Mourning, Christian

Mourning, Christian.

— Among the early Christians all immoderate grief for the dead was considered inconsistent with Christian hope; and hence the custom which prevailed among the Jews and Romans of hiring women to make lamentation at funerals was severely reprobated. There was not, however, the indulgence of any stoical apathy, but a becoming sorrow was evinced by Christians. Strong disapprobation of the practice of wearing black is expressed by some of the fathers; nevertheless it became prevalent, especially in the East. Some Christians imitated the heathen custom of repeating the mourning on the third, seventh, and ninth days, and some even added others. In the Apostolical Constitutions, the author takes notice of the repetition of this funeral-office on the third, ninth, and fortieth days; he says: "Let the third day be observed for the dead with psalms and lessons and prayers, because Christ on the third day rose again from the dead; and let the ninth be observed in remembrance of the living and the dead; and also the fortieth day, according to the ancient manner of the Israelites' mourning for Moses forty days." On the anniversary days of commemorating the dead they were accustomed to make a common feast or entertainment, inviting both clergy and people, but especially the poor, the widows and orphans, that it might be not only a memorial to the dead, but, according to Origen, "an odor of a sweet smell to God." SEE FUNERAL MOURNING-WEEDS, a particular dress worn during a certain period to express grief, especially for the decease of friends. The usages in this respect have varied much at different times and in different countries. Among the Jews, the duration of mourning for the dead was generally seven, but sometimes protracted to thirty days; and the garments were torn or squalid, or consisted of sackcloth (q.v.). The Jews of our day observe mourning ceremonies to a very considerable extent prescribed by the traditions of the rabbins. On the loss of a very near relative they seclude themselves from society for eight days, praying all waking hours for the safety of the soul of the departed friend, and every year the day of decease is observed as a day on which prayer for the departed must be observed. Among the Greeks, the period was thirty days, except in Sparta, where it was limited to ten. The relatives of the deceased secluded themselves from the public eye, wore a coarse black dress, and in ancient times cut off their hair as a sign of grief. Among the Romans, the color of mourning for both sexes was black or dark blue under the republic; under the empire, the women wore white, black continuing to be the color for men, who did not cut off the hair or beard as in Greece. Men wore their mourning only a few days; women a year, when for a husband or parent. The time of mourning was often shortened by a victory or other happy public event, the birth of a child, or the occurrence of a family festival. A public calamity, such as a defeat, or the death of an emperor or person of note, occasioned a public mourning, which involved a total cessation of business, called Justitium. In modern Europe, the ordinary color for mourning is black; in Turkey, violet; in China, white; in Egypt, yellow; in Ethiopia, brown. It was white in Spain until 1498. White is supposed to denote purity; yellow, that death is the end of all human hopes, as leaves when they fall, and flowers when they fade, become yellow; brown denotes the earth, whither the dead return; black, the privation of life, as being the privation of light; blue expresses the happiness which it is hoped the deceased enjoys; and purple or violet, sorrow on the one side and hope on the other, as being a mixture of black and blue. .Mourning is worn of different depth, and for different periods of time, according to the nearness of relationship of the deceased. On the death of a sovereign or member of the reigning house, a court mourning is ordered; and in many countries it is usual at the same time to recommend the adoption of a general mourning. In Scotch law, if a husband die, whether solvent or insolvent, the widow will be entitled to a preferred payment out of the assets for mournings suitable to his rank. The same privilege applies to mournings for such of the children as are to assist at the funeral (Chambers). The propriety of following the customs prevalent on this point has been of late very extensively called in question by Christians. Many individuals and religious bodies have objected against it:

1, that it is a useless ceremony;

2, that it involves needless expense, especially to the poor;

3, that the bustle of preparing it interferes with the moral and religious purposes of affliction. SEE GRIEF.

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