Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/232

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
AFRICAN
AFRICAN
196

infants, but seems to be somewhat opposed to this practice, which was commended by St. Cyprian. The time set for the solemn administration of baptism was Easter, or any day between Easter and Pentecost, but Tertullian declares that as every day belongs to the Lord it might be conferred at any time. He holds that it should be administered by the bishop, who, however, may delegate a priest or deacon to act in his place, although in certain cases he would permit laymen to baptize. Any kind of water may serve as the matter of the sacrament, and the water is used to baptize the catechumen "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost". The mode of baptizing was by triple immersion in the font, which had already been blessed. Many beautiful symbolical ceremonies accompanied the rite of baptism. Before the candidate for baptism entered the font he renounced the devil with his pomps and his angels. There was also a creed to be recited by the candidate for baptism, probably an African form of the Apostles' Creed. Tertullian gives several different forms of this rule of faith. After the neophyte ascended from the font he received a drink of milk and honey, and was then anointed with consecrated oil. Tertullian also states that the neophyte was signed with the sign of the cross, that he received the imposition of hands with the invocation of the Holy Ghost, and that the newly baptized Christian then partook of his first holy communion. Tertullian explains many of these ceremonies in his treatise on the Resurrection (viii). "The flesh indeed is washed in order that the soul may be cleansed; the flesh is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the flesh is signed (with the sign of the cross) that the soul too may be fortified; the flesh is shadowed with the imposition of hands, that the soul also may be illuminated by the spirit; the flesh feeds on the Body and Blood of Christ, that the soul likewise may fatten on its God."

The testimonies relating to the Sacrament of Penance describe principally the public penances imposed for grievous sins, and the absolution of the penitents after the public penances had been performed to the satisfaction of the Church. Tertullian at first asserted that the Church had the power of forgiving all kinds of sins, but after becoming a Montanist he denied that this power extended to certain most heinous crimes, and then ridiculed the practice of the Pope and the Roman Church, who denied absolution to no Christian that was truly penitent for his sins. In writing sarcastically of the mode of procedure in use at Rome in the time of Pope St. Callixtus, he probably gives a good description of the manner in which a penitent sinner was absolved and readmitted into communion with the faithful. He narrates how the penitent, "clothed in a hair-shirt and covered with ashes, appears before the assembly of the faithful craving absolution, how he prostrates himself before the priests and widows, seizes the hem of their garments, kisses their footprints, clasps them by the knees", how the bishop in the meantime, addresses the people, exhorting them by the recital of the parable of the lost sheep to be merciful and show pity to the poor penitent who asks for pardon. The bishop prayed for the penitents, and the bishop and priests imposed hands upon them as a sign of absolution and restoration into the communion of the Church. Although Tertullian in these words wished to throw ridicule on what he deemed excessive laxity at Rome, still he describes faithfully rites which seem to have been in use in the Church of Africa also, since elsewhere in his writings he mentions doing penance in sack-cloth and ashes, of weeping for sins, and of asking the forgiveness of the faithful. St. Cyprian also writes of the different acts of penance, of the confession of sin, of the manner in which the public penance was performed, of the absolution given by the priest, and of the imposition of the hands of the bishop and priests through which the penitents regained their rights in the Church.

Tertullian speaks of the nuptial blessing pronounced by the Church on the marriage of Christians, asking "how he could sufficiently extol the happiness of that marriage which is cemented by the Church, confirmed by the oblation, sealed with the benediction, which the angels proclaim, which is ratified by the Heavenly Father". Christian marriage thus seems to have been celebrated publicly before the Church with more or less solemnity, but the nuptial blessing would appear to have been optional and not obligatory, except perhaps by force of custom.

Both Tertullian and St. Cyprian mention ordination and the various orders in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, but unfortunately do not give much information which is strictly liturgical. Tertullian speaks of bishops, priests, and deacons whose powers and functions are pretty well defined, who are chosen on account of their exemplary conduct by the brethren, and are then consecrated to God by regular ordination. Only those who are ordained, says St. Cyprian, may baptize and grant pardon of sins. St. Cyprian distinguishes the different orders, mentioning bishops, priests, deacons, sub-deacons, acolytes, exorcists, and lectors, and in describing the election of St. Cornelius at Rome declares that Cornelius was promoted from one order to another until finally he was elected by the votes of all to the supreme pontificate. All the orders except the minor order of ostiary are enumerated by the early African writers. Both exorcists and lectors appear to have occupied a much more important liturgical position in the early ages than in later times. The exorcist, for example, was frequently called upon to exercise the power he had received at ordination. Tertullian speaks of this extraordinary power which was exercised in the name of Christ. Sometimes the exorcist used the rite of exsufflation, and sometimes, as St. Cyprian states, adjured the evil spirit to depart per Deum verum (by the true God). Lectors also had many liturgical functions to perform. The lector, for example, recited the lessons from the Old and New Testaments, and even read the Gospel from the pulpit to the people. In later ages his duties were divided, and some were given to the other ministers, some to regular chanters.

Among other liturgical ceremonies the early writers often allude to the rites accompanying the burial of the dead, and particularly the entombment of the bodies of the martyrs and confessors. From the earliest times the Christians showed great reverence to the bodies of the faithful, embalmed them with incense and spices, and buried them carefully in distinctively Christian cemeteries. Prayers were said for the repose of the souls of the dead, Masses were offered especially on the anniversary of death and their names were recited in the Memento of the Mass, provided that they had lived in accordance with Christian ideals. The faithful were taught not to mourn for their dead, but to rejoice that the souls of the departed were already living with God and enjoying peace and refreshing happiness after their earthly trials and labours. Tertullian, St. Cyprian, and the Acts of St. Perpetua, all give testimony to the antiquity of these customs. The cemeteries in Africa (called areƦ) were not catacombs like those in Rome, but above ground in the open air, and often had a chapel (cella) adjoining them, where the reunions of the faithful took place on the anniversaries of the martyrs and of the other Christians who were buried there. The inscriptions on the tombs often state that the departed had lived a life of Christian peace, in pace vixit, or often beautifully