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Paganism

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Paganism, in the broadest sense includes all religions other than the true one revealed by God, and, in a narrower sense, all except Christianity, Judaism, and Mohammedanism. The term is also used as the equivalent of Polytheism.

Christian ritual developed when, in the third century, the Church left the Catacombs. Many forms of self-expression must needs be identical, in varying times, places, cults, as long as human nature is the same. Water, oil, light, incense, singing, procession, prostration, decoration of altars, vestments of priests, are naturally at the service of universal religious instinct. Little enough, however, was directly borrowed by the Church — nothing, without being "baptized", as was the Pantheon. In all these things, the spirit is the essential: the Church assimilates to herself what she takes, or, if she cannot adapt, she rejects it (cf. Augustine, Epp., xlvii, 3, in P.L., XXXIII, 185; Reply to Faustus XX.23; Jerome, "Epp.", cix, ibid., XXII, 907). Even pagan feasts may be "baptized": certainly our processions of 25 April are the Robigalia; the Rogation days may replace the Ambarualia; the date of Christmas Day may be due to the same instinct which placed on 25 Dec., the Natalis Invicti of the solar cult. But there is little of this; our wonder is, that there is not far more [see Kellner, "Heortologie" (Freiburg, 1906). See CHRISTMAS; EPIPHANY. Also Thurston, "Influence of Paganism on the Christian Calendar" in "Month" (1907), pp. 225 sqq.; Duchesne, "Orig. du Culte chrétien", tr. (London, 1910) passim; Braun, "Die priestlichen Gewänder" (Freiburg, 1897); Idem, "Die pontificalen Gewänder" (Freiburg, 1898); Rouse, "Greek Votive Offerings" (Cambridge, 1902), esp. c.v]. The cult of saints and relics is based on natural instinct and sanctioned by the lives, death, and tombs (in the first instance) of martyrs, and by the dogma of the Communion of Saints; it is not developed from definite instances of hero-worship as a general rule, though often a local martyr-cult was purposely instituted to defeat (e.g.) an oracle tenacious of pagan life (P.G., L, 551; P.L., LXXII 831; Newman, "Essay on Development, etc.", II, cc. ix, xii., etc.; Anrich, "Anfang des Heiligenkults, etc.", Tübingen, 1904; especially Delehaye, "Légendes hagiographiques," Brussels, 1906). Augustine and Jerome (Ep. cii, 8, in P.L., XXXIII, 377; "C. Vigil.", vii, ibid., XXXIII, 361) mark wise tolerance: Duchesne ["Hist. ancienne de l'église", I (Rome, 1308), 640; cf. Sozomen, Church History VII.20] reminds us of the occasional necessary repression: Gregory, writing for Augustine of Canterbury, fixes the Church's principle and practice (Bede, "Hist. eccl.", I, xxx, xxxii, in P.L., XCV, 70, 72). Reciprocal influence there may to some small extent have been; it must have been slight, and quite possibly felt upon the pagan side not least. All know how Julian tried to remodel a pagan hierarchy on the Christian (P. Allard, "Julien l'Apostat", Paris, 1900).

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