Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/235

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
AFRICAN
AFRICAN
199

of versicles and acclamations, and the reading of portions of the Scriptures. There was a special collection of canticles taken from the Old Testament in use in the African Church, and perhaps, also, a collection of hymns composed by uninspired writers, in which were the hymns of St. Ambrose. Many of the versicles quoted in the writings of the time may be now found in the present Roman liturgy. St. Augustine was evidently opposed to the growing tendency to abandon the simple recitative tone and make the chant of the offices more solemn and ornate as the ceremonial became more formal. Gradually the formularies became more fixed, and liberty to improvise was curtailed by the African councils. Few, however, of the prayers have been preserved, although many shorter verses and acclamations have been quoted in the writings of the period, as for example, the Deo Gratias, Deo Laudes, and Amen, with which the people approved the words of the preacher, or the doxologies and conclusions of some of the prayers. The people still used the sign of the cross frequently in their private devotions as in the days of Tertullian. Other ceremonial acts in common use were striking the breast as a sign of penance, extending the arms in the form of a cross, kneeling during prayers, etc., all of which had been handed down from primitive times. Such are some of the most important data furnished by the early writers and inscriptions concerning the liturgy of the African Church, and they are useful to show the peculiarities of the Latin rite in Africa as well as the similarity between the African and other liturgies.

Cabrol in Dict. d'arch. chrêt. (Paris, 1903), 591; Duchesne, Christian Worship, tr. McClure (London, 1903); Probst, Liturgie der drei ersten christlichen Jahrhunderte (Tübingen, 1870); Idem, Liturgie des vierten Jahrhunderts und deren Reform (Munster, 1893); Mone, Lateinische und griechische Messen aus dem zweiten bis sechsten Jahrhundert (Frankfort, 1850); Cabrol et Leclercq, Monumenta Ecclesiæ Liturgica (Paris, 1902), I.

African Synods.—There was no general council of the entire Church held at any time in North Africa. There were, however, many national or plenary assemblies of bishops representing the North African Church. These are commonly called African or Carthaginian Synods, and are not to be confounded with the district or provincial assemblies, of which there were also very many in the separate provinces of North Africa. These Roman provinces lay between the Sahara and the Mediterranean and extended from Cyrenaica on the east to the Atlantic on the west, corresponding roughly to the part of the continent occupied by modern Tripoli, Algeria, and Morocco. The Church entered into history there at the end of the second century, and disappeared in the beginning of the eighth.

Ecclesiastical Organizations.—About the middle of the third century the bishops of the three civil provinces (Proconsular Africa, Numidia, and Mauretania) formed but one ecclesiastical province, but as dioceses were multiplied, they came to be grouped into divisions corresponding to the prevailing political divisions of the country. Diocletian re-districted North Africa into six civil provinces, and by the end of the fourth century the Church had adjusted her organization to these lines. Thus there came to be six ecclesiastical provinces: 1. Proconsular Africa; 2. Numidia; 3. Byzacena; 4. Tripoli; 5. Mauretania Sitifensis; 6. Imperial Mauretania. This organization lasted till the Arab invasion in the seventh century. Because of its civil importance, Carthage was the primatial see and held control of these suffragan provinces, except perhaps during the period of the Byzantine domination in Africa (534–646), when Tripoli and the two Mauretanias seem to have been independent of Carthage. The Bishop of Carthage was in rank and privilege, though not in name, the Patriarch of the African Church. It was he who called and presided over the general synods, and early in the fifth century, it was his wont to sign the decrees in the name of all. These synods were held, with but few exceptions (e.g. Hippo, 393; Milevum, 402) at Carthage. In several instances we are able to name the church where the meeting took place: as "the Church of the Second District", or the "Ecclesia Restituta", or the "Secretarium Basilicæ Fausti."

Number of Synods.—In the time of Tertullian there were no synods held in Africa. But about 220, Agrippinus called together seventy bishops from Proconsular Africa and Numidia. From the time of St. Cyprian general synods came to be the wonted resource of Church administration, and they were held in Africa with greater frequency and regularity than elsewhere in Christendom. We know from the letters of St. Cyprian that, except in time of persecution, the African bishops met at least once a year, in the springtime, and sometimes again in the autumn. Six or seven synods, for instance, were held under St. Cyprian's presidency during the decade of his administration (249–258), and more than fifteen under Aurelius (391–429). The Synod of Hippo (393) ordered a general meeting yearly. But this was found too onerous for the bishops, and in the Synod of Carthage (407) it was decided to hold a general synod only when necessary for the needs of all Africa, and it was to be held at a place most convenient for the purpose. As a matter of fact, the needs were so persistent that general synods were held with perhaps equal frequency up to the Vandal invasion (429), and Carthage continued to be the meeting-place. The Church of Africa then entered on "penal times". Towards the end of the Vandal domination there was a cessation of persecution, and synods were resumed. The general Synod of Carthage in 525, though numerously attended, shows in reality a humble and diminished church. There was an improvement under the Byzantine control (533–647), and the Synod of 534 (perhaps the only general one for this period) is the second largest in point of numbers of all the African synods. In 646 we still find the bishops meeting in provincial synods, on the very eve of the final dissolution of their ancient organization. The Arab domination spread in successive waves from 647 up to 698, when Carthage fell. Within the following half century the Church of Roman Africa had ceased to be.

Attendance and Representation.—Elsewhere in Christendom only bishops attended general synods; but in North Africa there was, at least for a time, a departure from this custom. In the synods held under St. Cyprian, to deal with the lapsed, and in the synod of 256, which considered the question of re-baptism, there were present not only the bishops, but many priests and deacons, and even a very large representation of the laity. Only the bishops, however, had a vote in the final determinations. Not all the bishops of the country were required to assist at the general synod. At the Synod of Hippo (393) it was ordered that "dignities" should be sent from each ecclesiastical province. Only one was required from Tripoli, because of the poverty of the bishops of that province. In the synod held in Carthage in September, 401, it was decreed that each province should be divided into two or three districts, and that each of them should send deputies to the general synod. Attendance was urgently insisted on. There were ninety bishops in attendance at the synod that condemned Privatus (236–248), and more than two hundred and twenty-three, the largest recorded for Africa, at the Synod of 418. It has been through her literature, the writings of Tertullian, St. Cyprian, and, more than all, of St. Augustine, rather than by her synodal action that the great Church of Africa has modified the world's history.