CHAPTER IX. The Liturgy. Part 2.
The Roman liturgy of the present day is, also, singular in the fact of its containing nowhere a formal Epiclesis or invocation of the Holy Ghost. It is suggested that the Supplices te rogamus may be a vestige of such. It is, also, suggested with more likelihood that the Quam oblationem, before the words of Consecration, may be a relic of the invocation. It is, indeed, an implicit invocation of the Holy Ghost, seeing that it is a request that God may convert the Elements into the body and blood of Christ. Against this latter suggestion about the place of the Epiclesis in the old Roman liturgy it may be urged that it would be unique to have the Epiclesis before the Words of Institution, as this theory would seem to imply. But this difficulty loses some force, if it be remembered that in a general transposition the Epiclesis may be placed before, instead of after, the words of Consecration.
It is likely, therefore, that the liturgy described by St. Justin was the Roman one, and contained an Epiclesis after the Consecration. In the general Church of the period there was, we have seen, frequent reference to an invocation. The presence of an Epiclesis after the Words of Institution, since it seems to imply that the change in the Elements was not already wrought, is embarrassing to one whose theology is already settled in the belief that the Consecration is wrought solely by the words of Institution. Some forms of the Epiclesis, indeed, as that of the Clementine liturgy 1 and that found in the fragments of the writings of Irenaeus might mean that God was requested not to convert the Elements, but to show 2 that they were the body and blood of Christ. Such an Epiclesis might have been in the Roman Church.
It is likely that there was in the early liturgy a prayer corresponding to the Nobis quoque peccatoribus. The Martyrdom of Polycarp 3 (155 a.d.) gives the prayer of Bishop Polycarp, which, it is likely, he was in the habit of reciting in the Canon of the Mass. He prays, just as the prayer Nobis quoque peccatoribus does, for a share in the society of the martyrs. Origen, more expressly, says that in the liturgy there was a prayer for admission to the companionship of prophets and apostles. 4
This prayer for fellowship with the martyrs seems to have been in close connection, as logical sequence would require, with the Memento for the living. This suggestion fits in with the theory, that in the early liturgy both Mementoes were after the Consecration. The faithful venerated the memory of the saints and martyrs, and in return expected their suffrages and requested God to give themselves a fellowship with His martyred host. In this way the communion of saints, living and dead, was perfectly illustrated in the early liturgy.
We have frequently seen that Mass was offered for the dead. " We offer for the dead on the anniversary day," 5 so says Tertullian. Cyprian says that a certain kind of sinner is excluded, by a species of excommunication, from the sacrifice offered up for the repose of the dead 6. Mone in his work 7 gives a very early Mass—dating back to the persecutions—where there are to be found two prayers, one ante nomina the other post nomina. Here, presumably, there is a reference to the diptychs in the early Church. There was a written list of names of the dead, which was submitted for remembrance in the Memento for the dead. At the close of the Canon, according to St. Justin, all the Faithful answered Amen in a loud voice. This may be taken to correspond to the Amen which is still answered aloud before the Pater Noster. Much sooner than at the present day, there was, in the early Church, an end of the Liturgy proper, although it is presumable that the Communion was followed by other prayers of thanksgiving, such as those which the Didache prescribes. 8
The Eucharistic Bread was broken for distribution. It is probable that it was in the form of loaves. Their size—much larger than the present-day particles—may be estimated from the fact suggested by the Catacomb pictures, that, instead of ciboriums, there were used to contain them, wickerwork baskets, as happened even at a later time in the case of the bishop mentioned by St. Jerome. 9
Other large vessels are found represented in the Catacombs in connection with the Good Shepherd, and it is suggested that they may be early kinds of ciboriums.
The president alone, according to Tertullian's account, 10 distributed the Communion to those present at the service, and the deacons took the Elements to the absent brethren who were sick, or otherwise incapacitated. 11
After the liturgical service, the president availed himself of the collection, contributed by the faithful, to cater for the wants of the needy. 12 This collection for the poor, which was a regular feature of the Service of the early Church, speaks much for its practical kind of benevolence. As they prayed for all classes without distinction, so their deeds of charity—a more genuine sacrifice—extended to the orphans, widows, the sick, those " in bonds," and pilgrims ; in short, the bishop, who was the treasurer of the funds, acted as a father to all in need. 13
Tertullian also refers to this beneficent feature of Christianity as well as to the liturgy of the early Church. " We meet together, as an assembly and congregation, in order that, approaching God in a body, we may beset Him with prayers and supplications. This violence is pleasing to God.
We pray, also, for the Emperors, for their ministers, and the powers that be, for the condition of the age, for peace in the world, for the delay of the last day. . .
We meet together for recitation of our Divine Scriptures. . .
In the same place, also, exhortations are made. . . .
Our presidents are men of age and character. . . .
We have a kind of treasure chest. . . Everyone places there a small contribution on one day in the month. . . These are for feeding and burying the poor." 14
There can be little doubt, that Tertullian is here speaking of the Eucharistic service. For, afterwards, he adds : " you abuse, also, our humble feasts ; " and, then, there follows an account of the Agape. The omission, in this long passage, of a plain reference to the Eucharistic Elements is a strong suggestion that Tertullian was under the influence of the usage known as the Discipline of the Secret.
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.
1 Apost. Const., Book vii.
2 Fragmenta Pfaff 38 (Migne vii,, 1254) is the word u
3 C. 14, cf. also C. 8.
4 Hom xiv. in Jerem. 14.
5 De Coronr, 3.
6 Ep. 1, 2.
7 Lat. und Greich, Messe., 8. 22.
8 Ch. ix. x.
9 Ep. cxxv. ad Rustic. P. L,, t. xxii., c. 1085.
10 De Corona, 3.
11 Justin, Apol„ i„ 67.
12 Eodem loco.
13 Eodem loco.
14 Apologet, c. 39.