Open main menu

Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/456

This page needs to be proofread.


MITRE

MITRE shomj. A fire was kept perpetually burning in the sanctuary. Three times a day prayer was offered the sun towanls e;ist, south, or west according to the hour. Sunday was kept holy in honour of Mithra, and the sixteenth of each month was sacred to him as media- tor. The 25 DecemtxT was observed as his birthday, the naUilis invicti. the rebirth of tlie winier-sun. un- conquered by the rigours of the se.i.<on. . Mithraic community was not nierelv a religious congregation; it was a social and legal ^)ody with its decent prim i, marjistri, ciiriilDrcs. <li-i'tnsiiri-x, anil patroni. These cominunil ios allowed no women as members. Women might console tlipinsclves liy forniing jissociations to worship Anaitis-Cyliele: but whether the.se were lus- sociated with Mithraism .seems doubtful. No proof of immorality or oliscene practices, so often con- nected with esoteric pagan cults, has ever been estab- lished against Mithraism; and as far as can be ascer- tained, or rather conjectured it had an elevating and invigorating effect on its followers. From a chance remark of Tertullian (I)e Pnescriptione, xl) we gather that their Pator Pat rum" was only allowed to te married once, and that .Mithraism had its rirgines and conlinentes; such at least seems the best interpretat ion of the passage. If. however, Dietcrich's Mitnras's lit- urgy he really a liturgy of this sect, as he ably main- tains, its liturgy can only strike us as a mixture of bombast antl charlatanism in which the mystcs has to hold his sides, and roar to the utmost of his power till he is exhausted, to whistle, smack his lips, and pronounce barbaric agglomerations of syllables as the different mystic signs for the heavens and the con- stellations are unveiletl to him. Rel.tion to CuiiisTi.vNiTY. — A similarity between Mithra and Christ struck even early observers, such as Justin, Tertullian, and other Fathers, and in re- cent times has liecn urged to prove that Christianity is but an adaptation of Mithraism, or at most the out- come of the same religious ideas and aspirations (e. g. Robertson, "Pagan Christs", 1903). Against this erroneous and imscientific procedure, which is not endorsed by the greatest living authority on Mithra- ism, the following considerations must be brought forward. (1) Our knowledge regarding Mithraism is very imperfect; some 600 brief inscriptions, mostly dedicatorj', some 300 often fragraentarj', exiguous, almost identical monuments, a few casual references in the Fathers or Acts of the Martyrs, and a brief polemic against Mithraism which the .rmenian Eznig about 4.50 probably copied from Theodore of Mop- suestia (d. 42S) who lived when Mithraism was almost a thing of the past — these are our only sources, unless we include the Avesta in which Mithra is indeed men- tioned, but which cannot be an authority for Roman Mithraism with which Christianity is compared. Our knowledge Is mostly ingenious guess-work; of the real inner working of Mithraism and the sense in which it was understood by those who professed it at the ad- vent of Christianity, we know nothing. (2) Some apparent similarities exist: but in a number of details it Is quite. 'IS probable that Mithraism was the borrower from Christianity. Tertullian about 200 could say: "hestemi sumus et omnia vestra implevimus" ("we are but of yestenlay, yet your whole world is full of us")- It Is not unnatural to suppose that a religion which filled the whole world, should have been copied at least in some details by another religion which was quite popular during the third century. Moreover the resemblances pointed out are superficial and ex- ternal. Similarity in words and names Is nothing; it is the sense that matters. During these centuries Christianity was coining its own technical terms, and naturally took names, terms, and expressions current in that day ; and so did Mithraism. But under identi- cal t«nns each system thought its own thoughts. Mithra is called a mediator; and so is Christ; hut Mithra originally only in a cosmogonic or astronomical sense; Christ, being God and man, is by nature tha Mediator between God and man. And so in similar instances. Mithraism had a Eucharist, but the idea of a sacred banquet is as old as the human race and existed at all ages and amongst all peoples. Mithra saved t he woild by .sacrificing a bull ; Christ by sacrific- ing Himself. It is hanily po.ssible to conceive a more radical difference than that between Mithra tauroch- tonos and Christ crucified. Christ was born of a A'irgin; there is nothing to prove that the same was believed of Mithra born from the rock. Christ was liom in a cave; and Mithraists worshippefl in a cave, but .Mithra was born under a tree near a river. Much has been made of the presence of adoring shepherds; but tlu'ir existence on sculptures has not been proven, and considering that man had not yet appeared, it is an anachronism to suppose their presence. (3) Christ was an historical personage, recently born in a well known town of Judea, and crucified under a Roman Governor, whose name figured in the ordinary official lists. Mithra was an abstraction, a personification not even of the sun but of the diffused daylight; his incarnation, if such it may be called, was supposed to have happened before the creation of the human race, loefore all history. The small Mithraic congregations were like masonic lodges for a few and for men only and even those mostly of one class, the military; a religion that excludes the half of the human race bears no comparison to the religion of Christ. Mith- raism was all comprehensive and tolerant of every other cult, the Pater Patrum himself was an adept in a number of other religions; Christianity was essen- tially exclusive, condemning every other religion in the world, alone and unique in its majesty. CuMONT, i^otes sur un temple Mithriaque d'Ostie (Ghent, 1891 ) ; Idem, Testes et Monuments figures relat. aux Mystirca de Mithra (2 vols., Brussels. 1896-1899); Idem, Les Mysllres de Mithra (2nd., Paris, 1902), tr. McCormack (London. 1903); Idem, Religions Orientales dans le Paganisme Romnin (Paria, 1906); Martindale, The Religion of Mithra in The Month (1908, Oct.. Nov., Dec); Idem, The Religion of Mithra in Lectures on the Hist, of Religions. II (C. T, S,, London, 1910); Dill, Roman Society from Nero to M. Aurelitis (London, 1904); St.-Clair- TlsDALL, Mythic Christs and the True; Dieterich, Eine Mi- thrasliturgie (Leipzig. 1903); Ramsay. The Greek of the early Church andthe Pagan Ritual (Edinburgh, 1898-9); Blotzer, Dos heidn. Mysterienwescn und die H ellenisierung des Christenthuma in Stimmen aus Marin-Ijaach (1906-7); Ales. Mithriacisme et Christianisme in Revue Pratigue d' Apologetique (P.nrii, 1906-7); WiELAND, Ankldnge der christl. Tauflehre an die Mithraischen Mystagogie (Munich. 1907); Gasquet, Essai sur le culte el lea mysterea de Mithra (Paris, 1899). J. P. Arendzen. Mitre. — Form, Material, and Use. — The mitre is a kind of folding-cap. It consists of two like parts, each stiffened by a lining and rising to a peak ; these are sewn together on the sides, fiut are united above by a piece of material that can fold together. Two lappets trimmed on the ends with fringe hang down from the back. The mitre is, theoretically, always supposed to be white. The official " Caremoniale Romanum " distinguishes three kinds of mitres: the milra pretiosa, auriphri/giata, and simplex. The first two differ from each other only in the greater or less richness of the ornamentation; the mitra simplex, or simple mitre, is one of white silk or white linen entirely without orna- ment. The fringe on the lappets at the back should be red. The bishop must wear the ttiitra pretin.ta on those days on which the hymn Te Deum is used in the Office, the mitre auriphrygiata in the seasons of Ad- vent and Lent, on fast days and during penitential processions, the mitra simplex on Good Fridays, at funerals, and at the blessing of the can<lles on Candle- mas-day. When bishops attend a general council, or are present at solemn pontifical acts of the pope, they wear a plain linen mitre, while the cardinals on such occasions wear a simple mitre of silk damask. The right to wear the mitre belongs by law only to the pope, the cardinals, and the bishops. Others require for its use a special papal privilege. This privilege