Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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CHAPTER IV
CHRISTMAS IN LITURGY AND POPULAR
DEVOTION
Advent and Christmas Offices of the Roman Church—The Three Masses of Christmas, their Origin ami their Celebration in Rome—The Midnight Mass in Many Lands —Protestant Survivals of the Night Services—Christmas in the Greek Church— The Eastern Epiphany and the Blessing of the Waters—The Presepio or Crib, its Supposed Institution by St. Francis—Early Traces of the Crib—The Crib in Germany, Tyrol, &c.—Cradle-rocking in Mediaeval Germany—Christmas Min­strels in Italy and Sicily—The Presepio in Italy—Ceremonies with the Culla and the Bambino in Rome—Christmas in Italian London—The Spanish Christmas— Possible Survivals of the Crib in England.
From a study of Christmas as reflected in lyric poetry, we now pass to other forms of devotion in which the Church has welcomed the Redeemer at His birth. These are of two kinds— liturgical and popular ; and they correspond in a large degree to the successive ways of apprehending the meaning of Christmas which we traced in the foregoing chapters. Strictly liturgical devotions are little understanded of the people : only the clergy can fully join in them ; for the mass of the lay folk they are mysterious rites in an unknown tongue, to be followed with reverence, as far as may be, but remote and little penetrated with humanity. Side by side with these, however, are popular devo­tions, full of vivid colour, highly anthropomorphic, bringing the mysteries of religion within the reach of the simplest minds, and warm with human feeling. The austere Latin hymns of the earlier centuries belong to liturgy ; the vernacular Christmas poetry of later ages is largely associated with popular devotion.
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