Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/233

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express their faith and hope of the faithful in a future life of happiness together with the Lord—spes in Deo—in Deo vivas.

Finally, some ceremonial acts might be considered to which reference is often made by the early writers. Prayers were said sometimes kneeling, sometimes standing; for example, on Sundays, and during the fifty days following Easter, it was forbidden to kneel, while on fast days the kneeling posture was considered appropriate. The Christians prayed with the arms stretched out somewhat in the form of a cross. The sign of the cross was made very frequently, often on some object with the intention of blessing it, often on the forehead of Christians to invoke God's protection and assistance. Tertullian in his "De Corona" writes: "At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign of the cross". The early Christians were also accustomed to strike their breasts in sign of guilt and contrition for sin. Tertullian believed that the kiss of peace should be given often; in fact, that it should accompany every prayer and ceremony. Not only are there many ceremonial acts such as those just mentioned which existed in the third century and have been preserved even to the present in the liturgy, but there are also many phrases and acclamations of the early African Church which have found a permanent place in the liturgical formularies. These expressions, and perhaps also the measured style in which they were composed, may have had considerable influence in the development of the other Latin liturgies.

II. Post-Nicene Period.—After the edict of Constantine granting freedom of worship to the Christian religion, and especially after the Council of Nicæa, there was a great development in the liturgy of the Church. It was only natural that for some time after the foundation of the new religion, its liturgy should contain only the essentials of Christian worship, and that in the course of time it should develop and expand its ritual according to the needs of the people. Moreover, the first period was an age of persecution and hence the ceremonial was necessarily curtailed. But when persecution ceased, the Church began immediately to expand her ceremonial, changing and modifying the old forms and introducing new rites according to the requirements of public liturgical worship, so that the liturgy would be more dignified, more magnificent, and more impressive. In the beginning great liberty was allowed the individual celebrant to improvise the prayers of the liturgy, provided that he adhered to the strict form in essentials and followed the theme demanded, but at a later date the Church felt the need of a set of formularies and fixed ceremonies, lest dogmatic errors should find expression in the liturgy and thus corrupt the faith of the people. In the fourth century all these tendencies to expansion and development are very noticeable in all the liturgies. This is true, also, of the Church in Africa in the second period of the history of the African liturgy which embraces the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries to the beginning of the eighth century, when Christianity in Africa was practically destroyed by the Mohammedans. No liturgical books or codices belonging to this period are extant, so the liturgy must be reconstructed from contemporary writings and monuments. Of the writers of the period St. Augustine is richest in allusions to ceremonies and formularies, but St. Optatus, Marius Victorinus, Arnobius, and Victor Vitensis give some useful information. The inscriptions, which are more numerous in this period, and the archæological discoveries also furnish some liturgical data.

The beginning of a real ecclesiastical calendar, with definitely fixed feasts and fasts, now appears. The great feast of Easter, upon which all the movable feasts depended, is celebrated with even greater solemnity than in the time of Tertullian. Before Easter there was a period of forty days' preparation, devoted to fasting and other works of penance. The vigil of Easter was celebrated with the usual ritual, but the length of the offices seems to have been increased. The Paschal solemnity was followed by a season of fifty days' rejoicing until Pentecost day, which, in the fourth century, appears to have a distinctive character as the commemoration of the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles rather than as the close of the Easter season. In Holy Week, Holy Thursday commemorated the institution of the Holy Eucharist, and according to St. Augustine, besides the morning Mass, a Mass was also celebrated in the evening in order to carry out all the circumstances of the institution at the Last Supper. Good Friday was observed by attending the long liturgical offices, while Holy Saturday was celebrated in about the same manner as in the time of Tertullian. Ascension Day seems to have been introduced in the fourth century, but in the time of St. Augustine it was universally observed. As for the immovable feasts, Christmas and Epiphany, which were unknown to Tertullian, were celebrated with the greatest solemnity in the fifth century. The first of January was observed not as the feast of the Circumcision, but as a fast day which had been instituted for the purpose of turning the people away from the celebration of the pagan festivities which took place at that time of the year. Feasts of other than local saints were introduced, for instance, immediately after Christmas, the feast of St. Stephen, of the Holy Innocents and of Sts. John and James, and later in the year, the feasts of St. John the Baptist, of Sts. Peter and Paul, of the Maccabees, of St. Lawrence, St. Vincent, etc. The festivals of the local martyrs were celebrated with even greater solemnity than in early times, and were often accompanied by feasting which was frequently condemned in the sermons of the time, on account of abuses. When such a large number of feasts was annually observed, it was to be expected that a list or calendar would be drawn up, and, in truth, a calendar was drawn up for the use of the Church of Carthage in the beginning of the sixth century, from which very important information concerning the institution and history of the great feast days may be obtained. When Christianity received legal recognition in the Empire, the Christians began to construct churches and adorn them fittingly to serve their purpose. Most of these were built in the old basilica style, with some few differences. The churches were dedicated in honour of the holy martyrs frequently, and relics of the martyrs were placed beneath the altars. The inscriptions of the period mention the dedication to the martyrs and also the fact that the relics were placed in the church or in the altar. The altar itself, called mensa (table), was generally made of wood, but sometimes of stone, and was covered over with linen cloths. There was a special rite for dedicating churches and also for consecrating altars, in which blessed water and the sign of the cross were used.

The Mass became a daily function celebrated every morning when the Christians could meet frequently without fear of persecuting, and when the increased number of feasts required a more frequent celebration of the liturgical offices. Little is known with precision and certitude of the composition of the different parts of the Mass, but still there are many allusions in various authors which give some valuable information. The Mass of the catechumens consisted of psalms and lessons from