BELLS CHIME A TE DEUM
Services at the Greek Church in Honor of New Year.
Bishop Nicholas Says Mass Assisted by Priests of the Faith.
Special Service to Commemorate the Anniversary of St. Basil.
Amid the chiming of bells and the chanting of a Te Deum, the New Year was sacredly ushered into the calendar of the Greek Catholic Church yesterday morning at the Cathedral on Powell street.
The ceremony from commencement to end was one of impressiveness; and to the stranger, unacquainted with the rites of this church, most interesting.
Immediately upon the cessation of the bells the golden gates leading from the inner sanctuary were thrown open as it by magic, and a monk, robed in the black flowing garments of his order, issued forth, followed by a small procession of priests and lesser dignitaries of the church.
Upon leaving the sanctuary he marched through the church, where, save the sounds of his own prayers, everything was hushed in silence, to a sacred portal leading from the church to the inner sanctuary of Bishop Nicholas.
Upon coming in sight of the bishop standing at the door with the upraised emblem of Christianity in his hand the entire congregation immediately bowed, made the sign of the cross, chanting as they did so a hymn of praise.
The Bishop, upon entering the church, went directly to the sacred gates leading to the sanctuary; and, after offering up a brief prayer, repaired to his throne in the center of the church, where he was assisted in donning his vestments by the assistant priest, preparatory to saying the mass.
The celebration of mass in the Oriental Church, although it differs considerably from the Roman Catholic, is nevertheless impressive and inspiring.
The vestments used by the Bishop in yesterdays ceremony were similar to those used in the Roman Church, with the exception that the cross was not worn on both sides of the vestment used by the celebrant of the mass, as is the case with the Roman priest when he says mass.
In addition to the celebration of mass in honor of the new year, special services were held to commemorate the circumcision of Christ and also the anniversary of the feast day of St. Basil.
Members of the church, without exception, contributed money toward the purchase of wax candles, to be burned in front of the statues of Christ and St. Basil, in memory of the Savior, and to commemorate the anniversary of the saint.
All through the sacred observance of mass the choir chanted religious hymns and answered the monotonous chant of the Bishop.
The ceremony of blessing the sacred mass book and other religious articles on the altar is almost identical with that of the Roman Catholic Church, the only difference being that the Catholic priest never goes beyond the steps of the altar with the consecrated book, while in the Greek ceremony the book is taken from its position on the altar and is carried to the Bishops throne in the center of the church to be consecrated.
All through the long service the members of the congregation are compelled to stand, never changing their attitude but twice, and then at the elevation of the host they kneel.
The most impressive part of yesterdays services was the confession of a young man, who knelt before the priest and offered up his prayers to God asking for forgiveness, and receiving the body and blood of Christ in holy communion.
After the celebration of mass the special observance was held in honor of the circumcision. It was a brief ceremony, and consisted in kissing the sacred image of Our Lord affixed to a brazen cross and also the receiving of the consecrated bread by the entire congregation. It was an impressive spectacle to see the members of the church marching in single file to the altar and receiving the desired privilege of kissing the effigy of their Savior, outstretched upon the cross, and receiving the portion of his consecrated body, which was given them after kissing the cross.
The interior of the church presented a maze of lights, which afforded a most dazzling spectacle to the eye.
In the center of the church and directly above the Bishops throne was a magnificent silver-plated hanging candelabrum, presenting a most beautiful sight.
In the front of the church and just inside the entrance to it was a similar blaze of light from another hanging candelabrum.
On each side of the gates leading to the altars and serving as a petition to separate the main church from the sanctuary are a number of paintings representing the earliest saints of the church.
In front of each of these pictures was placed a hanging lamp filled with oil and burned by means of a rush-light wick. In addition to this lamp three candles were placed in front of each picture by public donation to commemorate the saint it represented.
The music rendered by the choir was better than is usually heard in churches, and the sopranos and the bassos showed off to especial advantage.
After the services in the church Bishop Nicholas retired to the priests house, where he received and entertained a number of guests at tea.
The San Francisco Call, Friday, January 14, 1898
Reprinted in the Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, Vol. 5, No. 5, January 1998