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peculiar organism, that nearly all ancient writers, whether Christian or pagan, have noticed the fact. Lucian of Samosata speaks of Christ as a magician who established new Mysteries. We learn also from Pliny that the Christians were persecuted in the reign of the Emperor Trajan, as a secret society, under a general law which prohibited all secret associations. The same writer tells us further that they celebrated their Mysteries in the night, or rather in the morning, before day.
The rites* of the Christian religion were celebrated with an air of profound mystery, and were guarded from profane eyes with most scrupulous vigilance. Not only were unbelievers of every description excluded from the view of these rites, but the neophytes also, and all who were not fully initiated into, and entitled to a participation in its ordinances. From all else, the time, and place, and manner of administering them were concealed, and the import of each rite was a profound mystery, which none was at liberty to divulge or explain. To relate the manner in which it was administered, to mention the words used in the solemnity, or to describe the simple elements of which it consisted, were themes upon which the initiated were as strictly forbidden to touch as if they had been laid under an oath of secrecy; not a hint was allowed to be given, nor a whisper breathed on the subject to the uninitiated. Even the ministers, when they were led in their public discourses to speak of the sacraments, or the higher doctrines of faith, contented themselves with remote allusions, and dismissed the subject by saying, “ The initiated know what is meant.” They never wrote about them except through the medium of figurative and enigmatical expressions.
* Riddle's Christ. Antiq., et Llenhart; De Antiq. Liturg., et de Disciplina Arcani ; and Coleman's Christian Antiquities.
The Christian Brotherhood, like that of the Essenes, comprised four circles, which the novitiate was required to traverse before he could look upon or participate in the highest and most sacred Mysteries of the Church. The central light of Christianity shone in its full splendor only on those who had attained to the highest degree. These favored ones moved in its unclouded radiance, while those in the outer ring were in comparative darkness, and were allowed to approach the light, only after long and severe trial.
“ The dear-bought experience of the primitive Christians had convinced them that the gross habits of idolaters were not easily and all at once, in many instances, relinquished for the pure and spiritual principles of the Gospel, and that multitudes of professed believers held their faith by so slender a tie that the slightest temptation plunged them anew into their former sensuality, and the first alarm drove them back into the enemy's camp. To dimin
ish, and, if possible, to prevent the occurrence of such melancholy apostasies, which interrupted the peace and prosperity of the Christian society, and brought a stain on the Christian name, was a consummation devoutly wished for by the pious fathers of the primitive age; and accordingly, animated by a spirit of holy jealousy, they adopted the rule, which soon came into universal practice, of instituting a severe and protracted inquiry into the character and views of candidates for admission to the communion of the church-of not suddenly advancing them to that honorable degree, but of continuing them for a limited period in a state of probation. It was thus that the order of the catechumens arose; an order which, though unknown to the age of Peter and Paul, boasts of a very early introduction into the primitive church ; and, at whatever period its date may be fixed, its origin is to be traced to the laudable desire of more fully instructing young converts in the doctrines of the Christian faith, and at the same time affording them opportunities to give evidence of the sincerity of their profession, by the change of their lives and the holiness of their conversation."*
Having passed through the appointed discipline, the neophytes were clothed in white, and, by solemn ceremonies, admitted to the communion of the faithful. Arrived at the centre of the sacred circle, they were no longer called Katechumenoi, or learners, but received one or all of the following titles :
* Jamieson : Manners of Prim. Christ., p. 132.
1. Oi pistoi, THE FAITHFUL. 2. Photizomenoi, THE ILLUMINATI, OR ENLIGHTENED. 3. Memuemenoi, THE INITIATED ; and Teleioumenoi, THE PER
The appellation, Memuemenoi, or the initiated, occurs very often in the Book of Secret Discipline. It denotes such as have been initiated into the secret mysteries of the Christian faith. The phrase, “ the initiated know" is repeated about fifty times in Augustine and Chrysostom alone. The terms mustai and musta gogetoi are also often used, and, in short, all the phraseology which the profane writers use respecting an initiation into their mysteries. Indeed the righť of baptism itself has an evident relation, as Cyril of Jerusalem represents, to the initiatory rites of Eleusis, Samothrace, Phrygia, and Isis.* The foregoing titles also conveyed to those who bore them exclusively certain rights and privileges.
“1. They were permitted to be present at all religious assemblies without exception, to take part in the missa catechumenorum, the first religious service of public worship, designed especially for the catechumens, as well as in the missa fidelium, the after-service, which was particularly designed for them, and which none but the initiated were permitted to attend. To this service neither catechumens nor any other were permitted to be present, not even as spectators.
* Cyril. Hierosol. Catech. Mystagog., 5, et seq.
" 2. It was another special privilege of the faithful that they were permitted to hear and join in the rehearsal of the Lord's Prayer. None but believers were permitted, in any case, audibly to adopt the language of this prayer and say, " Our Father who art in heaven;" though it might be used in silent prayer. In the worship of the faithful, on the contrary, it might be rehearsed aloud, or sung by them, or repeated in responses.
" 3. As another prerogative, they were allowed to seek an explanation of all the mysteries of the Christian religion. Origen and Gregory of Nyssa often allege, in commendation of Christianity, that it has refined mysteries, μυστήρια άρδητα, απόρρητα, which no vulgar mind can comprehend. By which is understood, among other things, the rites and doctrines of the church, and the subtleties of their faith. All these were cautiously concealed from catechumens, and taught to believers only, because ' by God's gift they were made partakers of these mysteries, and therefore qualified to judge of them.' To the uninitiated, the ancient fathers discoursed only on obvious points of morality; and if at any time they were led to touch upon their profound mysteries, they dismissed them with the expression,