Anciently dramas representing the passion of incarnate saviours, called Passion plays, were enacted upon the stage. The most celebrated of these divine tragedies, known as Prometheus Bound, and composed by the Greek poet AEschylus, was played at Athens 500 years before the beginning of the Christian era. To show that this sin-atoning saviour was not chained to a rock, while vultures preyed upon his vitals, as popularly taught, but was nailed to a tree; we quote front Potter’s translation of the play, that passage which, readily recognized as the original of a Christian song, reads as follows:
“Lo, streaming from the fatal tree, His all atoning blood: Is this the infinite? ‘Tis he– Prometheus and a God. Well might the sun in darkness hide, And veil his glories in, When God the great Prometheus died For man, the creature’s sin.”
The veiling of the sun, as represented in these plays, having reference to the imaginary sympathy expressed by God Sol for the sufferings of his incarnate son, was shown upon the stage by shading the lights. The monks of the Middle Ages enacted plays representing the passion of the Christian Saviour, and the Bavarian peasantry, perpetuating this custom, perform the play every tenth year.
Resurrection and Easter Festival.
In conformity to the ancient teachings, the incarnate saviours, considered as figuratively dead for the space of three days at the Vernal Equinox, or 21st of March, were raised to newness of life after the expiration of that time. Hence, the 25th of March, without regard to the day of the week, was celebrated as the anniversary of the Vernal resurrection. On the morning of this day it was the custom of the astrologers to say to the mourners assembled in the temples, “Be of good cheer, sacred band of initiates; your God has risen from the dead, his pains and his sufferings shall be your salvation.” Another form of this admonition, quoted from an ancient poem in reference to the Phoenician Tammuz, reads as follows:
“Trust ye saints, your God restored, Trust ye in your risen Lord, For the pains which he endured, Your salvation hath procured.”
Then would begin the festivities of Easter, which corrupted from Eostre, and derived from the Teutonic mythology, was one of the many names given to the goddess of Spring. In the observance of this festival the temples were adorned with floral offerings; the Hilaries sang their joyful lays; the fires upon the pyres, or the fire-altars, were extinguished and rekindled with new fire, or sacred fire of the stars, which the Astrologers taught was brought down from heaven by the winged genius Perseus, the constellation which, anciently, was in conjunction with the Vernal Equinox; Paschal candles, lit from the new fire, were distributed to the faithful and the Paschal feast, Easter feast, or the feast of the passover, was eaten in commemoration of the passion of the incarnate saviours, or, in other words, of the passage of the sun across the celestial equator. In ultra-Catholic countries the descent of the sacred fire is represented by some secretly arranged pyrotechny, and the credulous laity, believing they have witnessed a miraculous display, eagerly solicit Paschal candles lit from it; and in imitation of the ancient festivities in honor of the return of spring, all Catholic churches, and most of Protestant ones, are adorned with flowers, the bells ring out their merriest peals, and “Gloria in Excelsis” and other jubilant songs, similar to the lays of the ancient Hilaries, are sung.
The anniversary of the Nativity having been placed on the 25th of December, according to the course of nature, the 25th of March was anciently celebrated as the anniversary of the annunciation, and is still observed on that day, and the duty of saluting the Virgin (Virgo) and announcing her conception by the Holy Ghost or third person in the Trinity was assigned to the genius of Spring. In the Chaldean version of the Gospel story the name of Gabriel was given to this personification, and in the Christian version of that story he is made to perform the same office; see Luke i. 26-35.
Celebrating the anniversary of the ascension forty days after Easter, it was anciently observed on the 4th of May, and it was taught that the incarnate saviours ascended bodily into heaven, in a golden chariot drawn by four horses caparisoned with gilded trappings, all glittering like fire in the fervid sunlight. Hence when we read in II. Kings ii. 11, that “There appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire, . . . and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven,” we must accept this text as descriptive of the imaginary ascension of one of the incarnate saviours of ancient Judaism.
When the Summer solstice was in the sign of Cancer, the sun was in that of Virgo in the month of August, and the anniversary of the Assumption was observed on the 15th of that month, and is so observed at the present time. The fact that the anniversary of the Ascension precedes that of the Assumption explains why Jesus is made to say to his mother (Virgo) soon after his resurrection, “Touch me not: for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” John xx. 17.
The Lord’s Supper.
In the ancient solar worship the so-called ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was observed just before the anniversary of the autumnal crucifixion; and consisting of bread and wine, in reference to the maturing of the crops and completion of the vintage, was, like the modern festival of the hardest home, a season of thankfulness to the Lord (God Sol) as the giver of all good gifts. Hence being observed but once a year, it was in reality not an ordinance but an anniversary; and the fact that Christians partake of these emblems so frequently during the year indicates that the original signification of the Lord’s Supper has been lost.
or the conversion of the bread and wine into the veritable blood and body of Christ, is a doctrine of the Catholic church which was derived from the ritual of the ancient solar worship.
In the 26th chapter of Matthew we have an account of the Lord administering the last supper to his Disciples on the eve of the autumnal crucifixion, and in verse 27 it reads that “he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it.” The compilers of the modern version of the Gospel story must surely have inadvertently copied this text as it read in the ancient versions of that old, old story, which, when observed in remembrance of “Our Lord and Saviour Bacchus,” was called the Bacchanalia, or feast, of Bacchus. At these orgies the participants give thanks for the wine by not only drinking all of one cup, but many more; in fact they kept on drinking until they fell under the table.
The beneficent seasons of Spring and Summer coming to an end at the Autumnal Equinox, the 22d of September was made the anniversary of the Autumnal Crucifixion. The vernal resurrection and Autumnal Crucifixion, representing the alternate triumph of the personified principles of Good and Evil, as manifested in the diversity of the seasons; we find appropriately expressed in two religious pictures. In the one, the Saviour, appealing as a vigorous young man, surrounded by a brilliant halo, representing the rays of the all-conquering Sun of Spring, is rising triumphantly from the tomb, before whom the demon of Winter, or Devil, is seen retreating in the background. In the other, the vanquished Saviour, represented by the figure of a lean and haggard man, with a crown of thorns upon his head, around which appears a faint halo of the Sun’s declining rays, and above which is placarded the letters I. N. R. I., the initial letters of Latin words, signifying the life to come, or the eternal life, is suspended upon the cross, at the foot of which his mother Mary (Virgo) is represented as kneeling in a mourning attitude, and by her side is seen a serpent and a skull, the emblems of Evil and of Death.
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In the calendar of the ancient Astral Worship, the fourth day after the Autumnal Equinox was dedicated to the genius of Autumn. In the Chaldean allegories the name of Michael was given to this personification, and called Michaelmas, or feast of Michael. In the Catholic calendar this anniversary is placed an the 29th of September, instead of the 26th of that month, while that of St. Matthew, the Christian genius of Autumn, which should be placed on the 26th of that month, is observed on the 21st.
Thus we have shown that the anniversaries of the ancient Astral Worship were all fixed, and from church history we learn that they were so observed by the Christians until the Council of Nice in the year 325, when the Bishops assembled at that celebrated convocation, desiring to have the festival of Easter celebrated on Sunday, which had been made the Sabbath by the edict of Constantine, in the year 321, ordered that it should be observed on the Sunday of the full moon, which comes on or next after the Vernal Equinox. Hence, converting it into a movable festival, its allied feasts and fast days were also made movable.