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in religion, the ceremonial removal of what the religion deems unclean. The usual agents of purification are water (as in baptismbaptism
[Gr., =dipping], in most Christian churches a sacrament. It is a rite of purification by water, a ceremony invoking the grace of God to regenerate the person, free him or her from sin, and make that person a part of the church.
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), bodily alteration (as in circumcisioncircumcision
, operation to remove the foreskin covering the glans of the penis. It dates back to prehistoric times and was widespread throughout the Middle East as a religious rite before it was introduced among the Hebrews.
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), and fire. The origin of purification rites is a matter of dispute, but frequently the necessity for purification may result from violation of taboo or from defilement incurred while participating in critical events of life, such as childbirth, puberty, marriage, bloodshed or war, and death. The ancient Hebrew rites are described in the Bible, as in chapter 19 of the Book of Numbers. CandlemasCandlemas
, Feb. 2, Christian festival commemorating the Purification of the Blessed Virgin and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple. The name Candlemas is derived from the procession of candles, inspired by the words of Simeon "a light to lighten the Gentiles" (Luke 2.32).
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 commemorates the purification of the Virgin Mary after the birth of Jesus.
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purified Jason and Medea after their murder of Apsyrtus. [Gk. Myth.: Benét, 201]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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