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§ 90. Public Worship of the Lord’s Day. Scripture-Reading and Preaching.
J.A. Schmidt: De primitive ecclesiae lectionibus. Helmst. 1697. E. Ranke: Das kirchliche Perikopensystem aus den Ältesten Urkunden der röm. Liturgie. Berlin, 1847. H. T. Tzschirner: De claris Eccles. vet. oratoribus Comment. i.-ix. Lips. 1817 sqq. K. W. F. Paniel: Pragmatische Geschichte der christl. Beredtsamkeit. Leipz. 1839 ff.
The order and particular parts of the ordinary public worship of God remain the same as they were in the previous period. But the strict separation of the service of the Catechumens,936936 Missa catechumenorum, λειτουργίατῶνκατηχουμένων. consisting of prayer, scripture reading, and preaching, from the service of the faithful,937937 Missa fidelium, λειτουργίατῶνπιστῶν. consisting of the communion, lost its significance upon the universal prevalence of Christianity and the union of church and state. Since the fifth century the inhabitants of the Roman empire were now considered as Christians at least in name and confession and could attend even those parts of the worship which were formerly guarded by secrecy against the profanation of pagans. The Greek term liturgy, and the Latin term mass, which is derived from the customary formula of dismission,938938 Missa is equivalent to missio, dismissio, and meant originally the dismission of the congregation after the service by the customary formula: Ite, missa est (ecclesia). After the first part of the service the catechumens were thus dismissed by the deacon, after the second part the faithful. But with the fusion of the two parts in one, the formula of dismission was used only at the close, and then it came to signify also the service itself, more especially the eucharistic sacrifice. In the Greek church the corresponding formula of dismission was: ἀπολύεσθε ἐν εἰρήνῃ, i.e., ite in pace (Apost. Const. lib. viii. c. 15). Ambrosius is the first who uses missa, missam facere (Ep. 20), for the eucharistic sacrifice. Other derivations of the word, from the Greek μύησιςor the Hebrew verb השָׂﬠָ, to act, etc., are too far fetched, and cut off by the fact that the word is used only in the Latin church. Comp. vol. i. § 101, p. 383 ff. was applied, since the close of the fourth century (398), to the communion service or the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice. This was the divine service in the proper sense of the term, to which all other parts were subordinate. We shall speak of it more fully hereafter.939939 Comp. below, §§ 96 and 97. We have to do at present with those parts which were introductory to the communion and belong to the service of the catechumens as well as to that of the communicants.
The reading of a portion of the Holy Scriptures continued to be an essential constituent of divine service. Upon the close of the church canon, after the Council of Carthage in 397, and other synods, the reading of uncanonical books (such as writings of the apostolic fathers) was forbidden, with the exception of the legends of the martyrs on their memorial days.
There was as yet no obligatory system of pericopes, like that of the later Greek and Roman churches. The lectio continua, or the reading and exposition of whole books of the Bible, remained in practice till the fifth century, and the selection of books for the different parts and services of the church year was left to the judgment of the bishop. At high festivals, however, such portions were read as bore special reference to the subject of the celebration. By degrees, after the example of the Jewish synagogue,940940 The Jews, perhaps from the time of Ezra, divided the Old Testament into sections, larger or smaller, called Parashioth (תוֹיּשִׁרְפַּ), to wit, the Pentateuch into54 Parashioth, and the Prophets (i.e., the later historical books and the prophets proper) into as many Haphtharoth; and these sections were read in course on the different Sabbaths. This division is much older than the division into verses. a more complete yearly course of selections from the New Testament for liturgical use was arranged, and the selections were called lessons or pericopes.941941 Lectiones, ἀναγνώσματα, ἀναγνώσεις, περικοπαί. In the Latin church this was done in the fifth century; in the Greek, in the eighth. The lessons942942 Lectiones, ἀναγνώσματα, ἀναγνώσεις, περικοπαί. were taken from the Gospels and from the Epistles, or the Apostle (in part also from the Prophets), and were therefore called the Gospel and the Epistle for the particular Sunday or festival. Some churches, however, had three, or even four lessons, a Gospel, an Epistle, and a section from the Old Testament and from the Acts. Many manuscripts of the New Testament contained only the pericopes or lessons for public worship,943943 Hence called Lectionaria, sc. volumina, or Lectionarii, sc. libri; also Evangelia cum Epistolis, Comes (manual of the clergy); in Greek, ἀναγνωστικά, εὐαγγελιστάρια, ἐκλογάδια. and many of these again, only the Gospel pericopes.944944 Hence Evangelistaria, or Evangelistarim, in distinction from the Epistolaria, Epistolare, or Apostolus. The Alexandrian deacon Euthalius, about 460, divided the Gospel and the Apostle, excepting the Revelation, into fifty-seven portions each, for the Sundays and feast days of the year; but they were not generally received, and the Eastern church still adhered for a long time to the lectio continua. Among the Latin lectionaries still extant, the Lectionarium Gallicanum, dating from the sixth or seventh century, and edited by Mabillon, and the so-called Comes (i.e., Clergyman’s Companion) or Liber Comitis, were in especial repute. The latter is traced by tradition to the learned Jerome, and forms the groundwork of the Roman lectionary and the entire Western System of pericopes, which has passed from the Latin church into the Anglican and the Lutheran, but has undergone many changes in the course of time.945945 The high antiquity of the Comes appears at any rate in its beginning with the Christmas Vigils instead of the Advent Sunday, and its lack of the festival of the Trinity and most of the saints’ days. There are different recensions of it, the oldest edited by Pamelius, another by Baluze, a third (made by Alcuin at the command of Charlemagne) by Thomasi. E. Ranke, l.c., has made it out probable that Jeromecomposed the Comes under commission from Pope Damasus, and is consequently the original author of the Western pericope system. This selection of Scripture portions was in general better fitted to the church year, but had the disadvantage of withholding large parts of the holy Scriptures from the people.
The lessons were read from the ambo or reading desk by the lector, with suitable formulas of introduction; usually the Epistle first, and then the Gospel; closing with the doxology or the singing of a psalm. Sometimes the deacon read the Gospel from the altar, to give it special distinction as the word of the Lord Himself.
The church fathers earnestly enjoined, besides this, diligent private reading of the Scriptures; especially Chrysostom, who attributed all corruption in the church to the want of knowledge of the Scriptures. Yet he already found himself compelled to combat the assumption that the Bible is a book only for clergy and monks, and not for the people; an assumption which led in the middle age to the notorious papal prohibitions of the Scriptures in the popular tongues. Strictly speaking, the Bible has been made what it was originally intended to be, really a universal book of the people, only by the invention of the art of printing, by the spirit of the Reformation, and by the Bible Societies of modern times. For in the ancient church, and in the middle age, the manuscripts of the Bible were so rare and so dear, and the art of reading was so limited, that the great mass were almost entirely dependent on the fragmentary reading of the Scriptures in public worship. This fact must be well considered, to forestall too unfavorable a judgment of that early age.
The reading of the Scripture was followed by the sermon, based either on the pericope just read, or on a whole book, in consecutive portions. We have from the greatest pulpit orators of antiquity, from Athanasius, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil the Great, Chrysostom, Ambrose, Augustine, connected homilies on Genesis, the Prophets, the Psalms, the Gospels, and the Epistles. But on high festivals a text was always selected suitable and usual for the occasion.946946 Comp. Augustine’s Expos. in Joh. in praef.: “Meminit sanctitas vestra, evangelium secundum Johannem ex ordine lectionum nos solere tractare. Sed quia nunc interposita est solemnitas sanctorum dierum, quibus certas ex evangelio lectiones oportet recitari, quae ita sunt annuae, ut aliae esse non possint, ordo ille quem susceperamus, ex necessitate paululum intermissus est, non omissus.” There was therefore in the ancient church no forced conformity to the pericopes; the advantages of a system of Scripture lessons and a consecutive exposition of entire books of Scripture were combined. The reading of the pericopes belongs properly to the altar-service, and must keep its connection with the church year; preaching belongs to the pulpit, and may extend to the whole compass of the divine word.
Pulpit eloquence in the fourth and fifth centuries reached a high point in the Greek church, and is most worthily represented by Gregory Nazianzen and Chrysostom. But it also often degenerated there into artificial rhetoric, declamatory bombast, and theatrical acting. Hence the abuse of frequent clapping and acclamations of applause among the people.947947 Κρότος, acclamatio, applausus. Chrysostomand Augustineoften denounced this theatrical disorder, but in vain. As at this day, so in that, many went to church not to worship God, but to hear a celebrated speaker, and left as soon as the sermon was done. The sermon, they said, we can hear only in the church, but we can pray as well at home. Chrysostom often raised his voice against this in Antioch and in Constantinople. The discourses of the most favorite preachers were often written down by stenographers and multiplied by manuscripts, sometimes with their permission, sometimes without.
In the Western church the sermon was much less developed, consisted in most cases of a simple practical exhortation, and took the background of the eucharistic sacrifice. Hence it was a frequent thing there for the people to leave the church at the beginning of the sermon; so that many bishops, who had no idea of the free nature of religion and of worship, compelled the people to hear by closing the doors.
The sermon was in general freely delivered from the bishop’s chair or from the railing of the choir (the cancelli), sometimes from the reading-desk. The duty of preaching devolved upon the bishops; and even popes, like Leo I. and Gregory I., frequently preached before the Roman congregation. Preaching was also performed by the presbyters and deacons. Leo I. restricts the right of preaching and teaching to the ordained clergy;948948 Ep. 62 ad Maxim.: “Praeter eos qui sunt Domini sacerdotes nullus sibi jus docendi et praedicandi audeat vindicare, sive sit ille monachus, sive sit laicus, qui alicujus scientiae nomine glorietur.” yet monks and hermits preached not rarely in the streets, from pillars (like St. Symeon), roofs, or trees; and even laymen, like the emperor Constantine and some of his successors, wrote and delivered (though not in church) religious discourses to the faithful people.949949 Euseb. Vita Const. iv. 29, 32, 55, and Constantine’s Oratio ad Sanctos, in the appendix
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