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The Emperor, himself, I am told, extends the kiss of peace thus to every soldier in his own especial regiment. Why should not therefore his subjects do the same? I add.
And in the midst of the firing off of rockets, the discharge of cannon, the clashing of bells, and the blaze of such illuminations as only served to cast into faint shadow now, the once sparkling multitude of tapers carried by the multitude, the magnificently robed priests, preceded by wax-lights, censer-bearers, and also carrying lanterns, pursued their way in all directions, chanting meanwhile, and glancing wistfully and as if eagerly, first on this side then on that. “They are seeking for Christ,” they would tell you, for “ He has risen indeed." The picture presented to view is almost perfect.
The multitude are now following the various groups of priests closely. The immense courtyard presents nothing but one entire scene of divers processions moving in circles around this, the cathedral of cathedrals.
How fantastic, says the English reader.
Yes; only that without depicting the whole scene thus, I could not even venture to portray the picture. I am endeavouring to paint truly, at least, not trenching one whit upon the imagination.
The priests have now returned to their various churches and cathedrals, there in right joyous and in true Eastern fashion to celebrate the “hours," as they are termed, supplemented in a very brief space, by the “matins.”
“ Come, and quickly," said my guide; " I'll take you at once, if you like, to one of the prettiest scenes in the whole of Moscow. You shall see the interior of one of our churches on Easter morning ;"—the period referred to, be it remembered, being about two o'clock A.M. I gladly assented, and away we went.
A change indeed over the spirit of that Church's " dream” since yesterday, when all within had been divested of its gorgeous adornments, and presented only the appearance of bareness and desolation. All now was brilliancy,—the adornments were now again of the richest colouring, the chanting glorious and weird, the priests' as also deacons' voices spoke only of gladness, and the congregation thronging it were clad, for the greater part, in absolute ball costume. The sight presented was so dazzling that at first I could scarcely realise it all.
Standing is of course the rule in the Greek Church, but on this special occasion the ladies assembled, clad many of them in soft white muslin, and with flowers in their hair, and bouquets,-bonnets were utterly discarded, -sat about in clusters on the matting, at the foot of the pillars, or wherever sitting accommodation could be obtained, glancing gaily and happily about them, and chatting, if softly, for the service was of course in hand, at any rate volubly with each other. The picture presented was simply that of ladies in an English ballroom, glancing leisurely about them between the dances.
The prayers were recited separately by the priests, then sung, response fashion, by the people.
Most of the gentlemen present were also, of course, in evening attire.
On one point now, however, all seemed united, and herein I cordially sympathised with them. All had, almost without exception, kept the severe fast prescribed throughout the past week, if not throughout the course of the entire seven weeks, and all were now “ravenous,” as I heard many express it, craved to break their fast, which they were at last at ample liberty to do, on one condition. And that special condition, be it added, proved in many cases a most uncomfortable stumbling-block in the way of their doing so. And yet what was to be done?
But it is the custom in question—that nothing must be first eaten after the Great Lenten Fast is ended that has not previously received a blessing at the hands of the priest. An irksome business indeed this, it may readily be imagined, not only as regards the extra amount of duty thus entailed on the, at this season, desperately hard-worked priests, but also on the patience and appetites of those yielding such willing adherence to the custom. Nevertheless, however, all abide by it most rigidly. The
passages leading to the various churches are all crowded on either side with stores of provisions of all sorts, ordinarily, however, consisting of the principal “national” dishes, which the servants in every household bring on trays, or in huge baskets, from the various abodes as soon as ever Easter has actually dawned. Be a man, or woman either, as hungry as a hunter, they will neither eat nor drink until the priest has found time amidst his various avocations to bestow his benedict on upon each and all of the viands provided—when said servant, or peasant on his own behalf, carries off the dish or dishes, triumphantly, his master, the chances are, waiting meanwhile hungrily at home, and, with his head out of window, greeting him with the agreeable sally,
Ah, there you come at last ! I'm literally starving. There ! don't be all night about it."
Moscow streets at such an hour on Easter morn present a curious aspect in the matter of hundreds and hundreds of carefully covered trays and all sorts of portable conveyances loaded with food. But, when duly opened out, what delicious contents. Yes, these Russians know how to eat, at any rate-know not only what condiments are good, but also how to amalgamate and cook them. No cuisine like the Russian cuisine, I would aver, all the world over. An hour later I attended by invitation the due celebration of this genial and certainly delightfully hospitable “razgavlevonigé”—the “ breaking of the fast.” The table groaned under its pleasant weight of food—this to the intense contentment of my host and hostess, as also the other members of the assembled party, seeing that all were half famishing. The table was, of course, laid out in true Russian fashion, the dishes thereon being such as graced, I was told, every other feasting-board at that identical hour. There stood the national coulitch and paska, both of large size; smit. tarna, or sour cream, forming an important ingredient in the latter of the two dishes, and both prettily ornamented. There also stood the well-nigh universal prasonyok, or “sucking-pig,” in conjunction with other meats of various kinds, black bread, as also white, and a profusion of coloured hard-boiled eggs.
A dawn spent in feasting indeed. No one, it seemed, in the whole of Moscow, even thought of retiring to rest that night; and amidst all classes greetings accorded in the same fashion, and accompanied by the words already penned, were in vogue everywhere.
During the course of the three following days open-house was kept by every one, a table laden with the national dishes in question, and other delicacies, being ever ready spread on behalf of all who came. Visits of courtesy and congratulation are expected from, and exchanged between, all friends and acquaintances, presents being ordinarily offered in the first-named case, and eggs being frequently presented by the servants and children. The gentlemen pay a long round of visits on the first day of the great fête, the Muscovitish ladies performing a like round on the second.
The “eezvòstchik” duly celebrates the recurrence of the fête by charging a triple or even quadruple price for the use of his droshkey, and, as a result, a sober "eezvòstchik” at this season is a rarity. The streets at this festive period are pronounced as somewhat safer before darkness sets in than afterwards, and the bells of the nearly six hundred churches clang almost without cessation throughout the entire week, the ringers, it might fairly be presumed, taking up temporary residence in their respective belfries.
Such is the holy Easter season in Moscow.
A FEW WORDS ON THE DEVOTIONAL LITERATURE OF
The increase of books of devotion, and the continual production of others, whether translations from foreign sources or original works, has indeed been something considerable during the last five and twenty years. S. Francis de Sales would scarcely have approved of their, as he deprecated the use of a multiplicity of Devotional books, recommending the sole use of the “Spiritual Combat;" his “ dear book," as he was wont to call it. There is besides a point in which many of these books, (and I allude especially to such as are intended for the young,) seem to err, and that is in placing before those who must necessarily be very little advanced in spiritual experience, a force of language which cannot be real, and in the case of prayers for Holy Communion, must therefore be harmful. Such ecstatics as many of these devotions express, if not felt by the user, must give in many instances a feeling of there being something wrong in themselves, whereas in reality the fault lies in words being given for use, which perhaps have been those of some foreign impassioned saint, or writer of deep experience in the spiritual life, whose hearts only breathed out the depth of devotion they felt. The English mind is rarely suited for the enthusiasm of foreign expressions, and these when translated into our own language seem very different to what they are when read in their native tongue. In the older books, “ The Imitation of CHRIST" for instance, we have very little of this, and in S. Francis de Sales' own writings we have
We all need a caution against anything like unreality in the use of devotional exercises.
Mr. Keble wrote in an Essay, published amongst his “ Occasional Papers :” “The Blessed Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood is abundant indeed as a source of spiritual strength; but we do not
always find in it the sensible comfort we probably reckoned on at first. It meets all our necessities, but does not satisfy all our imaginations. The devout communicant must occasionally struggle against dull and weary thoughts, as the faithful Israelite had to reason with himself that he might not grow tired of living upon the same food, Angels' food though it were, for forty years together."
Now this is no doubt what many feel. Books speak of“ sensible comfort," and "emotions”-reality does not find them, and a disheartened condition is the result. We must be content with our “ necessities" being “met” by the way, and instead of being uneasy at our apparent lack of feeling, and the ardent joy and love which the saints experienced, look upon it as the result of our present inexperience, which can only be altered by the gradual attainment of those lesser graces of the Spirit, which are the stepping stones to the more advanced spiritual life, to wit-meditation, prayer, and watchfulness in daily practical life.
“ Not enjoyment and not sorrow,.
Is our destined end or way,
None of the Saints in the Bible ever addressed our LORD by any other title than “Master” or “LORD,” and though “ dear LORD" seems fully admissible, there are many expressions in modern books which seem to verge on an almost unseemly familiarity, except where used with the greatest care and caution.
Reverence for holy things needs cultivation. The old proverb about “ familiarity” may even here be true in these days of church gossip, and much church going, but a check on the tongue, and a little selfcontrol
may aid in our own worship being with reverence and godly fear," and perhaps that of others also.
Reviews and Notices. We cannot think that Mr. Grantham has made the best of the subject of Symbolism, (Poole,) in the Lecture that he delivered at Ryde. Of course there was not anything new to say, but he has not popularized the old materials in the way that he might have done.
In Little Ones taught by the Church Service, (Hayes,) Miss Jones has