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Purification in the Christian Church.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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The Protestant Church recognises no ceremonial purifications, because it does not seek for anything emblematic to point to the necessity of holiness in the people of the Lord. Christ taught purification of the heart only, and so the evangelical Christians teach purity of heart as the fit condition in which to approach the Deity in worship; the blood of the Son of God having cleansed from all sin those who accept of his atonement in righteousness. (See IMPURITY); (See SIN).

In the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Church as well as some of the ultra-ritualistic churches which still cling to Protestantism, acts of purification prevail to some extent. There is, firstly, the act of purification after the communion in the mass. It relates

(a) to the purification of the chalice; some wine is poured into it by the servant of the altar, and slightly shaken with a circular motion, to take in all particles of the holy blood; then the chalice is emptied in two draughts, the mouth touching the same place from which the holy blood has been drunk. During this performance the prayer Quod ore sumsimus is recited: this prayer stands in an old Gothic missal of Charlemagne's time as Postcommunio. In the oldest times of Christianity the purification of the chalice was done with water. which wuas afterwards poured into a special vessel placed at the side of the altar, and called piscina (q.v.). It was Innocent III who directed that the purification of the chalice should be done with wine.

(b) To the periodical purification of the ciborium (q.v.), which is performed after the partaking of the holy blood and before the purification of the chalice, by gathering with wine the rest of the holy blood left in the ciborium, and emptying it as before, and then wiping out its inside with the purificatorium (q.v.). There is, secondly, the act of purification for women, which has been derived through rather than from the Jewish rite (Leviticus 12). It is based upon the practice of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose compliance with the demand of the Jewish ceremonial law is related in Luke 2:22-24. The Romish Church has in commemoration of this purification act instituted a festival called Feast of Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and as by the Levitical law the ceremony was appointed for the fortieth day after childbirth, the feast is put on Feb. 2 (reckoning from Dec. 25, the Nativity of Christ). As on the same occasion the Holy Virgin complied also with the law of Numbers 18:15, by the offering prescribed in redemption of the first-born, the festival is also called by the name of the Presentation of the Child Jesus, or the Feast of Simeon, and sometimes, also, of the Meeting (occursus), in allusion to Simeon's meeting the Virgin Mother, and taking the child into his arms (Luke ii, 25). The date of the introduction of this festival is uncertain. The first clear trace of it is about the middle of the 5th century, during the reign of Marcia, and in the Church of Jerusalem. Its introduction in the Roman Church, in 494, was made by pope Gelasius the occasion of transferring to a Christian use the festivities which at that season were annexed to the pagan festival of the Lupercalia.

In the Church of England, the restoration of woman to the privileges of the Church is accompanied by a solemn thanksgiving for deliverance in her great danger. The title of the service, The Thanksgiving of Women offer Childbirth, was adopted in 1552 to bring this point into prominence. The old Sarum title, Ordo ad Purificandam Muliesreme post Partum, and that in the Praverbook of 1549, The Order of the Purification of Women, seemed to mark an unholiness in the woman which the service removed. The Puritans objected to the use of the service for this very reason "For what else doth this churching imply but a restoring her unto the Church, which cannot be without some bar or shutting forth pre-supposed?" They complained, too, against such individualizing of prayer and praise (see the controversy between Cartwright and Whitgift and Hooker, in Keble, 3d ed. of Hooker's Works, ii, 434-438). In the Sarum use the service was read at the church door, ante ostium ecclesice; in the book of 1549, "nigh unto the quire door," afterwards at the altar rails; now at "some convenient place." The solemn readmission of the woman to divine service of the Sarum use has been wholly discontinued. The Book of Common Prayer requires of the woman to be "decently apparelled," which means that she shall appear at church veiled. Hooker gives an instance where a woman appeared unveiled and was therefore excommunicated, and when the case was appealed to the bishops they confirmed the decision. Palmer says that all the Western rituals and that of Constantinople had offices for this rite. A service of the 10th century is given by Migne, Cursus (Paris, 1841), 138: "Benedictio Puerperae secundum usum AEthiopum." The anointing the forehead of the woman and child, sacra unctione, the imposition of hands, the reception of holy communion, the giving of incense, are parts of this rite. See Siegel, Christliche Alterthiumer (Index in vol. 4); Riddle, Christian Antiquities (see Index); Brit. Quar. Rev. July, 1871, p. 110. (See ABLUTION)

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Purification in the Christian Church.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​p/purification-in-the-christian-church.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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