Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/372

This page needs to be proofread.
332

A AND a 332 ALPHA St. Aloysius Gonza Chilosophy, having made his philosopliical and also is mathematical studies before his entrance. He had in fact distinguished himself, when in Spain, by a public examination not only in philosophy, but also in theologj', at the University of Alcala. He made his vows 25 Novem- ber, 1587. Im- mediately after, he began his theo- logical studies. Among his pro- fessors were Fath- ers Vasquez and Azor. In 1591 when in his fourth year of theology a famine and pestilence broke out in Italy. Though in deli- cate health, he devoted himself to the care of the sick, but on the 3d March he feU iU and died 21 June, 1591. He was beatified by Gregory XV in 1G21 and canonized by Benedict XIII in 1726. His remains are in the churcli of St. Ignazio in Rome in a magnificent urn of lapis lazuli wreathed with festoons of silver. The altar has for its centrepiece a large marble relief of the Saint by Le Gros. Butler. Lires of the Sainla, 21 June; Ada SS., 21 June; Cf.pari, Life of St. Aloysiue Gonzaga; Rodvier, Les Saints de la C. de J. (Paris, 1893). J. F. X. O'CONOB. AandO (Alph. and Omega). — Scriptdral. — The first and the last letter of the Greek alphabet, em- ployed from the fourth century as a symbol ex- pressing the confidence of orthodox Christians in the scriptural proofs of Our Lord's divinity. This symbol was suggested by the Apocalypse, where Christ, as well as the Father, is "the First and the Last" (ii, 8); "the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (cf., xxii, 13; i, 8). Clement of Alexandria speaks of the Word as "the Alpha and the Omega of Whom alone the end becomes beginning, and ends again at the original beginning without any break" (Strom., IV, 25). Tertullian also alludes to Christ as the Alpha and Omega (De Monogamia, v), and from Prudentius (Cathemer., ix, 10) we learn that in the fourth century the interpretation of the apocalyptic letters was still the same: "Alpha et Omega cogno- minatus, ipse fons et clausula, Omnium qu£e sunt, fuerunt, qua;que post futura sunt." It was, how- ever, in the monuments of early Christianity that the symbolic Alpha and Omega had their greatest vogue. The earliest date at which this symbol occurs is in the year 295, in a dated inscription of Rome. In this example, however, it is to be noted that the Omega takes precedence, and that both letters form part of the inscription, thus: "VIRGO MOUCnVA ES(T) TVS fi ET. A NVLLINO CO.(S)"; ( . . . died, a virgin Tuscus and AnuUi- nus being consuls). The ([uestion whether this symbol in its regular form, A and O, was in use before the Council of Nica;a (325) has not yet been .settled definitely. If so, it wa.s of very rare occurrence. In a fresco which dates from the middle of the fourth century in the "great cave" of the catacomb of Pnetcxtatus, A and are found in connection with the monogrammatic cross. The oldest inscription in which the letters occur in their traditional form dates from 301. From this time on they were a favourite symbol of the orthodox Christians (the Arians regarded it with disfavour) and they are found on the monuments in all parts of early Christendom. The apocalyptic letters were represented either (1) alone, or (2) in connection with human or other figures, or (3) with other symbols. Examples of the first class, to which belongs the in- scription of 364, are rare. The second class also is not very numerously represented; probably the most interesting example of it is a panel of the fifth- century door of St. Sabina's where A and U are carved on either side of the risen Christ. Monu- ments of the third class, representing A and in connection with another symbol, usually the mono- gram of Christ, are much more common than those of the two former classes. The minuscular form w is, in nearly all cases, represented, though some ex- amples of U occur in the monuments of Africa and Spain. The words "Alpha and Omega" continued in use in the Mozarabic Liturgy; also in the ancient Irish Liturgy, e. g. in the famous Communion-hymn in the Antiphonary of Bangor. Kraus, Real-Enci/klopadie, I, 60-62; Leclercq in Diet d'aTcheol. et de lit., I, 1-25. Maurice M. Hassett. Alpha and Omega. — In Jewlsh Theology. — When God passed before the face of Moses on Sinai the great Law-giver of Israel called out: "Jehova, Jehova, kind and merciful God, of long-suffering, and full of goodness and truth" [(Ex., xxxiv, 6), in the Douay Version, "O the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, patient and of much compassion, and true"]. God's being is fullness of goodness and truth — Plenitudo veri et fconi, J^P^"!. IPH. They are foremost among God's moral attiributes. They are the immediate outcome of His Divine operations. For God is an infuiitely pure spirit. His being is Intellect and Will. Truth is the final object of the intellect, and goodness is that of the will. In the Psalter they are praised and invoked by the poet with holy and lo'ing fondness, e. g. Pss., xxiv, 10; xxxix, 11, 12; h-i, 4, 11; Ixxxiv, 11; Ixxxv, 15; cxvi, 2. Of the two perfections truth and goodness, the former ranks higlier. Truth is the first of all perfections. The Hebrew word for truth is Emeth riDN. It is composed of three letters: .leph =Alpha, Mem = My, and Thaw = Theta. The Aleph and the Thaw are the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet as the .lpha ami Omega are of the Greek. Thus the term Emeth (trutli) begins with the first letter of the alphabet and ends with the last. This led the Jewish sages to find in this word a mystical meaning. The Aleph or the first letter of Emeth (truth) denotes that God is the first of all things. "There was no one before Him of whom He could have received the fullness of truth. The Thaw, or last letter, in like manner signifies that God is the last of all things. There will be no one after Him to whom He could bequeath it. Thus Emeth is a sacred word expressing that in God truth dwells absolutely and in all plenitude. Emeth, as the Jewish divines truly say, is the signaculum Dei essentia (see Bu.xtorf's Lexicon). In Yoma 69b., and Sanh. 64a., the fol- lowing is related: "The men of the great sjmagogue prayed to God to remove from the earth the Evil Spirit, as the cause of all trouble. Immediately a scroll fell from heaven witii the word Truth written thereon, and thereupon a fiery lion came out of the sanctuary. It was the spirit of idolatry leaving the cartn". "This legend shows", says Hanina "that the seal of God is truth". (Jewish Encyclo- pedia.) In Christian Usage. — The manner of expressing God's eternity by means of the first and last letters of the alphabet seems to have passed from the synagogue into the Church. In place of the .leph and Thaw, the .Mpha and Omega were substituted. But the substitution of the Greek letters for those