Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Mass In The Infant Church By Rev Garrett Pierse Part 18.


Some Circumstances of the Sacrificial Celebration. Part 1.

The Place.

In deciding the question where the Eucharist was celebrated it is useful to refer briefly to an earlier period than that with which I am directly concerned. It will make us realise changes that had taken place. Christ Himself worshipped in the Temple. The example of the Master was followed by the disciples. 1 Furthermore, they used the Synagogue as a place for preaching. 2 But an important exception was made in their association with Jewish modes of worship. While the Temple and the Synagogue were sometimes used as places for prayer and preaching respectively, there is not a particle of real evidence that either was used for the distinctive Christian rite—the breaking of Bread, as the Eucharist was then called. On the contrary, we are told that they broke Bread from " house to house." 3 This is a proof that private houses were used for the Eucharistic celebration. When the Temple had ceased to exist and when attendance in the Synagogue was not possible for the odious Christian he had recourse to the house of one of the brethren, as a Jew would have done in a place where there was no Synagogue. There he celebrated the Eucharist, with an introduction consisting of a ritual borrowed from the Synagogue according to Bickell's certain contention.

The Christians celebrated the Eucharist in Jerusalem in the house of Mary, mother of John Mark 4 ; in Corinth, in the house of Titus; 5 at Ephesus, in the schola tyranni 6 ; in Troas, in the third coenaculum of a private house 7 ; in Rome, in the house of Prisca and Aquila 8 ; at Colossi, in the house of Nympha, 9 and in the house of Philemon. 10 Some private houses were permanently given over to worship. Such were in Rome, the houses of SS. Pudentiana, Prisca, Caecilia, and Clement, which were the originals of the Title churches. Besides private houses, freely given for worship, places were hired as the schola tyranni in Ephesus. The assembly room, in Apostolic times,was sometimes called a " synagogue," 11 a name which does not imply that a Jewish meeting house had been utilised, but merely indicates that the Christians had to use the ordinary terms of the time.

If we now pass to the second century, for a considerable length of time we meet no reference to a specific chapel for Christian worship. The apocryphal writings which are useful as containing the ideas of the time in which they were written, seem to contain no hint of a specific chapel. The account of Paul and Thecla, the Martyrdom of Paul, the story of St. Peter and Simon Magus, all of which belong to a period anterior to the end of the second century, do not give any information on the subject. 12

St. Justin Martyr, 13 in his defence before the Roman Prefect, Rusticus, repudiates the idea that all the Christians of Rome, in his time, met at one place of worship. "Thinkest thou we all assemble for worship in one place ?" he queries. He gives as his reason for the denial implied in the last question that the God whom the Christians worship is not confined to one place. He asserts that the Christians in Rome assemble at the places which suit their wishes and convenience. When pressed further by the Prefect, he replies that the place of worship which he knows is a private dwelling over the Timotine bath. 14

One cannot, however, regard this statement of Justin as decidedly clear. He was not willing to make definite statements to his persecutors. But the drift of Justin's conversation with Rusticus favours the contention that even in Justin's time the Eucharist was celebrated in private houses in Rome.

It is only towards the end of the second century that we have positive evidence for the existence of a specific chapel. Tertullian refers to such a one as existing in a public place. 15 Giving it a new signification, he applies St. Paul's phrase, " the house of God," to such a building. Clement of Alexandria speaks of peasants flocking to a particular chapel in the town. 16 By the middle of the third century, Optatus of Mileve, could speak of over forty basilicas as existing in Rome. 17

1 Act. ii,, 46.  v. 42.

2 Acts, xvii, 1,2. 

3 Act., ii,. 46.

4 Acts 6⁹,

5 Ibid, 18⁷.

6 Ibid. 19⁹.

7 Ibid. 20⁸

8 Rom. 15⁵; 1 Cor. 16¹⁹ .

9 Coloss. 4¹⁵.

10 Philemon 2.

11 St, James ii., 2.

12 Wieland, Mensa und Confessio, i. p. 68.

13 Cap. II, M,P,G, t, vi., 1586.

14 loco cit.

15 Adv Valent,, c, 3.

16 Str., i. 1.

17 De Sch. Donat, ii. Ed, Zuisa, p. 39.