Christmas Carols, Ancient And Modern

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Telesphorus, in his Decretall Epistle, " that in the holy night of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour, they do celebrate publique Church services, and in them solemnly sing the Angells Hymne, because also the same night he was declared unto the shepherds by an Angell, as the truth itself doth witnesse." In the same age Theophilus, bishop of Caesarea, re­commends the celebration of the birth-day of our Lord, on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen. In the following century Cyprian begins his Treatise on the Nativity thus: "The much wished-for and long-expected Nativity of Christ is come, the famous solemnity is come." Gregory Nazianzen, who died in 389, and other Christian writers of the same age, mention the feast, and in particular he cautions against feasting to excess, dancing, and crowning the doors (prac­tices derived from the Heathens) ; urging the cele­bration after an heavenly, and not an earthly man­ner. From this caution it would seem as if the religious part of the festival, as in the present times, was not sufficiently attended to, and that the spiritual thanksgiving was in danger of being absorbed in the temporal rejoicing. Gregory's ob­servation, however, might have been intended as much for a warning as a rebuke, because in the same age there is on record, connected with the religious celebration of this day, one of those acts of ferocity of which the annals of human nature unfortunately afford too many examples. A multi­tude of Christians of all ages had assembled to commemorate the Nativity in the temple at Nico-media, in Bithynia, when Dioclesian the tyrant had it enclosed and set on fire, and about 20,000 per­sons perished on the occasion.*
* The Feast of Feasts, p. 13.

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