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334

ALPHABET 334 ALPHONSUS however, which were renewed from time to time, inevitably gave rise to claims for revision, which were handed in to the equalizers, who forwarded them to the surveyors who acted as arbitrators. The Roman Liturgj' has preserved a rite which it is interesting to compare with the practice of these surveyors. At the dedication of a church the bishop writes two alphabets on the ground, one Greek and the other Latin, with the point of his pastoral staff, along two lines of ashes laid in the form of a crux deciissata (X). The two alphabets start from the e.ast and stretch towards the west. The Leonine Sacramentary makes no mention of a ceremony which is clearly set forth in the Gregorian Sacramentary: "Thereupon the bishop shall begin from the left-hand eastern corner to write with his staff on the paenieiit the letters A B C, as far as the right-hand western corner; beginning again in like manner from the right-hand eastern corner, he writes A B C as far as the left-hand western corner of the basilica." At the period mentioned the bishop was at liberty to write either only A B C or the whole alphabet, in Greek and Latin, or twice in Latin. The rite, however, was not in use every- where; the sacramentary published by Pamelius, the edition of Rocca, and a manuscript consulted by Dom Menard, make no allusion to it. Moreover, it could be altered at pleasure, since certain bishops added the Hebrew alphabet to the two others. Attempts have been made to find the origin of this custom in the rite for taking possession of a heathen temple, a rite which the faitliful are said to have adopted and altered; but the texts of Varro and Servius allow of no such explanation. It must rather be sought for in the practice of the land- surveyors, who used measures of fixed length in making their surveys, marking them, when neces- sary, with letters to which they gave a special value of their own. These they called cases lilterarum, and included the whole Greek and the whole Latin alphabet, the X (decussio) being the most important letter of their system. It is evident, therefore, that the liturgical rite has grown up out of a practice borrowed from the land-surveyors, though we can- not say what alterations it may have undergone in passing from that guild to the Church. In course of time, when the rite lost its meaning, a mystical signification was attached to it. After the ninth century the reason for using the two alphabets was no longer understood; an English Pontifical of the tenth century mistakes the X for the signum Christi. In this way an ancient usage grew by degrees into a ceremony supposed to be the expression of a most abstruse symbolism. Nor was it only in this rite for the dedication of a church that the alphabet was cut down to a mere ABC. The same curtailment is to be seen on two vessels used for baptism, both belonging to the ancient African Church. One, which is of terra-cotta, was foimd at Carthage. Its symbolical decoration (cross, fishes, A B C) has a special reference to the neophytes. The other, a white marble basin, spherical in shape, was dis- covered not lone ago, in the Basilica of Dermech, near Carthage. It hits four ears, or handles (orcillons, ansa), one of which serves as a spout, while the others bear the letters A B C. Both ajipear to have been employed liturgically in the fifth or sixth century. The Gnostic Ai.phabkt. — Lastly, the alphabet held an important nlace in the systems of several Gnostic sects, though the use and meaning given it by them remain very difficult to determine. Certain aspect.s, however, of the matter have begun to grow plainer. It seems certain, for instance, that the sounds ()f vowels corresponded with those of the gamut. When, therefore, we meet with vowels arranged in a seemingly meaningless order, the ex- planation is to be found in substituting the sound for the letter. The W papyrus of Leyden has given us a clue to these melodies, which may have been sung at the celebration of Gnostic mysteries and orgies. Wagner, Leclercq, and Lkjat in Diet, d'archiol. chrit. et de lit. (Paris, 1904), I, 1258-88; Dcchesne, Ortff. du culte chrHien (London, 1903). 409, 417; Ruelle and Poiree, Le chant gn09- tico-magiqtie (Solesmes, 1901). H. Leclercq. Alphabet, Hebrew. See Hebrew Liter.ture. Alphabetic Psalms. See Ps.vlms. Alphaeus. See Bkethrex of the Lord. Alphage, .A.rchbishop of Canterbury. See Ei^ PHEGE, S.INT. Alphonsus Llguori, S.int, b. at Marianella, near Naples, 27 September, 169G; d. at Nocera de' Pagani, 1 August, 17S7. The eighteenth century was not an age remarkable for depth of spiritual life, yet it produced three of the greatest missionaries of the Church, St. Leonard of Port Maurice, St. Paul of the Cross, and St. Alphonsus Liguori. Alphonsus Mary Antony John Cosmas Damian Michajl Gaspard de' Liguori was born in his father's country house at Marianella near Naples, on Tuesday, 27 September, 1696. He was baptized two days later in the church of Our Lady of the Virgins, in Naples. The family was an old and noble one. though the branch to which the Saint belonged had become somewhat impover- ished. Alphonsus's father, Don Joseph de' Liguori was a naval officer and Captain of the Royal Galleys. The Saint's mother was of Spanish descent, and if, as there can be little doubt, race is an element in individual character, we may see in Alphonsus's Spanish blood some explanation of the enormous tenacity of purpose which distinguishetl him from his earliest years. "I know his obstinacy", his father said of him as a young man; "when he once makes up his mind he is inflexible". Not many de- tails have come down to us of Alphonsus's childliood. He was the eldest of seven children anil the hope of his house. The boy was bright and quick beyond his years, and made great progress in all kinds of learning. In addition his father made him practise the harpsichord for three hours a day, and at the age of thirteen he played with the perfection of a master. Riding and fencing were his recreations, and an evenmg game of cards; he tells us that he was debarred from being a good shot by his bad sight. In early manhood he became very fond of the opera, but only that he might hsten to the music, for when the curtain went up he took his glasses off, so as not to see the players distinctly. The Neapolitan stage at this time was in a good state, but the Saint had from his earliest years an ascetic repugnance to theatres, a repugnance which he never lost. The childish fault for which he most reproached himself in after-life was resisting his father too strongly when he was told to take part in a drawing-room play. Alphonsus was not sent to school but was educated by tutors under his father's eye. At the age of six- teen, on 21 January, 1713, lie took his degree as Doctor of Laws, although twenty was the age fixed by the statutes. He said himself that he Wiis so small at the time as to be almost buried in his doctor's gown and that all the spectators laughed. Soon after this the boy began his studies for the Bar, and about the age of nineteen practised his profession in the courts. In the eight years of his career;u ailvocate, years crowded with work, he is saiil never to have lost a case. Even if there be some exag- geration in this, for it is not in an advocate's power always to be on the winning side, the tradition shows that he w.is extraordinarily able and successful. In fact, despite his youth, he seems at the age of twenty- scN'cn to have been one of the leaders of the Neapoli- tan Bar.