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Gospel might be taught without the introduction of the Greek Catechism, as prescribed by the government—now devotes himself (as did also Mr. Arnold, at Athens) to a work similar to that of Dr. King. Of the Rev. Mr. Hildner's schools at Syra, I shall speak in another connection.
It can not be denied that Greece has hitherto proved a difficult field of labor. To those that look for immediate results, and estimate success only by the abundance of present fruit, the seed may seem to have fallen upon a barren soil. But there are those who can not persuade themselves that more than a quarter of a century of incessant toils has been thrown away; that the multitudes that have heard the gospel preached in its purity will retain none of its elevating principles; that the child, who gained his first lessons of knowledge in an American school, has not been permanently benefited; above all, that thousands of copies of the Scriptures, scattered broadcast over the land, can fail, sooner or later, to be a potent element in the forces that shall bring about the reformation of the Greek Church. To such the progress of education and enlightenment, and the advance toward complete religious liberty, constitute a favorable omen of the approach of the time when the results of so much toil shall become manifest to all.
The shops throughout Athens were kept closed all day on Good Friday. Their exterior was decorated with a profusion of waxen tapers, combined in a variety of ways, ing them an appearance of considerable liveliness. At a number of stalls temporarily erected in the street of Æolus, crowds of citizens were seen providing themselves with torches—almost the only article exposed for sale—in anticipation of the great season of rejoicing so soon to succeed. Passing by this busy scene I walked on to the Church of St. Irene—the most important in the city as long as the Cathedral remains unfinished.
Last night, being “Great Thursday," as the Greeks call it, there was a service said in the various churches of the city lasting several hours. What are called the “Twelve Gospels” —that is, twelve selections of Scripture relating to the Passion of our Lord—were read at that time. During the protracted reading, or at its close, an image representing the blessed Saviour on the cross, was brought out by the priests, and laid in the midst of the church. It has been customary to produce, at the same time, an effigy of the apostate Judas,
GOOD FRIDAY AT ST, IRENE'S.
and to burn it in public. This immemorial practice has, however, of late years been abandoned, and is now prohibited by the government, in consequence, I understand, of the animosity that such a sight naturally revived in the breasts of the uneducated classes against the Israelitish population. The last outbreak of this feeling took place on the 4th of April, 1847, when a bigoted mob attacked the house of Mr. Pacifico, an unoffending Jewish resident. The doors were burst open; various members of his family were insulted or maltreated; while the more cunning took advantage of the opportunity to appropriate all that they could lay hands on. Happily for Mr. Pacifico, he was a British subject; and, since he found it impossible to obtain redress for his injuries, because of the inefficiency or partiality of the courts of justice, he appealed to his own government. It was only after a delay of three years, and the blockade of the port of Piræus by an English fleet, that the Greek ministry could be induced to pay the required indemnity.
There was no extraordinary service to-day at St. Irene's; but the image of our Lord was still lying in state beneath a rich canopy directly under the dome. An image, or ikon, in the Greek sense of the word, is nothing more than a simple painting; for, in the ecclesiastical works, a distinction is made, as we have stated, between images and statues: the worship of the latter being considered idolatrous, while the reverence given to the former is regarded as not only allowable, but even praiseworthy. The more devout, who seemed to consist chiefly of women and children, came in from time to time to say their prayers, and kiss the hands and feet of the image. An attendant sat near by at a table. As each worshipper was about to leave the church, he placed a piece or two of silver upon the waiter, or one of the holy discs, for the benefit of the church. In return he received a blessing, and a flower was handed to him from a pile that was doubtless consecrated.
In the evening I went again to St. Irene’s, to hear the “Epitaphion,” a sort of funeral service, in which every circumstance is carefully adapted to express sorrow and mourning, in commemoration of the burial of our Saviour. The
ceremonies in the church being ended, a procession formed. Standing in the street at a distance, its coming was announced by the glare of a thousand torches borne by the throng that accompanied the funeral pageant. As it drew nearer I could catch more distinctly the mournful tones of the priests, as with measured chant they carried on a bier the image that I had seen in the church itself. It was preceded by a great wooden cross, before which the spectators crossed themselves repeatedly and bowed profoundly. The bier was followed by a number of distinguished persons, among whom was Mr. Païcos, Minister of Foreign Affairs, with other members of the government. Last year the ministers carried the pall. The convoy was accompanied by a military band, with muffled drums, playing a dead march, and followed by a large crowd, whose torches threw a dazzling brilliancy on every object as they passed.
Still more characteristic and impressive was the procession from a smaller church, which I met a few minutes later not far from the same spot. Without a band, or the presence of men of distinction, it advanced amidst a host of flitting lights. Instead of musicians it was preceded by a hundred or more children and youth, continually shouting rather than chanting that solemn petition so frequently occurring in their litany: “Kyrie eleyson”—“Lord have mercy!” But though there was a certain earnestness of manner, it was too evident that few in their boisterous shouts remembered the full import of the cry. Next came the priests, repeating portions of the service, and carrying, instead of the picture of Christ, a genuine coffin, covered with a black pall. Whenever the procession approached a church it paused, and did not proceed till a certain number of prayers were repeated.
Saturday is observed as a day of mourning rather than of festivity ; but toward night the churches are crowded with worshippers. At about ten in the evening I took my station on a balcony opposite St. Irene's, to which I had been kindly invited by the occupants of the apartments.
Until near midnight the time passed in agreeable conversation with our Greek host and hostess, and those of their acquaintance that had been invited to attend. A few minutes before twelve the king and queen, with their suite, drove up, and, preceded
by the Bishop of Attica, ascended the platform erected in the centre of the square in front of the church. While they stood there facing the people, I could not but think of the feelings that must fill their breasts : the one as a Roman Catholic, probably abhorring the rites of an inimical faith; the other as a Protestant, grieved, if she reflected at all on the subject, at the superstitious observances in which she was compelled to act a studied part. For a quarter or half an hour the priests chanted the “ Anastasis,” a service commemorative of the resurrection of our Lord; but owing to the absurd practice of ringing the church bells incessantly, nothing could be understood. The number of tapers carried by the crowd being much greater, the effect was still more brilliant and pleasing than on Good Friday. This service was then transferred to the interior of St. Irene's, where it lasted a while longer.
To me the most interesting part of the occasion was at the conclusion of the exercises. Easter was now regarded as actually begun, commemorating the Saviour's resurrection. Each, as if animated by the joyful thought, turned to his neighbor, and kissing him, exclaimed, “ Christos aneste”. “ Christ is risen!” To which the other in turn responded: “Alethos aneste"- '-" He is risen indeed !” The salutation was first given by the ministers of state to each other, and from them it spread to the rest of the assembly. For weeks after I occasionally saw the same thing repeated; but it was only between acquaintances, when they met for the first time since Easter. Usage is said to limit the employment of this mode of address to the space of forty days.
After the termination of these ceremonies, all is mirth. The bells from all parts of the city send forth a joyful peal. Generally the Easter festivities have been accompanied by frequent discharges of fire-arms, after the manner of our “Fourth of July;” but this year the practice has been forbidden, and the prohibition strictly enforced. Various have been the surmises respecting the cause of this sudden rigor. The ostensible reason is the numerous accidents that have resulted from the use of balls. More probably the government feared lest the occasion should be seized by the discontented to make a revolution, or an attempt to assassinate the