Martyrs, Festivals of The

Martyrs, Festivals of the These commemorations of Christian sufferers for the cause of their blaster are of very ancient date, and may be carried as high as the time of Polycarp, who suffered death about A.D. 168. In the days of Chrysostom and Theodoret these festivals had become so frequent that, so they tell us, oftentimes one or two were celebrated in one and the same week (see Chrysostom, Hom. 40 in Juventinum, 1:546; Theodoret, Serin. 8 de Maertribus, 4:605; Chrysostom, Hom. 65 de Martyr. 4:971). On these occasions, as has been intimated in the article MARTYRS SEE MARTYRS , the assemblies were not held in the churches or in the usual places of worship, but at the graves of the martyrs. The night preceding the festival was passed in holy vigil, praying and singing psalms and hymns. As they were esteemed high festivals, the same service that was performed on the Sabbath was always performed on such occasions. But, besides the usual solemnities of other festivals, the history of the sufferings of the martyrs was also commonly read, and orations were delivered commending their virtues, and the audience invited to profit by these self-denying examples. This practice was encouraged by a canon of the third Council of Carthage ("Liceat etiam legi passiones martyrusm, cum anniversarii dies eorum celebrantur," Con. Carth. 3. can. 47). Mabillon gives several instances to show that they were read also in the French churches. In the Roman Church they were forbidden by pope Gelasius, as many were said to be anonymous, and others by heathen or heretical authors; but this rule, it seems, did not then prescribe as to other churches. The Lord's Supper was always administered at these festivals, and at the close the rich usually made a feast for the poor, especially to the widows and orphans. — Farrar, Eccles. Dict. s.v.; Bingham, Antiquities of the Christian Church, 1:659; Cyclop. Of Religious Knowledge, s.v.; Wetzer u. Welte, Kirchen-Lex. 12:777. SEE FEASTS.

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