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LETTER xxix    THE EPISCOPAL SUCCESSION                 309

the subject of a peculiar arrangement, which makes these
offices practically hereditary. In the Mar Shimun family
there has been provided for more than three centuries
a regular succession of youths called Nazcurites, who have
never eaten meat or married, and whose mothers ate no
meat for many months before they were born. One of
these is chosen by the Patriarch as his successor, and
then some of the disappointed youths take to eating meat
like other men. At the present time, though Mar Aura-
ham has been designated, there are one or two boy-
relatives of the Patriarch who are being brought up not
to eat meat. The same prohibition applies to a bishop. He
also usually has one or more Nazarites, frequently nephews
or cousins, who have been brought up by him not to
eat meat, one of whom, if there be more than one, he
chooses as his successor. If he neglects to make a choice,
the Bishopric at his death falls like a fief to the Patriarch,
who has an enormous diocese, while three of the Bishops
have only a few villages to look after.

Bishops, priests, and deacons are very poor. Occasion-
ally a church has a field or two as an endowment, or the
villagers contribute a small sum annually, or plough the
priest's fields, or shear his sheep, but the fees given for
baptisms, marriages, and other occasional offices -would be
his sole dependence unless he followed some secular calling.
In some places there is a plethora of supernumerary priests,
and it is shrewdly said that these obtain holy orders from
the Bishops for the sake of the loaves of sugar paid as
fees. There are great abuses connected with ordination.
One of the present bishops was consecrated when quite a
young boy, and deacons are often ordained at sixteen,
and even much earlier. Mar Auraham must have been
consecrated before he was twenty. The only qualification
for ordination is the ability to read old Syriac. The
gaily-dressed and fully-armed young mountaineers whom