III. THE LITURGY OF THE FIRST THREE CENTURIES. — For the first period we have of course no complete description. We must reconstruct what we can from the allusions to the Holy Eucharist in the Apostolic Fathers and apologists. Justin Martyr alone gives us a fairly complete outline of the rite that he knew. The Eucharist described in the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" (most authorities now put the date of this work at the end of the first century) in some ways lies apart from the general development. We have here still the free "prophesying" (x, 7), the Eucharist is still joined to the Agape (x, 1), the reference to the actual consecration is vague. The likeness between the prayers of thanksgiving (ix-x) and the Jewish forms for blessing bread and wine on the Sabbath (given in the "Berakoth" treatise of the Talmud; cf. Sabatier, "La Didache", Paris, 1885, p. 99) points obviously to derivation from them. It has been suggested that the rite here described is not our Eucharist at all; others (Paul Drews) think that it is a private Eucharist distinct from the official public rite. On the other hand, it seems clear from the whole account in chapters ix and x that we have here a real Eucharist, and the existence of private celebrations remains to be proved. The most natural explanation is certainly that of a Eucharist of a very archaic nature, not fully described. At any rate we have these liturgical points from the book. The "Our Father" is a recognized formula: it is to be said three times every day (viii, 2-3). The Liturgy is a eucharist and a sacrifice to be celebrated by breaking bread and giving thanks on the "Lord's Day" by people who have confessed their sins (xiv, 1). Only the baptized are admitted to it (ix, 5). The wine is mentioned first, then the broken bread; each has a formula of giving thanks to God for His revelation in Christ with the conclusion: "To thee be glory forever" (ix, 1, 4). There follows a thanksgiving for various benefits; the creation and our sanctification by Christ are named (x, 1-4); then comes a prayer for the Church ending with the form: "Maranatha. Amen"; in it occurs the form: "Hosanna to the God of David" (x, 5-6).
The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians (written probably between 90 and 100) contains an abundance of liturgical matter, much more than is apparent at the first glance. That the long prayer in chapters lix-lxi is a magnificent example of the kind of prayers said in the liturgy of the first century has always been admitted (e. g., Duchesne, "Origines du Culte", 49-51); that the letter, especially in this part, is full of liturgical forms is also evident. The writer quotes the Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy Lord of Sabaoth; all creation is full of his glory) from Is., vi, 3, and adds that "we assembled in unity cry (this) as with one mouth" (xxxiv, 7). The end of the long prayer is a doxology invoking Christ and finishing with the form: "now and for generations of generations and for ages of ages. Amen" (lxi, 3). This too is certainly a liturgical formula. There are many others. But we can find more in I Clem. than merely a promiscuous selection of formulæ. A comparison of the text with the first known Liturgy actually written down, that of the "Eighth Book of the Apostolic Constitutions" (written long afterwards, in the fifth century in Syria) reveals a most startling likeness. Not only do the same ideas occur in the same order, but there are whole passages -- just those that in I Clem have most the appearance of liturgical formulæ -- that recur word for word in the "Apost. Const."
In the "Apost. Const." the Eucharistic prayer begins, as in all liturgies, with the dialogue: "Lift up your hearts", etc. Then, beginning: "It is truly meet and just", comes a long thanksgiving for various benefits corresponding to what we call the preface. Here occurs a detailed description of the first benefit we owe to God -- the creation. The various things created -- the heavens and earth, sun, moon and stars, fire and sea, and so on, are enumerated at length ("Apost. Const.", VIII, xii, 6-27). The prayer ends with the Sanctus. I Clem., xx, contains a prayer echoing the same ideas exactly, in which the very same words constantly occur. The order in which the creatures are mentioned is the same. Again "Apost. Const.", VIII, xii, 27, introduces the Sanctus in the same way as I Clem., xxxiv, 5-6, where the author actually says he is quoting the Liturgy. This same preface in "Apost. Const." (loc. cit.), remembering the Patriarchs of the Old Law, names Abel, Cain, Seth, Henoch, Noe, Sodom, Lot, Abraham, Melchisedech, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Josue. The parallel passage in I Clem. (ix xii) names Enoch, Noe, Lot, Sodom, Abraham, Rahab, Josue: we may note at once two other parallels to this list containing again almost the same list of names -- Heb., xi, 4-31, and Justin, "Dialogue", xix, cxi, cxxxi, cxxxviii. The long prayer in I Clem. (lix-lxi) is full of ideas and actual phrases that come again in "Apost. Const.", VIII. Compare for instance I Clem., lix, 2-4, with "Apost. Const.", VIII, X, 22-xi, 5 (which is part of the celebrant's prayer during the litany of the faithful: Brightman, "Eastern Liturgies", p. 12), and xiii, 10 (prayer during the litany that follows the great intercession. Brightman, p. 24). Other no less striking parallels may be seen in Drews, "Untersuchungen über die sogen. clement. Liturgie," 14-43. It is not only with the Liturgy of "Apost. Const." that I Clem. has these extraordinary resemblances. I Clem., lix, 4, echoes exactly the clauses of the celebrant's prayer during the intercession in the Alexandrine Rite (Greek St. Mark. Brightman, 131). These parallel passages cannot all be mere coincidences (Lightfoot realized this, but suggests no explanation."The Apostolic Fathers", London, 1890, I, II, p. 71).
The question then occurs: What is the relation between I Clement and -- in the first place -- the Liturgy of "Apost. Const."? The suggestion that first presents itself is that the later document ("Apost. Const.") is quoting the earlier one (I Clem.). This is Harnack's view (" Gesch. der altchristl. Litteratur", I, Leipzig, 1893, pp. 42-43), but it is exceedingly unlikely. In that case the quotations would be more exact, the order of I Clem. would be kept; the prayers in the Liturgy have no appearance of being quotations or conscious compositions of fragments from earlier books; nor, if the "Apost. Const." were quoting I Clem., would there be reduplications such as we have seen above (VIII, xi, 22-xi, 5, and xiii, 10). Years ago Ferdinand Probst spent a great part of his life in trying to prove that the Liturgy of the "Apostolic Constitutions" was the universal primitive Liturgy of the whole Church. To this endeavour he applied an enormous amount of erudition. In his "Liturgie der drei ersten christlichen Jahrhunderte" (Tübingen, 1870) and again in his "Liturgie des vierten Jahrhunderts und deren Reform" (Münster, 1893), he examined a vast number of texts of Fathers, always with a view to find in them allusions to the Liturgy in question. But he overdid his identifications hopelessly. He sees an allusion in every text that vaguely refers to a subject named in the Liturgy. Also his books are very involved and difficult to study. So Probst's theory fell almost entirely into discredit. His ubiquitous Liturgy was remembered only as the monomania of a very learned man; the rite of the "Eighth Book of the Apostolic Constitutions" was put in what seemed to be its right place, merely as an early form of the Antiochene Liturgy (so Duchesne, "Origines du Culte", 55-6). Lately, however, there has come again to the fore what may be described as a modified form of Probst's theory. Ferdinand Kattenbusch ("Das apostolische Symbol", Tübingen, 1900, II, 347, etc.) thought that after all there might be some foundation for Probst's idea. Paul Drews (Untersuchungen über die sogen. clementinische Liturgie, Tübingen, 1906) proposes and defends at length what may well be the germ of truth in Probst, namely that there was a certain uniformity of type in the earliest Liturgy in the sense described above, not a uniformity of detail, but one of general outline, of the ideas expressed in the various parts of the service, with a strong tendency to uniformity in certain salient expressions that recurred constantly and became insensibly liturgical formulæ. This type of liturgy (rather than a fixed rite) may be traced back even to the first century. It is seen in Clement of Rome, Justin, etc.; perhaps there are traces of it even in the Epistle to the Hebrews. And of this type we still have a specimen in the "Apostolic Constitutions". It is not that that rite exactly as it is in the "Constitutions" was used by Clement and Justin. Rather the "Constitutions" give us a much later (fifth century) form of the old Liturgy written down at last in Syria after it had existed for centuries in a more fluid state as an oral tradition. Thus, Clement, writing to the Corinthians (that the letter was actually composed by the Bishop of Rome, as Dionysius of Corinth says in the second century, is now generally admitted. Cf. Bardenhewer, "Gesch. der altkirchl. Litteratur", Freiburg, 1902, 101-2), uses the language to which he was accustomed in the Liturgy; the letter is full of liturgical ideas and reminiscences. They are found again in the later crystallization of the same rite in the "Apostolic Constitutions". So that book gives us the best representation of the Liturgy as used in Rome in the first two centuries.
This is confirmed by the next witness, Justin Martyr. Justin (d. about 164), in his famous account of the Liturgy, describes it as he saw it at Rome (Bardenhewer, op. cit., 206). The often quoted passage is (I Apology): LXV. 1."We lead him who believes and is joined to us, after we have thus baptized him, to those who are called the brethren, where they gather together to say prayers in common for ourselves, and for him who has been enlightened, and for all who are everywhere. . . . 2. We greet each other with a kiss when the prayers are finished. 3. Then bread and a cup of water and wine are brought to the president of the brethren, and he having received them sends up praise and glory to the Father of all through the name of his Son and the Holy Ghost, and makes a long thanksgiving that we have been made worthy of these things by him; when these prayers and thanksgivings are ended all the people present cry 'Amen'. . . . 5. And when the president has given thanks (ευχαριστησαντος, already a technical name for the Eucharist) and all the people have answered, those whom we call deacons give the bread and wine and water for which the 'thanksgiving' (Eucharist) has been made to be tasted by those who are present, and they carry them to those that are absent. LXVI. This food is called by us the Eucharist" (the well-known passage about the Real Presence follows, with the quotation of the words of Institution). LXVII. 3 "On the day which is called that of the Sun a reunion is made of all those who dwell in the cities and fields; and the commentaries of the Apostles and writings of the prophets are read as long as time allows. 4. Then, when the reader has done, the president admonishes us in a speech and excites us to copy these glorious things. 5. Then we all rise and say prayers and, as we have said above, when we have done praying bread is brought up and wine and water; and the president sends up prayers with thanksgiving for the men, and the people acclaim, saying 'Amen', and a share of the Eucharist is given to each and is sent to those absent by the deacons."
This is by far the most complete account of the Eucharistic Service we have from the first three centuries. It will be seen at once that what is described in chapter lxvii precedes the rite of lxv. In lxvii Justin begins his account of the Liturgy and repeats in its place what he had already said above.
Putting it all together we have this scheme of the service:
1. Lessons (lxvii, 3). 2. Sermon by the bishop (lxvii, 4). 3. Prayers for all people (lxvii, 5; lxv, 1). 4. Kiss of peace (lxv, 2). 5. Offertory of bread and wine and water brought up by the deacons (lxvii, 5; lxv, 3). 6. Thanksgiving-prayer by the bishop (lxvii, 5; lxv, 3). 7. Consecration by the words of institution (? lxv, 5; lxvi, 2-3). 8. Intercession for the people (lxvii, 5; lxv, 3). 9. The people end this prayer with Amen. (lxvii, 5; lxv, 3). 10. Communion (lxvii, 5; lxv 5).
This is exactly the order of the Liturgy in the "Apostolic Constitutions" (Brightman, "Eastern Liturgies", 3-4, 9-12, 13, 14-21, 21-3, 25). Moreover, as in the case of I Clement, there are many passages and phrases in Justin that suggest parallel ones in the "Apost. Const." -- not so much in Justin's account of the Liturgy (though here too Drews sees such parallels, op. cit., 58-9) as in other works in which Justin, like Clement, may be supposed to be echoing well-known liturgical phrases. Drews prints many such passages side by side with the corresponding ones of the "Apost. Const.", from which comparison he concludes that Justin knows a dismissal of the catechumens (cf."I Apol.", xlix, 5; xiv, 1;xxv, 2,with "Apost.Const.", VIII, vi, 8; x, 2) and of the Energumens (Dial., xxx; cf."Apost. Const.", VIII, vii, 2) corresponding to that in the Liturgy in question. From "I Apol.", lxv, 1; xvii, 3; xiv, 3; deduces a prayer for all kinds of men (made by the community) of the type of that prayer in "Apost. Const.", VIII, x."I Apol.", xiii, 1-3, lxv, 3; v, 2,and Dial., xli, lxx, cxvii, give us the elements of a preface exactly on the lines of that in "Apost. Const.", VIII, xii, 6-27 (see these texts in parallel columns in Drews, "op. cit.", 59-91).
We have, then, in Clement and Justin the picture of a Liturgy at least remarkably like that of the "Apostolic Constitutions". Drews adds as striking parallels from Hippolytus (d. 235), "Contra Noetum", etc. (op. cit., 95-107) and Novatian (third cent.) "De Trinitate" (ibid., 107-22), both Romans, and thinks that this same type of liturgy continues in the known Roman Rite (122-66). That the Liturgy of the "Apostolic Constitutions" as it stands is Antiochene, and is closely connected with the Rite of Jerusalem, is certain. It would seem, then, that it represents one form of a vaguer type of rite that was in its main outline uniform in the first three centuries. The other references to the Liturgy in the first age (Ignatius of Antioch, died about 107, "Eph.", xiii, xx, "Phil.", iv, "Rom.", vii, "Smyrn.", vii, viii; Irenæus, died 202, "Adv. hær.", IV, xvii, xviii; V, ii, Clement of Alexandria, died about 215, "Pæd.", I, vi; II, ii, in P. G., VIII, 301, 410; Origen, d.254, "Contra Cels.", VIII, xxxiii, "Hom. xix in Lev.", xviii, 13; "In Matt.", xi, 14; "In Ioh.", xiii, 30) repeat the same ideas that we have seen in Clement and Justin, but add little to the picture presented by them (see Cabrol and Leclercq, "Mon. Eccles. Liturg.", I, passim).
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX, p. 308-310
Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor
Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York