The Old Time Religion-The Worship of The Early Church
Despite having posted on the Mass multiple times over the years on this blog I continue to be amazed at how the early Christians worshiped almost identically to the way in which we do now.
From Calvin College's Christian Classics site, I have posted a treatise on early christian worship by Protestant theologian H.R. Percival. He based it on his study of the writings of the Didache, St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. John Chrysostom.
Geez, now why didn't my pastors and bible study leaders tell me about these writings when we were trying to emulate the New Testament Church? Would have saved a whole lot of trouble for me over the years!
"The congregation is gathered together, the men on one side, the women on the other, the clergy in the apsidal chancel. The readings immediately begin; they are interrupted by chants. A reader ascends the ambo, which stood in the middle of the Church, between the clergy and the people and reads two lessons; then another goes up in his place to sing a psalm. . . . When the lessons and psalmodies are done, the priests take the word, each in his turn and after them the bishop. The series ended with a lection from the Gospel, which is made not by a reader, but by a priest or deacon. (So it is at the present time.)
"After the sermon the sending out of the different categories of persons, who should not assist at the holy Mysteries, take place. When there remain in the Church only the faithful communicants, these fall to prayer. ('Depart all ye Cathechumens: let no Cathechumens remain: but let us who are in the faith again, yet again, in peace pray unto the Lord,' is retained in the Liturgy and is in use now.) Deacon says the litany and to all these petitions is added Kyrie eleison. Then the voice of the bishop rises in the silence he pronounces a solemn prayer of a grave and majestic style. Here ends the first part of the liturgy. The second part, the Christian liturgy properly so called, begins by the salutation of the bishop, followed by the response of the people. Then, at the sign given by a deacon, the clergy receive the kiss of peace from the bishop, and the faithful give it to each other, men to men, women to women.
"Then the deacons and the other lower ministery divide themselves between watching and serving at the altar. . . . This is a solemn moment. After private prayer the bishop makes the sign of the cross upon his brow and begins.
- 'The grace of God Almighty, and the love of our Lord Jesus Christ and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you always.'
- 'And with thy Spirit.'
- 'Lift up your hearts.'
- 'We lift them up unto the Lord.'
- 'It is meet and right so to do.'
"And the eucharistic prayer goes on, concluding where the Cherubim and the Seraphim eternally make heaven ring with the Trisagion. Here the whole multitude of the people lift up their voices and joining their song with that of the Choir of Angels, sing 'Holy, Holy, Holy, etc.' (We have all this in our Liturgy now. - B.T.) When the hymn is done and silence returns the bishop continues the interrupted eucharistic prayer. Then, taking his inspiration from the last words, 'Do this in remembrance of Me,' the bishop develops the idea recalling the Passion of the Son of God, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, the hope of His glorious return, and declaring that it is in order to observe this precept and make this memorial that the congregation offers to God this eucharistic bread and wine.
"Finally the Bishop prays the Lord to turn upon the Oblation a favorable regard, and to send down upon it the power of His Holy Spirit, to make it the Body and Blood of Christ, the spiritual food of His faithful and the pledge of their immortality (all this is observed now.)
"The mystery is consummated. The bishop then directs the prayers. After this is said 'Our Father.' The bishop then pronounces his benediction on the people.
The deacon awakens the attention of the faithful and the bishop cries aloud, 'Holy things for holy persons.' And the people answer, 'There is one only holy, one holy Lord Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, Amen.' No doubt at this moment took place the fraction of the bread, a ceremony which the documents of the fourth century do not mention in express terms (no doubt it did as it does now. - B.T.) The communion then follows. The bishop receives first, then the priests, the deacons, the subdeacons, the readers, the singers, the ascetics, the deaconesses, the virgins, the widows, the little children and last of all the people. The bishop places the consecrated bread in the right hand, which is open, and supported by the left; the deacon holds the chalice - they drink out of it directly. To each communicant the bishop says, 'The Body of Christ,' and the deacon (now bishop) says, 'The Blood of Christ, the Cup of life,' which is answered, 'Amen.' During the communion the singers execute Psalm XXXIII (34) Benedicam Dominum, in which the words '0, taste and see how gracious the Lord is,' have a special suitability (it is in use now). When the communion is done the deacon gives the sign for prayer, which the bishop offers in the name of all ('0 Lord, who blesses those that bless Thee,' now is read generally by the priest. - B.T.) then all bow to receive the blessing. Finally the deacon dismisses the congregation, saying, 'Go in peace.' (Bishop or priest does this now.)"
Three possible conclusions to be drawn from this are:
A: The early Church had gotten it terribly wrong already by the second and third century and this sacrifice of the altar was a complete mis-interpretation of what our Lord intended at the last supper. (Despite the fact that no writings exist to suggest there was an alternate and equally acceptable form of weekly worship which included a symbolic presentation of the Lord's supper.)
B. The writings of the early church were actually written in the 11th century by a corrupted Catholic Church to justify the newly invented doctrine of transubstantiation and were doctored up to appear historic. There has always been a hidden persecuted true church of believers worshiping in secret and the ruling Catholics destroyed any evidence of their existence in the history books.
C. This early Church described above in their beliefs and practices is the Church that traces its lineage to Jesus and the apostle's teachings and continues forward through history today as the Catholic Church.