Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/373

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333

ALPHABET 333 ALPHABET of the Hebrew tongue inevitably caused a portion of the meaning and beauty in tlms designating God to be lost. The Greek letters Alpha and Omega have no relation to the wonl Truth. Omega is not the last letter of the word dXTjOeia (truth), as Thaw is of the word Kineth. The sacreil and mystical word Truth, e.pressing in Hebrew, through its letters Aleph and Thaw, God's ab.solute and eternal being, hau to be sacrificed. NTI or AU signify an absolute plenitude, or perfection. It is a Jewish .saying that the blessing on Israel in Lev., xxvi, .'J-13, is complete becau.se it begins with .leph and ends with Thaw. Jehovah's absolute perfection is expressed in Is., xli, 4; xhv, 0, by the phra.se, " I am the first and the last ". Plato, " De Legibus", IV, 71."), describes God in the same manner: dpx^v re xal TeXfvTrjv Kal fUaa rCiv 6vruv airivTuv ex""". and quotes this plirase as a TaXaiJs X47«- Cf. also Josephus. C. Apion., II, xxiii. The phrase fitly expresses the idea that God is eternal, the beginning and end of all things. The fourth Gospel, after stating that the "Word was God", says, "and the Wort! dwelt among us full of grace and truth". Grace stands for goodness. The phrase is identical with Ex., xxxiv, 6, " full of good- ness and trutli". We have here the two great divine attributes. Truth and Goodness, assigned to Christ in all their fullness. What Moses has said of God, the Nil xc KA Evangelist says of Christ. In the Apocalyp.se the Afi taking the place of ^y^ occur in the first chapter to designate God, i, 8; but in the last two chapters to designate Christ (.Ap., xxi, (i; xxii, 13). It is an argu- ment that its author believ- ed in the divinity of Christ. In the earlier ages of the Cliurch the A and il were u.-ied a.s the monogram of Christ. These letters be- came His crest. The poet Prudentius says, " .lpha et Omega cognominatus, ipse fons et clausula om- nium (xx sunt, fuerunt, qu:p<iue post futura sunt" (Cathemer., 9 U). The All were written under the arms of the cross within a circle or triangle. (Fig. 1). Sometimes the .V is found on the right and tc on the left to indicate that in Christ the beginning and the end are joined into one. (Fig. 2). This crest is found on the coins of the Empe'rors Constans and Constantius (Martigny, 4.)S-1.')9). (Fig. 3). The early Christians h.id the two letters engraved on their signet rings, [Fig. 4 (Vigouroux, Biblical Lexicon)]. Some- times the .-Mpha and the Omega are written in the nimbus, or halo, of the Lamb; for instance, in the paintings of the Catacombs of Petrus and .Marcellinus, third century. We further find these two letters in frescoes and mosaics of several ancient churclies; for instance, in the chapel of St. Fehcitas, and in San Marco in Rome; in the world-famed mosaics of Ravenna, in Galla Placidia, St. Crisologo, St. Vitale. In the course of time A and il ceased to be used as the monogram of Christ for church paintings and orna- ments. During the last centuries the letters I. H. S. (see .■uBKEVi.TioNS, Ecclesiastical) have com- pletely taken their place. Recently, however, on tabernacle <loors and antependia the older device is again met with. LKci.KRcg A.Ni> Cabrol in Diet, d'archfoi. chrit, et de lit.; ViGOCHoux in Diet, de la Bible; Wiluanns in Corp. inter, lat., VIII: Dr. R0.S.SI. ln»CT. ehritt. urb. Roma, I; Idem in Bull. di arch, criat. (IS08), p. 13, (1869), p. 13; Idem, Roma solterr. C. VAN DEN HlESEN. Alphabet, Christian Use of the. — The Hebrew, Greek, and Latin alphabets have been variously made use of in Christian hturgy. During Holy Week the Hebrew alphabet is sung, each of its letters preceding one of the verses of the Lamentations of Jeremias at Matins; having here, however, merely a numerical value, they might be replaced by Number One, Number Two, etc. The musical setting is now usually the same in all churches, the most ancient known at present being that of the Romano- Gregorian Liturgy. Codex VII, aa 3, of the municipal library of Naples (twelfth century) has a melody which varies with the letters; those for verses xii, xix, and xxi having a simple form, those for xvi and XX a more elaborate one; and, lastly, those for verses xviii and x.xii, a form which is little more than a lengthening out of the preceding. The simple form reappears most frequently in the MSS. , particularly in the " Breviarium secundum consuetuainem curise romans", of the thirteenth ccnturj'. It was proba- bly about this time that the simple form was pre- ferred to the variety which had hitherto existed. Ali'hadet op the Litter.e Formats. — The lit- tera jormatae, or letters commendatorv, took their name from the seals that were attacfied to them; indeed, .Sirmond quotes a Vatican MS. where the word aiiiillala: occurs instead of jormatot. In these letters, the Greek alphabet is used in place of numeri- cal signs. In order to prevent fraud or imposture, it was said that the Fathers of the Council of Nica;a had formulated a decree to the effect that the lilterct must contain such a series of letters as, on addition of their numerical values, would deter- mine the origin of the document. The initials given were those of the Three Divine Persons, n. T. A; of the Poi)e; of the writer and recipient of the letter; of the city where it was written; lastly, the letter of the cycle, and the word AMHN. Unfortunately, the writers were ill-instructe<l; a littcra jormata of the Church of Metz contains an error of addition, nor is this a solitary instance. The early medieval collections of FormuUe show that mistakes were frequent, so that in a short time the means of con- trol became to all intents and purposes illusorj'. The Alphauet in the Dedication of a Chvrch. — Both Greeks and Latins made use of letters as numerical signs, but on wholly different principles. Alphabets, among the Latins, were of two kinds: the systematic, which have arbitrary values: and the signs used by land-surveyors (a(/rim<-n.'iorf.«), which have fixed values. The land-surveyors formed a corporation which was entrusted by public and private authority with the measuring of properties. The tax was levied in accordance witli the owner's declaration, but the State came, in time, to recognize the lo.ss to which it was exposed througli false re- turns, and instituted an official survey and measure- ment of landed pro|)erties. to be carried out by oHi- cers appointed for the purpose. Their measurements