Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Mass In The Infant Church By Rev Garrett Pierse Part 15.

CHAPTER IX. The Liturgy. Part 3.


The following scheme will give the outlines of the liturgy of our period, as far as it has been here reconstructed through the writings of Justin and other sources.


Next will follow a scheme which will show the kinship of the^present Roman Canon with the literature of our period. I have avoided reference to resemblances which are fanciful, as well as to similarities which are based on commonly diffused ideas and indicate no special relationship. The diagram will have the advantage of showing that the present Roman Canon has struck its roots in very early thought. Likely, the Roman liturgy was not derived, in most instances, from this early literature ; both seem to have been borrowed from the same ancient fund of ideas.

Kinship of the Roman Canon with the Literature of the Period Reviewed. 1



The Derivation of the Liturgy

The origin of the Christian liturgy has given rise to considerable discussion. Many theories have been proposed, and the end of theorising is not yet. Some of these speculations have gained at least a partial success ; and a considerable amount of certainty has been attained in regard to the derivation of at least a portion of the Liturgy. A view which represented, in its raw state, the theorising in regard to the Christian liturgy was that of the Dutch writer, Vitringa. 2 He held that the discipline and ritual of the Christian Church were borrowed directly from the Jewish Synagogue, not from the Temple. Dr. G. Bickell, a Catholic author, entered into a compromise with Vitringa 3 According to Bickell the pre-Anaphoral Liturgy or the Mass of the Catechumens was borrowed from the Jewish Sabbath morning Service, while the Anaphoral portion, or the Mass of the Faithful, was derived from the Passover Ritual.

Just as Hatch maintained a pagan origin for the threefold hierarchy of the early Church, so he asserted that the Christian liturgy was borrowed from the Eleusinian rites. 4 The last theory has least intrinsic support, although a pagan origin of essential portions of Christianity gets a good deal of extrinsic support from the a priori speculations, not of the sinning scholastics, but of the present-day German rationalists. The undoubted resemblance between the Christian ritual and the Pagan rites is not a new discovery. Justin Martyr noticed it in his far-off days and explained it by saying that it was Paganism that borrowed from Christianity. "The same thing (i.e., the Eucharist") he writes, " the evil demons imitated in the mysteries of Mithra." 5 Tertullian noticed the same phenomenon, and gives a similar explanation. 1 Mithra," he writes, " celebrates, also, an oblation of bread." 6

Of course, these are but assertions of Justin and Tertullian, unsupported by proof, but they deserve as much attention as the statement of Dr. Hatch, which is equally devoid of decisive evidence. One may also say that a common human nature may inspire common ideas of ritual, so that there may be no necessity of deriving the Pagan ritual from the Christian.

The question of derivation from the Jewish ritual is a more serious one. We shall see if Dr. Bickeli is justified in conceding to Vitringa, that, at least, the pre-Anaphoral part of the Mass, or the Mass of the Catechumens, is borrowed from the Jewish Sabbath morning Service.

We know the Jewish ritual through the collection of Jewish literature known as the Talmud. The portion of this known as the Mischna is very ancient, dating back to the second century, and containing, presumably, many records of a much earlier period. The Mischna, then, will give a good idea of the Jewish Sabbath morning Service at the introduction of Christianity. The chief parts were :—(1) The Shema, beginning with " Blessed " ; (2) Prayer; (3) Reading of the Thora, or "the Law"; (4) Reading of the Prophets ; (5) The blessing, followed by a translation of the lessons from the Hebrew into Aremaic, and by a discourse on the subjects read.

The prayer, known as the Kadish, was also part of the morning Service of the ancient Synagogue. It contains the following:—" Exalted and hallowed be His great name Let His Kingdom come in your lifetime and in the lifetime of the whole House of Israel very speedily." One will notice at once the striking resemblance of this prayer to two petitions in the " Our Father."

Unlike the worship in the Temple, Psalms did not form a prominent feature of the old Synagogue Service. Its object was instruction, rather than adoration. In the following table will be seen a comparison between the Synagogue Service and the early liturgy corresponding to the Mass of the Catechumens. The part of the Christian liturgy corresponding to the Synagogue Service—a Service mainly catechetical— was fittingly attended by Catechumens —


The similarity between the pre-Anaphoral part of the Mass and the Sabbath Service is so striking as to suggest forcibly that the resemblance does not arise from mere coincidence, or from community of liturgical aspirations in the human race. The very early Christians were, mainly, Jews, and could not at once create a liturgy. Besides, Christianity preserved and perfected the many noble elements in Judaism ; the Christian had as much regard for the Old Testament as the Jew himself; Christian and Jew were indebted to the Psalms for their sublimest prayers. One of the most striking facts in confirming this theory of derivation, one that gives it still greater certainty, is the similarity between the course of Scripture prescribed for the Synagogue, and the course of homilies in Origen's writings. The Paraschioth is the course of Jewish readings. Origen's homilies entirely correspond, even in order, with the Paraschioth, as the painstaking compilers of the Monumenta Ecclesiae Liturgica 7 illustrate. These homilies plainly presuppose that, before their delivery, all the Old Testament Scriptures were read in turn in the Masses throughout the year. This practice was curtailed by the introduction of the New Testament writings, and the abridgement of the Eucharistic Service.

We come next to the Anaphoral part of the Mass ? or the portion dealing with the offering of the Eucharistic Elements. Bickell, unlike Vitringa, held that it was derived from the Passover feast. There was some antecedent likelihood for this view. Christ in instituting the Eucharist celebrated the Passover. He commanded His disciples to do this thing which He had done. For some time the disciples celebrated a supper in conjunction with the Eucharist. Hence it seemed likely that not only should the Eucharist be modelled on Christ's action, but that, in so doing, one could not entirely break away from the Passover ritual, to which the Last Supper was intimately bound.

This may be the proper place to recall the main features of the Passover. All the guests reclined. A cup of red wine, mingled with water, was drunk after a blessing by the head of the family. This was followed by a washing of hands. Then, along with the Paschal lamb and unleavened bread, there was the mixed dish, composed of various ingredients such as dates and raisins, and exhibiting the consistency of lime, to remind the guests of the Egyptian lime, with which their fathers drudgingly worked. After this the story of the deliverance from Egyptian bondage was told by the youngest son.

The Hallel, or Hallelujah, was now begun to be sung. It consisted of Psalms 112-117 (Vulgate), which were called the Egyptian Hallel, and of Psalm 135 (Vulgate), which was called the great Hallel. At this precise point of the meal, only Psalms 112 and 113 were sung. They were introduced by a formula resembling the Preface of the Mass : " Therefore it is our bounden duty to thank, praise, exalt, glorify, extol and celebrate Him, who has done all these things for our fathers and for us."

A second cup was now drunk, and it was, likewise, followed by a washing of hands. A third cup was taken, and grace after meals was recited. The fourth cup was next prepared, and before it was taken the remainder of the Hallel (Psalms 114-117, Vulgate), was chanted. Psalm 135 (Vulgate) was sung at the conclusion of the feast It is assumed as likely that Christ made the fourth cup the Eucharistic one, the "cup of benediction."

As we learn from St. Luke, Christ in taking the bread and cup for the purpose of the Eucharist " gave thanks." It is likely that the " giving of thanks," here laconically described, included a long formula of blessing, directed to the bread and the cup. It is likely that it included portion of the Hallel Psalms, as the "hymn" recited before departure from the supper room seems to have been the concluding portion of the Hallel (Ps. 135 Vulgate). "The prayer of the Word proceeding from Him," which we met in Justin, may mean much more than the Words of Institution ; it may mean the words of thanksgiving, which were used to bless the Elements, and which were likely copied by the disciples. It is significant, too, that Psalm 115 (Vulgate) of the Hallel should be partially retained in the Roman rite at the reception of the chalice— " What return shall I make to the Lord for all He has given to me ? "

We shall now see if this antecedent probability, that the Christian liturgy is borrowed from the Passover, is justified by the facts. Let us consider the outlines of the Liturgy, as we find them in this early period. They, surely, had something in common with the Canon which is found in the early document known as the Didache, and which, from its reference to the early order of "prophets," and from other considerations, is concluded to belong to the end of the first century. The Didache Canon has the advantage of presenting the Christian liturgy in its initial stage, and so gives a better opportunity of determining its origin. A comparison between the Didache Canon and the Passover, in parallel columns, will enable the reader to determine their mutual relationship, which, however, does not necessarily imply any derivation of one from the other, since both might have been borrowed from a common source.

1 Cf. also scheme in scholarly work, Monumenta Ecclesiae Liturgica. LXXXIV. Cabrol et Leclerque.

2 De Synagoga Vet.

3 Messe und Pascha.

4 Hibb. Lectures for 1888.

5 Apol, I., 66.

6 De Praescript, xv.

7 p.xxiii.