Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/230

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

third century; in the middle of the fourth, the Donatist Tychonius uses and collates two versions of the Apocalypse.

Liturgy.—The liturgy of the African Church is known to us from the writings of the Fathers, but there exists no complete work, no liturgical book, belonging to it. The writings of Tertullian, of St. Cyprian, of St. Augustine are full of valuable indications which permit us to conclude that the liturgy of Africa presented many and characteristic points of contact with the liturgy of the Roman Church. The liturgical year comprised the feasts in honour of Our Lord and a great number of feasts of martyrs, which are offset by certain days of penance. Africa, however, does not seem to have conformed rigorously, in this matter, with what was else customary. The station days (q.v.), Wednesday and Friday, were not of universal aobservance; they are even spoken of, at times, as rigours suitable to the Montanist sect. The fast of these days was not continued beyond the third hour after noon. Easter in the African Church had the same character as in other Churches; it continued to draw a part of the year into its orbit by fixing the date of Lent and of the Paschal season, while Pentecost and the Ascension likewise gravitated around it. Christmas and the Epiphany were kept clearly apart, and had fixed dates. The cultus of the martyrs is not always to be distinguished from that of the dead, and it is only by degrees that the line was drawn between the martyrs who were to be invoked and the dead who were to be prayed for. The prayer (petition) for a place of refreshment, refrigerium, bears witness to the belief of an interchange of help between the living and the departed. In addition, moreover, to the prayer for the dead, we find in Africa the prayer for certain classes of the living. (See African Liturgy.)

Dialects.—Several languages were used simultaneously by the people of Africa; the northern part seems at first to have been a Latin-speaking country. Indeed, previous to, and during the first centuries of, our era we find there a flourishing Latin literature, many schools, and famous rhetoricians. However, Greek was currently spoken at Carthage in the second century; some of Tertullian's treatises were written also in Greek. The steady advance of Roman civilization caused the neglect and abandonment of that tongue. At the beginning of the third century an African, chosen at random, would have expressed himself more easily in Greek than in Latin; two hundred years later, St. Augustine and the poet Dracontius had at best but a slight knowledge of Greek. As to local dialects, we know little. No work of Christian literature written in Punic has come down to us, though there can be no doubt but that the clergy and faithful used a language much spoken in Carthage and in the coast towns of the Proconsular Province. The lower and middle classes spoke Punic, and the Circumcellion (q.v.) heretics were to be among the last of its defenders. The Christian writers almost wholly ignore the native Libyan, or Berber, dialect. St. Augustine, indeed, tells us that this speech was only in use among the nomad tribes.

Leclercq, L'Afrique chrêtienne (Paris, 1904); Idem., in the Dict. d'archéol. chrêt. et de lit., I, 576–775.

African Liturgy.—This liturgy was in use not only in the old Roman province of Africa of which Carthage was the capital, but also in Numidia and Mauretania; in fact, in all of Northern Africa from the borders of Egypt west to the Atlantic Ocean. Christianity was introduced into proconsular Africa in the latter half of the second century, probably by missionaries from Rome, and then spread rapidly through the other African provinces. The language of the liturgy was Latin, modified somewhat by the introduction of many Africanisms. It is probably the oldest Latin liturgy, since it had been in use long before the Roman Church changed her official language from the Greek to the Latin idiom. A study of the African liturgy might thus be very useful to trace the origin and development of the different rites, and to determine what influence one rite had upon another. Since the African Church was always dependent upon Rome, always devoted to the See of St. Peter, and since there was constant communication between Africa and Rome concerning ecclesiastical affairs, it may easily be supposed that liturgical questions were raised, different customs discussed, and possibly the customs or formulas of one church adopted by the other. At a later date the African liturgy would seem to have exercised some influence upon the Mozarabic and Gallican liturgies. The great similarity in some of the phraseology, etc., would show a common origin or a mutual dependence of the liturgies. The African liturgy may be considered in two different periods: the ante-Nicene period, when the Church was suffering persecution and could not freely develop the forms of public worship, and when the liturgical prayers and acts had not become fixed; and the post-Nicene period, when the simple, improvised forms of prayer gave way to more elaborate, set formularies, and the primitive liturgical actions evolved into grand and formal ceremonies.

I. Ante-Nicene Period.—It is a difficult matter to reconstruct the ancient African liturgy since there are so few available data; for instance, owing to the ravages of time and of the Saracens, no liturgical codices now survive; in the works of the early Fathers or ecclesiastical writers, and in the acts of the councils there are but few quotations from the liturgical books, and not many references to the words or ceremonies of the liturgy. In the first, or ante-Nicene period, it may be said there were only two writers who furnish useful information on the subject—Tertullian and St. Cyprian. The writings of Tertullian are especially rich in descriptions of ecclesiastical customs, or in clear allusions to existing rites and usages. Some additional information may be gained from the acts of the early martyrs, e.g. the Acts of St. Perpetua and St. Felicitas, which are quite authentic and authoritative. Finally, the inscriptions on Christian monuments give much confirmatory evidence on the beliefs and practices of the time. From these various sources one may learn some of the customs which were peculiar to the African Church, and what formularies and ceremonies were common to all the Western churches. The prayers of the Christians were either private or liturgical. Privately they prayed every morning and evening, and many of them prayed frequently during the day; for example, at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, before meals, and before undertaking any unusual work or enterprise. The liturgical prayers were said chiefly during the reunions of the faithful to observe the vigils, or to celebrate the agape and the Holy Eucharist. These Christian assemblies in Africa seem to have been modelled on the same plan as those in other countries. They imitated, in a certain measure, the services of the Jewish synagogue, adding thereto the Eucharistic sacrifice and some institutions peculiar to Christianity. In these reunions three elements are easily distinguishable: psalmody, the reading of passages from the Old and New Testaments, and prayer, to which a homily on the Scripture was generally added. Such meetings were sometimes distinct from the Mass, but sometimes they formed a preparation for the celebration of the divine mysteries. The elders of the Church presided over the assembly, instructions and exhortations were given, prayers recited