The Mountain Hind Receives The Stroke
( Originally Published 1902 )
AT the Grecian arms might be successful against Troy, Iphigenia, at the command of the gods, offered herself as a sacrifice upon the altar of her country. Not with tears, or regrets, or reproaches, did she go, but with calmness and bravery she approached her fate, as she said : " I give my body with a willing heart to die for my country and for the whole land of Greece. I pray the gods that ye may prosper, and win the victory in this war, and come 'back safe to your homes. And now let no man touch me, for I will offer my neck to the sword with a good heart."
The great army was gathered in wondering expectation about the altar, to witness the sacrifice; the herald hushed the soldiers into silence, while the priest, wreathing the noble brow of the victim with beautiful garlands, offered to the goddess Diana the following prayer :
"This victim which the associate troops of Greece,
When he had finished the prayer, the priest drew a sharp knife, and, marking well with his eye the place where he should strike, gave the blow, whose sound the soldiers plainly heard, but—strange to say—when they looked for the bleeding maiden at the altar, she was nowhere to be seen : she had vanished, and at the altar, weltering in its blood, was a large mountain hind, that received the knife that was meant for her. Quicker than lightning, between the upraised knife and its fall, the gods took away the virgin to themselves and put the hind in her place; whose blood they accepted as an expiation in her stead.
Euripides in this story, expresses the belief which has existed among men from the earliest times, that a sacrifice of blood is necessary to atone for sin and secure the favor of heaven; and for one unacquainted with the Holy Scriptures, he approaches singularly near the account of the sacrifice of Isaac by his father.
The sharpened knife was once raised above Man's head, and as the stroke came down it entered the heart of the Spotless Lamb, who died at the altar, and whose sacrifice made it possible for man to be forgiven, and translated to the society of heaven.