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The Holy Shrines.
T seems very strange that the religion of Jesus
Christ—a religion of love and peace and of righteousness—should, notwithstanding its divine origin, be attended with dissension.
In every part of the world people agree to differ, and no two watches will go exactly alike, as said the Emperor Charles V., who, in his retirement, took up the craft of a watchmaker for his amusement, and who no longer wondered he could not make men think alike. It is said that the dissensions of the Greek and Latin churches in Jerusalem have now for many years been a stumbling-block to Jews and Mahommedans. These disputes are carried to Constantinople for adjustment, and there he who can give the greatest bribe is sure of a verdict. And the Greeks being by far the richest of the Christians living at Jerusalem, have obtained the guardianship of the Holy Sepulchre—one of the sacred shrines-since 1807. The Greek Church, therefore, look up to the Emperor of Russia for protection. The number of worshippers to this church is swelled by from four to five thousand Greeks every year, many of whom are charged with valuable presents from the Czar.
There is no single building within the walls of Jerusalem which excites a more intense interest than the church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is situated on Mount Calvary. Satisfactory evidence seems to prove, notwithstanding many doubts to the contrary, that the church really crowns the sacred spot of the crucifixion. The exterior of the edifice is that of the middle ages. It was built by Helena, mother of Constantine. It consists of various chapels, that stands towards the East; and that which would form the chancel in our churches, is the chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, over which is the chief cupola of the church. It is about seventy feet in diameter, and about the same height. The chapel of the Greek church is in that part which we should call the nave. It is the largest in the building. The sides are covered with fine paintings, embellished with chaste mouldings, richly gilded ; from the ceiling hang those costly chandeliers, the largest of which was presented to the Greeks by the Emperor of Russia. It is valued at 50,000 piastres, or £500. In the centre is a marble basin, holding a hemisphere of the same material, with a black belt crossing its circumference, said to mark the
a centre of the world. Directly under the dome, in the centre of the area, is a small oblong building, within which is the Holy Sepulchre. The visitor first passes through a small, dimly-lighted room, which serves as ante-chapel to the Sepulchre itself. A few steps further, and passing through a narrow portal, the worshipper is alone in the inner sanctuarythe holiest of holy places--where thousands and tens of thousands kneel, weep, and prostrate themselves, in the full faith that this is the very site of their Master's burial-place. The spot which is shown as that of the holy resting place,
is a sort of sarcophagus of white marble, six feet one inch long, which occupies one half of the chamber. The Sepulchre contains nothing of its primitive material, except the oblong stone on which the body was laid, and even the upper surface of this is covered with white marble. Fortythree lamps of gold and silver, ever burning, light this solemn spot, which is probably the only one on earth which no one ever trod without seriousness and deep reflection. Among the numerous chapels which surround the building interiorly, is-First on the right, a small chapel with an altar, over which is a good painting, representing the nailing of our Saviour to the Cross, aud the binding of the two thieves. Near by is shown a rent in the lime-stone rock, covered with three gilded wires, said to have been occasioned by the earthquake at the Crucifixion. The continuation of the rent is seen in the chapel underneath. Secondly, we have the chapel of the Crucifixion. At the foot of the altar is a marble slab, covering the rock, in which are three circular holes; the centre one is overlaid with a wrought plate of gold, about one foot in diameter. Here the Cross of Jesus was uplifted—the others belonging to the two thieves, one a little in the rear. To the east of the above, in a small vestibule, is the stone of unction—a marble slab measuring six feet by three, with three large wax candles burning at each end.
The church of the Holy Sepulchre is composed of several other chapels, erected upon an unequal surface, illumined by a multitude of lamps. Christian priests, of various sects, inhabit different parts of the edifice. From the arches above, where they nestle like pigeons, to the chapels below, where they sometimes growl at each other like wild beast, and from subterranean vaults, where they hide themselves like charnel sprites, their songs are heard at all hours, both by day and night. The organs of the Latin monks, the cymbals of the Abyssinian priests, the voice of the Greek, the prayer of the solitary Armenian, the plaintive accents of the Coptic friar, alternately, or all at once assail your ear. You know not whence these concerts proceed; you inhale the perfume of the incense without perceiving the hand that burns it; you merely perceive the pontiff, who is going to celebrate the most awful of mysteries on the very spot where they were accomplished, pass quickly by, glide behind the columns, and vanish in the gloom of the temple.
It would be well if the tomb of the Prince of Peace could rest in peace; but it is not so: heart-burnings, jealousies, and quarrels exist, and even blows are frequently given among the followers of Him whose religion is forbearance and love. The pious thoughts, the prayers, the prostations, and the oblations seem of little effect in producing brotherly love among them. But we look forward for an outpouring of the spirit of the Most High, which will yet cause the “lion to lie down with the lamb, and the leopard with the young kid,” in everlasting harmony and peace.
'LL go and peep at the pimpernel,
For if the sun shine,
For I like to go there.
If fair weather, no maiden so happy as I.”
And unto that maid
There's a gathering frown
Say you so, indeed,