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Fragments of a Faith Forgotten

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Author Topic: Fragments of a Faith Forgotten  (Read 2154 times)
Peggie Welles
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« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2009, 01:10:56 am »

"So in this holy banquet there is no slave, as I have said, but it is served by free men who perform the necessary service, not by compulsion, or waiting for orders, but of their own free-will anticipating the requests [of the guests] with promptitude and eagerness. For they are not chance free men who are appointed for such service, but juniors of the order who have been selected in. order of merit with every possible care, who (as those noble and well-born and anxious to reach the summit of virtue should) with affectionate rivalry, as though they were their legitimate children, wait upon these fathers and mothers of theirs, regarding them as their common parents, bound to them with closer ties than their parents by blood: since, for those who think, there is no closer tie than virtue and goodness. And they come in to serve ungirdled, with their robes let down, so that no resemblance to a slave's dress may be introduced.

"I know that some of my readers will laugh at such a banquet as this; but such laughter will bring them weeping and sorrow.

"Nor is wine brought in on these occasions, but the clearest water, cold for the majority, and The Frugal Fare. warmed for those of the older men whose tastes are delicate. The table moreover contains nothing that has blood in it, for the food is bread with salt for seasoning, to which hyssop is added as an extra relish for the gourmands. For just as right reason bids priests make offerings free from wine and blood, so does it bid these sages live. For wine is a drug that brings on madness, and costly

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seasonings rouse up desire, the most insatiable of beasts. So much, then, for the preliminaries of the banquet.

"Now, after the guests have taken their places The President. in the ranks I have described, and the waiters have taken their stand in order, ready to serve, when complete silence is gained--(and when is there not? you may say; but then there is deeper silence than before, so that no one ventures to make a sound or even breathe at all hard)--the president searches out some passage in the sacred scriptures or solves some difficulty propounded by one of the members, without any thought of display, for he does not aim at a reputation for cleverness in words, but is simply desirous of getting a clearer view of some points [of doctrine]; and when he has done so, he unselfishly shares it with those who, though they have not such keen vision as himself, nevertheless have as great a longing to learn.

"The president for his part employs a somewhat The leisurely method of imparting instruction, pausing at The Instruction. intervals and stopping for frequent recapitulations, impressing the ideas on their souls. (For when, in giving an interpretation, one continues to speak rapidly without pausing for breath, the mind of the hearers is left behind unable to keep up the pace, and fails to comprehend what is said.) While they, on their side, fixing all their attention upon him, remain in one and the same attitude listing attentively, showing their understanding and comprehension [ of his words ] by nod and look; praise of the speaker by a pleased expression and

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the thoughtful turning to him of their faces, and hesitation by a mild shake of the head and a motion of the forefinger of the right hand. And the juniors who stand at service are,just as attentive as the seniors at table.

"Now the interpretation of the sacred scriptures is based upon the under-meanings in the allegorical The Interpretation of Scripture. narratives; for these men look upon the whole of their law-code as being like to a living thing, having for body the spoken commands, and for soul the unseen thought stored up in the words (in which thought the rational soul [of the student] begins to contemplate things native to its own nature more than in anything else)--the interpretation, as it were, in the mirror of the names, catching sight of the extraordinary beauties of the ideas contained in them, unwrapping and unrobing the symbols from them, and bringing to light the naked inner meanings, for those who are able with a little suggestion to arrive at the intuition of the hidden sense from the apparent meaning.

"When then the president seems to have discoursed long enough, and the discourse, according to its range, to have in his case made good practice at the points aimed at, and in theirs [to have met with due] attention, there is a burst of applause from the company, as though they would offer their congratulations, but this is restricted to three claps of the hands.

"Then the president, rising, chants a hymn which has been made in God's honour, either a new one The Singing Hymns. which he has himself composed, or an old one of

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the ancient poets. For they have left behind them many metres and tunes in trimetric epics, processional hymns, libation odes, altar-chants, stationary choruses, and dance-songs, [all] admirably measured off in diversified strains.

"And after him the others also in bands, in proper order, [take up the chanting], while the rest listen in deep silence, except when they have to join in the burden and refrains; for they all, both men and women, join in.

Then when hymns are over, the juniors bring Bread and Salt. in the table, which was mentioned shortly before, with the all-pure food upon it, leavened bread, with flavouring of salt mingled with hyssop, out of respect to the holy table set up in the holy place of the temple. For on this table are loaves and salt without seasoning; the loaves are unleavened and the salt unmixed with anything else; for it was fitting that the simplest and purest things should be allotted to the most excellent division of the priests, the reward of their ministry, while the rest should strive after things of similar purity, but abstain from the same food [as the priests], in order that the more excellent should have this privilege.

"After the banquet they keep the holy all-night The Sacred Dancing. festival. And this is how it is kept. They all stand up in a body, and about the middle of the entertainment they first of all separate into two bands, men in one and women in the other, And a leader is chosen for each, the conductor whose reputation is greatest and the one most suitable for the post,

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