Thursday, 25 June 2015

The Mass In The Infant Church By Rev Garrett Pierse Part 13.

CHAPTER IX. The Liturgy. Part 1.

Since the Mass is eminently a sacrifice of adoration and thanksgiving, we find therein, crystallised as it were, a liturgy consisting of sublime forms of prayer. The character of the different kinds of liturgies, which now form a large family, and the question of their ultimate derivation have given rise to much important discussion. At the outset it may be asked whether in the present period there was a fixed liturgy, and if so, whether it was a written one. Owing to the lack of evidence, the difficulty of an adequate solution must not be underestimated.

Fixed and Written Liturgy.

It is rashly concluded from St. Justin's first apology 1 that in the early Christian Service there was no fixed form of prayer, but that everything was left to the inspiration of the celebrant. Justin's phrase, however, does not necessarily mean more than that the presiding official prays " with all his strength." It seems to be straining Justin's expression 2 to conclude that the minister formed all his prayers according to his individual ability. The contrary is suggested by the context where Justin speaks of a Christian custom, namely, the offering up of common prayers in behalf of themselves and in behalf of all men in all places. 3 This is a suggestion that the liturgy even at this early time went along fixed lines. The same idea is suggested by the saying of an earlier writer, Clement of Rome, that offerings must not be made rashly, but in definite seasons at definite hours. 4 Here, indeed, all that is expressed is that the season and the hour of Service were fixed. But the spirit that avoided rashness in regard to the exact time of the Service would also prompt definiteness in regard, at least, to the general character of the prayers. Again, we find fragments of the present liturgy in the writers of our period ; Sursum corda and Dignum et justum est, meet us in the pages of St. Cyprian and in the Canons of Hippolytus. 5 But evidence that will tend to close this controversy was reached in the finding of the Didache. The end of the first century, to which it belongs, would seem to have a definite liturgy, and this would a fortiori hold true of the later period, with which I am directly concerned. The Didache prescribes a definite form of thanksgiving. 6

Christians, at the end of the first century, were taught a definite liturgical prayer. That the Liturgy was not only fixed, but even consigned to writing, is gleaned from the work of Origen against Celsus. The latter reports that he saw with certain priests of Origen's religion barbarous books containing the names of devils, and magic arts. 7 He states that there was nothing good in the prayers which the Elders had in those volumes. The reference is not to the Sacred Scriptures, for the objection in their regard was already met. Nor is there allusion to the magical prayers of heretics, who would not be said to belong to Origen's religion. It is, rather, a distorted account of Christian liturgical writings which contained, at least, a formula of Exorcism. Presumably, then, the different " forms " of the Sacraments and the prayers of the Mass were also consigned to books, and reliance was not placed on oral tradition alone.

 The Language.

The language of the liturgy in Rome, and, presumably, in the Western Church appears to have been Greek during a considerable space of time. This is suggested by the fact that the inscriptions of the first and second century in the Roman Catacombs are Greek. To such an extent was this the case, that one chamber of the Catacombs is called the Greek Chapel. Early Popes, like Clement, wrote in Greek. Relics of the previous language remain crystallised in the Kyrie Eleison, and the Agios O Theos. Latin appears to have been gaining ground in ecclesiastical Rome about the end of the second century. Towards the middle of the third century it appears to have been fully established. Popes Stephen and Cornelius wrote in Latin.

The Sequence of the Liturgical Prayers. 

The liturgy of the early Church, as far as one can reconstruct its skeleton from the early literature, resembled that of the present day. Almost at the beginning—we are not told, though we may presume, that there preceded prayers —there were read lessons, as long as time permitted, from the Apostles or the Prophets. 8 These were read by the Lector, whose office must not have been merely nominal in those far-off days. The president, or bishop, then preached a sermon, touching on those readings. He exhorted the faithful to the imitation of " those excellent things." This homily was heard by the faithful in a sitting posture.

Then, they rose to their feet to offer the common prayer. 9 The assembled brethren prayed for themselves, and for those who received' the illumination, presumably for the neophytes. They prayed for their rulers, and for those who were enemies to the Christian name. They prayed for themselves that they might be worthy of the Christian dignity, and of the future salvation. They prayed for the delay of the last day, and for good seasons. In a word, they prayed for all men in all places, and for favours, both spiritual and temporal.

This common prayer, which was recited after the sermon and before the oblation of the Elements, corresponds to the prayers in the Clementine Liturgy, which were introduced with an Oremus. 10 The Oremus is still preserved by the Roman liturgy, as an adjunct to the Offertorium, but the long list of prayers, to which it served as an introduction, has been eliminated from nearly all the Feasts. After those prayers was given the kiss of peace. 11 It was given much earlier than the time when it is given in the present Roman liturgy. Probably, even at this early period, the catechumens were dismissed from the Service, 12  and so this token of brotherhood was interchanged before a section of the community departed. The sexes, likely, were separate in the place of worship in accordance with the Eastern usage.

Then, bread and mixed wine were brought to the bishop,—thus the wine seems to have been mixed with water before the Service. 13  The mixing of the wine was a characteristic of the Passover supper, and it is also taken for granted in the inscription of Abercius. According to Irenaeus, 14 it symbolised the hypostatic union in Christ, while according to Cyprian 15 it signified the union of the people with Christ. In offering the Elements, the Bishop sent up prayers of praise and glory to God. 16

Next in order came what corresponds to the Preface. The word " preface " would not then convey any true idea of its meaning, as it seems to have been extremely lengthy. It was a prayer of thanksgiving which enumerated many things for which the Faithful were grateful. Thanksgiving was the dominant note of the Service, giving it the technical name, Eucharist. Thanks were offered for " creation, and for the qualities of things." 17 Thanks were given, not only for the forming of man with natural and supernatural gifts through creation, but for the re-forming of him through the redemption. 18 God " formed marvellously the dignity of human nature but more marvellously reformed it." 19 After this paean of gratitude, there was, it is likely, even in our early period, the Tersanctus or Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts. It is found in the pages of Clement of Rome. 20 It was used even in the old Jewish ritual in the prayer called the Kedusha, The prayer of thanksgiving was preceded, as at present, by the versicles, Sursum corda and Dignum et justum est, for those fragments were seen to be in the writings of St. Cyprian and in the Canons of Hippolytus.

Having referred to the Creation and Redemption, the liturgy would logically pass on to the Passion. 21 The latter event naturally suggested the memory of the Last Supper, and the Words of Institution.

Justin, our principal authority in reconstructing the liturgy of this period, is silent as to what immediately followed the Words of Institution. Other considerations will enable us to fill with some degree of probability the lacuna. The Clementine Liturgy, 22 which is encased in the Apostolic Constitutions and which a tradition of the fifth century 23 sets down as the earliest of the common liturgies—a tradition which is confirmed by internal evidence implying a time of persecution,—places after the Words of Institution the Anamnesis or memory of the Passion, the Epiclesis, and the Memento for the living and for the dead. Numerous liturgies exhibit this order after the Words of Institution. The Roman liturgy of the present day is a noted exception in having the Memento for the living before these words, and in containing at least no formal Epiclesis. But there is reason for thinking that even the early Roman liturgy conformed to the common type represented by the Clementine, and had an Epiclesis, as well as both Mementoes, after the Words of Institution. Justin, who lived for a long time in Rome, and who according to his Acts gave the interrogating Governor an account of a Roman centre for liturgical meetings, may have had before his mind, when speaking, the Roman liturgy. A Protestant, Dr. Drews, recently suggested a theory that there was effected a transposition in the Roman Canon by Pope Gelasius in the fifth century. 24 The theory was accepted by Baumstark 25 with the accidental modification that the change was wrought by Pope Gregory.

The transposition consisted in taking the part, from the Te igitur to the Memento for the dead, from its original place after the words of Consecration, and inserting it before the Quam oblationem. The reconstruction of the early Roman Canon suggested by Drews, has the following order—(1) Quam oblationem. (2) Qui pridie ... (3) Unde et memores. (4) Supplices te rogamus. (5) Te igitur. (6) Commemoratio vivorum. (7) Communicantes. (8) Commemoratio defunctorum. The three last items would form the great intercessory prayer.

In favour of this hypothesis, which is gaining ground, many indications point. One is the somewhat illogical sequence of the present Roman Canon. If closely examined, many of its paragraphs have not a strictly logical connection with what precedes. In the old view, it would be hard to give any but a forced explanation of the igitur in the prayer Te igitur. In the new theory, we should have a better explanation of the etiam in the Memento for the dead—it would imply a previous commemoration of the living. Besides, there is an early document, 26 which supposes that there was in the Roman liturgy a prayer for the Emperor, oblatis sacrificiis. The word " sacrificiis "is better understood of the Consecration than of the Offertory, and implies that, in the old Roman liturgy, the commemoration of the living followed the words of Consecration. One cannot easily accept the amendment to the theory, suggested by Baumstark, that the change was effected by Gregory I. For, in an account of his work for the liturgy, it is merely mentioned that he inserted in the Canon Diesque nostros . . .in pace numerari 27 and, if he effected the radical transposition which is attributed to him by Baumstark, the silence about it* is inexplicable. Though it is hard to determine the author of the change, it is likely that it was wrought some time in the fifth century.

1 Apol. i. c. 67.


3 Apol. i. 65.

4 Clement i. Ep. ad Corinth, xl., xli.

5 Cyprian De Orat. Dom. 213, and Canons of Hipp. iii.

Ch. ix., x.

7 Contra Celsum vi, 40.

8 See Justin, Apol., 1, 65, 66, 67.

9 Eodem loco.

10 Cf. Apost. Const. Book viii. ff.

11 Eodem loco.

12 Tertullian implies a sharp distinction between the Catechumens and the Faithful in the matter of praying and of hearing sermons. DePraescript. 41.

13 Justin, Apol. i., 65, 66, 67.

14 Cf. Adv. Haer. lv. c. 2, P.G. vii. 1125.

15 Ep. 63.

16 Justin, Apol. 1, 65.

17 Dial. Tryph. 41.

18 Eodem loco.

19 The Roman Ordo Missae.

20 I. Ep. ad Cor. xxxiv., 5-7.

21 Dial. Tryph. 41,

22 Apost. Const. Book viii.

23 Work attributed to Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople, a.d. 434-446, on the Tradition of the Divine Liturgy.

24 Zur Enstehungsgeschichte des Kanons der romischen Messe (1902.)

25 Liturgia Romana e Liturgia dell' Esarcato.

26 Letter of Pope Celestine I. to Emperor Theodosius II. belonging to year 432.

27 Cf. Venerable Bede, H.E., ii., 1.