles in their hands, howling over the dead, and beating their breasts to express their sorrow. Every now and then they made a halt; then fell into a ring, and snapping their fingers, as if they were playing with castanets, danced and sung to the sound, whilst others kept time in hideous howlings. The ceremony concluded with mutual testimonies of respect; after which they departed, dancing and snapping their fingers as before. Nearly the same ceremonies are observed at Rana on similar occasions. Father Le Brun says, “that they weep for about half an hour over the grave of their deceased friends ; then rise and fall into a ring, as if they were going to dance to the brawls.”—Two of them after this quit the ring, and planting themselves in the middle, there make a thousand grimaces, howling and clapping their hands. After this frightful noise, they sit down to drown their sorrow in tears. All the female mourners that Le Brun saw, relieved each other. Those who had finished went home, and others supplied their place. When these women stood up in order to form themselves into a ring, they covered their heads with a black veil.
Sec. 3.- Christians of St. Thomas. With regard to the origin of the Christians of St. Thomas, who inhabit the coast of Malabar and Travancore, there exists much difference of
opinion. The Portuguese, who first opened the navigation of Origin.
India, in the fifteenth century, and found them seated there for ages, assert that St. Thomas, the apostle, preached the gospel in India, and that these are the descendants of his proselytes.
The Christians of St. Thomas declare themselves descendants of one Mar Thomas or Thomas Cana, an Armenian merchant, who settled at
Opinion of the Congranor. Mar Thomas married two wives, and had Christians of St. issue by each. The children by the former were heirs to all Thomas. his effects and lands, which were situate in the southern part of the kingdom of Congranor; and those of the latter, who was a negro-slave converted to the Christian faith, inherited the settlement of which their father died possessed in the north. In process of time, his descendants became very numerous, and constituted two considerable branches, which were never united nor allied to each other. The issue of his first wife, from whom the nobility are descended, look down with disdain on the Christians of the other branch, and carry their aversion to so
high a pitch, as to separate themselves from their communion, and to contemn the ministry of their priests. Mar Thomas, whom these Christians look upon as their common parent, flourished, according to the general notion, in the tenth century ; but M. la Croza thinks that he lived in the sixth. These Christians enjoyed so many valuable privileges under the sovereigns of the country, and grew so powerful, that they at length elected kings out of their own nation and religion. They continued in this state of independence till the death of one of their sovereigns, who leaving no heir to the throne, they adopted a young idolatrous prince who was his neighbour, and appointed him to be his successor.
The Rev. Dr. Buchanan, vice-provost of the college of Fort-William, who visited these Christians in 1806, and counts fifty-five churches in
Malayala, * denies that they are Nestorians, and observes Dr. Buchanan's
that their doctrines 66 are contained in a very few articles,
and are not at variance in essentials with the doctrines of the church of England. They are usually denominated Jacobitæ,t but they differ in ceremonial from the church of that name in Syria, and indeed from any existing church in the world. Their proper designation, and that which is sanctioned by their own use, is Syrian Christians or The Syrian Church of Malayala." Yet the Doctor remarks, that they acknowledge “ the Patriarch of Antioch," and that they are connected with certain churches in Mesopotamia and Syria, 215 in number, and labouring under circumstances of discouragement and distress; but he does not say whether it is to the Greek or the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch that they are subject. I
In respect to their religious ceremonies they observe at Easter a kind of public collation, which bears some affinity with the Agapoe of the
primitive Christians. This feast or entertainment consists Religious Customs.
generally of nothing but a few herbs, fruits, and rice; and is
made in the fore-court before the church-porch. The priests at those times have a double, and the bishop a triple portion of what is provided. To these Agape, we must add another ceremony,
called by the Christians of St. Thomas their CASTURE, which is said to be an emblem, or symbol, of brotherly love. During the time they are in the church, they take hold of the hands of one of their most ancient CACANARES, or priests, and in that posture receive his benediction.
These Christians have holy water placed at their church-doors, with which they make the sign of the cross, repeating at the same time a prayer in commemoration of Nestorius. It is merely a little common water mixed with a small quantity of mould, taken out of the road through which St. Thomas had travelled. In case they have no such mould, they throw a few grains of frankincense into it. We have before observed, that they have not only crosses, but pictures or representations of them, hung up in their churches; and the priests likewise carry a
* Malayala comprehends the mountains and the whole region within them, from Cape Cormorin to Cape Illi: whereas the province of Malabar commonly so called, contains only the northern districts, not including the country of Travancore.
+ Their Liturgy, Dr. B. tells us, is derived from that of the early church of Antioch, called “ Liturgia Jacobi Apostoli.”- And, according to Mr. Gibbon, the “ Jacobites themselves had rather deduce their nanie and pedigree from St. James the Apostle.”