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CHAPTER XXXIX.

THE PRISON CHURCH,BLIND LEADERS OF THE BLIND.

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The service began.

It consisted of the following. The priest, having dressed in astrange and very inconvenient garb, made of gold cloth, cut andarranged little bits of bread on a saucer, and then put them intoa cup with wine, repeating at the same time different names andprayers. Meanwhile the deacon first read Slavonic prayers,difficult to understand in themselves, and rendered still moreincomprehensible by being read very fast, and then sang them turnand turn about with the convicts. The contents of the prayerswere chiefly the desire for the welfare of the Emperor and hisfamily. These petitions were repeated many times, separately andtogether with other prayers, the people kneeling. Besides this,several verses from the Acts of the Apostles were read by thedeacon in a peculiarly strained voice, which made it impossibleto understand what he read, and then the priest read verydistinctly a part of the Gospel according to St. Mark, in whichit said that Christ, having risen from the dead before flying upto heaven to sit down at His Father's right hand, first showedHimself to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven sevendevils, and then to eleven of His disciples, and ordered them topreach the Gospel to the whole creation, and the priest addedthat if any one did not believe this he would perish, but he thatbelieved it and was baptised should be saved, and should besidesdrive out devils and cure people by laying his hands on them,should talk in strange tongues, should take up serpents, and ifhe drank poison should not die, but remain well.

The essence of the service consisted in the supposition that thebits cut up by the priest and put by him into the wine, whenmanipulated and prayed over in a certain way, turned into theflesh and blood of God.

These manipulations consisted in the priest's regularly liftingand holding up his arms, though hampered by the gold cloth sackhe had on, then, sinking on to his knees and kissing the tableand all that was on it, but chiefly in his taking a cloth by twoof its corners and waving it regularly and softly over the silversaucer and golden cup. It was supposed that, at this point, thebread and the wine turned into flesh and blood; therefore, thispart of the service was performed with the greatest solemnity.

"Now, to the blessed, most pure, and most holy Mother of God,"the priest cried from the golden partition which divided part ofthe church from the rest, and the choir began solemnly to singthat it was very right to glorify the Virgin Mary, who had borneChrist without losing her virginity, and was therefore worthy ofgreater honour than some kind of cherubim, and greater glory thansome kind of seraphim. After this the transformation wasconsidered accomplished, and the priest having taken the napkinoff the saucer, cut the middle bit of bread in four, and put itinto the wine, and then into his mouth. He was supposed to haveeaten a bit of God's flesh and swallowed a little of His blood.Then the priest drew a curtain, opened the middle door in thepartition, and, taking the gold cup in his hands, came out of thedoor, inviting those who wished to do so also to come and eatsome of God's flesh and blood that was contained in the cup. Afew children appeared to wish to do so. g wagon 2010

After having asked the children their names, the priest carefullytook out of the cup, with a spoon, and shoved a bit of breadsoaked in wine deep into the mouth of each child in turn, and thedeacon, while wiping the children's mouths, sang, in a merryvoice, that the children were eating the flesh and drinking theblood of God. After this the priest carried the cup back behindthe partition, and there drank all the remaining blood and ate upall the bits of flesh, and after having carefully sucked hismoustaches and wiped his mouth, he stepped briskly from behindthe partition, the soles of his calfskin boots creaking. Theprincipal part of this Christian service was now finished, butthe priest, wishing to comfort the unfortunate prisoners, addedto the ordinary service another. This consisted of his going upto the gilt hammered-out image (with black face and hands)supposed to represent the very God he had been eating,illuminated by a dozen wax candles, and proceeding, in a strange,discordant voice, to hum or sing the following words: g wagon 2010

Jesu sweetest, glorified of the Apostles, Jesu lauded by themartyrs, almighty Monarch, save me, Jesu my Saviour. Jesu, mostbeautiful, have mercy on him who cries to Thee, Saviour Jesu.Born of prayer Jesu, all thy saints, all thy prophets, save andfind them worthy of the joys of heaven. Jesu, lover of men."

Then he stopped, drew breath, crossed himself, bowed to theground, and every one did the same,the inspector, the warders,the prisoners; and from above the clinking of the chains soundedmore unintermittently. Then he continued: "Of angels the Creatorand Lord of powers, Jesu most wonderful, the angels' amazement,Jesu most powerful, of our forefathers the Redeemer. Jesusweetest, of patriarchs the praise. Jesu most glorious, of kingsthe strength. Jesu most good, of prophets the fulfilment. Jesumost amazing, of martyrs the strength. Jesu most humble, of monksthe joy. Jesu most merciful, of priests the sweetness. Jesu mostcharitable, of the fasting the continence. Jesu most sweet, ofthe just the joy. Jesu most pure, of the celibates the chastity.Jesu before all ages of sinners the salvation. Jesu, son of God,have mercy on me." g wagon 2010

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