Vol. 3, Chapter VII (Cont’d) – The Sacrifice of the Eucharist


Besides the works already cited on the holy Supper, comp. Höfling: Die Lehre der ältesten Kirche vom Opfer im Leben u. Cultus der Kirche. Erlangen, 1851. The articles: Messe, Messopfer, in Wetzer u. Welte: Kirchenlexicon der kathol. Theologie, vol. vii. (1851), p. 83 ff. G. E. Steitz: Art. Messe u. Messopfer in Herzog’s Protest. Real-Encyklopaedie, vol. ix. (1858), pp. 375-408. Phil. Freeman: The Principles of Divine Service. Part ii. Oxf. and Lond. 1862. This last work sets out with a very full consideration of the Mosaic sacrificial cultus, and (in the Pref. p. vi.) unjustly declares all the earlier English and German works of Mede, Outram, Patrick, Magee, Bähr, Hengstenberg, and Kurtz, on this subject, entirely unsatisfactory and defective.

The Catholic church, both Greek and Latin, sees in the Eucharist not only a sacramentum, in which God communicates a grace to believers, but at the same time, and in fact mainly, a sacrificium, in which believers really offer to God that which is represented by the sensible elements. For this view also the church fathers laid the foundation, and it must be conceded they stand in general far more on the Greek and Roman Catholic than on the Protestant side of this question. The importance of the subject demands a preliminary explanation of the idea of sacrifice, and a clear discrimination of its original Christian form from its later perversion by tradition.

The idea of sacrifice is the center of all ancient religions, both the heathen and the Jewish. In Christianity it is fulfilled. For by His one perfect sacrifice on the cross Christ has entirely blotted out the guilt of man, and reconciled him with the righteous God. On the ground of this sacrifice of the eternal High Priest, believers have access to the throne of grace, and may expect their prayers and intercessions to be heard. With this perfect and eternally availing sacrifice the Eucharist stands in indissoluble connection. It is indeed originally a sacrament and the main thing in it is that which we receive from God, not that which we give to God. The latter is only a consequence of the former; for we can give to God nothing which we have not first received from him. But the Eucharist is the sacramentum of a sacrificium, the thankful celebration of the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, and the believing participation or the renewed appropriation of the fruits of this sacrifice. In other words, it is a feast on a sacrifice. “As oft as ye do eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till He come.”

The Eucharist is moreover, as the name itself implies, on the part of the church a living and reasonable thank-offering, wherein she presents herself anew, in Christ and on the ground of his sacrifice, to God with prayers and intercessions. For only in Christ are our offerings acceptable to God, and only through the continual showing forth and presenting of His merit can we expect our prayers and intercessions to be heard.

In this view certainly, in a deep symbolical and ethical sense, Christ is offered to God the Father in every believing prayer, and above all in the holy Supper; i.e. as the sole ground of our reconciliation and acceptance. This is the deep truth which lies at the bottom of the Catholic mass, and gives it still such power over the religious mind.

But this idea in process of time became adulterated with foreign elements, and transformed into the Graeco-Roman doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass. According to this doctrine the Eucharist is an unbloody repetition of the atoning sacrifice of Christ by the priesthood for the salvation of the living and the dead; so that the body of Christ is truly and literally offered every day and every hour, and upon innumerable altars at the same time. The term mass, which properly denoted the dismissal of the congregation (missio, dismissio) at the close of the general public worship, became, after the end of the fourth century, the name for the worship of the faithful, which consisted in the celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice and the communion. The corresponding terms of the Orientals are λειτουργία, θυσία, προσφορά.

In the sacrifice of the mass the whole mysterious fulness and glory of the Catholic worship is concentrated. Here the idea of the priesthood reaches its dizzy summit; and here the devotion and awe of the spectators rises to the highest pitch of adoration. For to the devout Catholic nothing can be greater or more solemn than an act of worship in which the eternal Son of God is veritably offered to God upon the altar by the visible hand of the priest for the sins of the world. But though the Catholic worship here rises far above the vain sacrifices of heathendom and the merely typical sacrifices of Judaism, yet that old sacrificial service, which was interwoven with the whole popular life of the Jewish and Graeco-Roman world, exerted a controlling influence on the Roman Catholic service of the Eucharist, especially after the nominal conversion of the whole Roman heathendom, and obscured the original simplicity and purity of that service almost beyond recognition. The sacramentum became entirely eclipsed by the sacrificium, and the sacrificium became grossly materialized, and was exalted at the expense of the sacrifice on the cross. The endless succession of necessary repetitions detracts from the sacrifice of Christ.

The Biblical support of the sacrifice of the mass is weak, and may be reduced to an unduly literal interpretation or a downright perversion of some such passages as Mal_1:10.; 1Co_10:21; Heb_5:6; Heb_7:1.; Heb_13:10. The Epistle to the Hebrews especially is often misapplied, though it teaches with great emphasis the very opposite, viz., the abolition of the Old Testament sacrificial system by the Christian worship, the eternal validity of the sacrifice of our only High Priest on the right hand of the Father, and the impossibility of a repetition of it (comp. Heb_10:14; Heb_7:23, Heb_7:24).

We pass now to the more particular history. The ante-Nicene fathers uniformly conceived the Eucharist as a thank-offering of the church; the congregation offering the consecrated elements of bread and wine, and in them itself, to God. This view is in itself perfectly innocent, but readily leads to the doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass, as soon as the elements become identified with the body and blood of Christ, and the presence of the body comes to be materialistically taken. The germs of the Roman doctrine appear in Cyprian about the middle of the third century, in connection with his high-churchly doctrine of the clerical priesthood. Sacerdotium and sacrificium are with him correlative ideas, and a Judaizing conception of the former favored a like Judaizing conception of the latter. The priest officiates in the Eucharist in the place of Christ, and performs an actual sacrifice in the church. Yet Cyprian does not distinctly say that Christ is the subject of the spiritual sacrifice; rather is the mystical body of Christ, the Church, offered to God, and married with Christ.

The doctrine of the sacrifice of the mass is much further developed in the Nicene and post-Nicene fathers, though amidst many obscurities and rhetorical extravagances, and with much wavering between symbolical and grossly realistic conceptions, until in all essential points it is brought to its settlement by Gregory the Great at the close of the sixth century. These points are the following:

1. The eucharistic sacrifice is the most solemn mystery of the church, and fills the faithful with a holy awe. Hence the predicates θυσία φοβερὰ, φρικτὴ, ἀναίμακτος, sacrificium tremendum, which are frequently applied to it, especially in the Oriental liturgies and homilies. Thus it is said in the liturgy of St. James: “We offer to Thee, O Lord, this awful and unbloody sacrifice.” The more surprising is it that the people should have been indifferent to so solemn an act, and that Chrysostom should lament: “In vain is the daily sacrifice, in vain stand we at the altar; there is no one to take part.”

2. It is not a new sacrifice added to that of the cross, but a daily, unbloody repetition and perpetual application of that one only sacrifice. Augustine represents it, on the one hand, as a sacramentum memoriae a symbolical commemoration of the sacrificial death of Christ; to which of course there is no objection. But, on the other hand, he calls the celebration of the communion verissimum sacrificium of the body of Christ. The church, he says, offers (immolat) to God the sacrifice of thanks in the body of Christ, from the days of the apostles through the sure succession of the bishops down to our time. But the church at the same time offers, with Christ, herself, as the body of Christ, to God. As all are one body, so also all are together the same sacrifice. According to Chrysostom the same Christ, and the whole Christ, is everywhere offered. It is not a different sacrifice from that which the High Priest formerly offered, but we offer always the same sacrifice, or rather, we perform a memorial of this sacrifice. This last clause would decidedly favor a symbolical conception, if Chrysostom in other places had not used such strong expressions as this: “When thou seest the Lord slain, and lying there, and the priest standing at the sacrifice,” or: “Christ lies slain upon the altar.”

3. The sacrifice is the anti-type of the Mosaic sacrifice, and is related to it as substance to typical shadows. It is also especially foreshadowed by Melchizedek’s unbloody offering of bread and wine. The sacrifice of Melchizedek is therefore made of great account by Hilary, Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, and other church fathers, on the strength of the well-known parallel in the seventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews.

4. The subject of the sacrifice is the body of Jesus Christ, which is as truly present on the altar of the church, as it once was on the altar of the cross, and which now offers itself to God through his priest. Hence the frequent language of the liturgies: “Thou art he who offerest, and who art offered, O Christ, our God.” Augustine, however, connects with this, as we have already said, the true and important moral idea of the self-sacrifice of the whole redeemed church to God. The prayers of the liturgies do the same.

5. The offering of the sacrifice is the exclusive prerogative of the Christian priest. Later Roman divines take the words: “This do (ποιεῖτε) in remembrance of me,” as equivalent to: “This offer,” and limit this command to the apostles and their successors in office, whereas it is evidently an exhortation to all believers to the commemoration of the atoning death, the communio sacramenti, and not to the immolatio sacrificii.

6. The sacrifice is efficacious for the whole body of the church, including its departed members, in procuring the gifts which are implored in the prayers of the service.

All the old liturgies proceed under a conviction of the unbroken communion of saints, and contain commemorations and intercessions for the departed fathers and brethren, who are conceived to be, not in purgatory, but in communion with God and in a condition of progressive holiness and blessedness, looking forward in pious longing to the great day of consummation.

These prayers for an increase of bliss, which appeared afterwards very inappropriate, form the transition from the original simple commemoration of the departed saints, including the patriarchs, prophets and apostles, to intercessions for the suffering souls in purgatory, as used in the Roman church ever since the sixth century. In the liturgy of Chrysostom, still in use in the Greek and Russian church, the commemoration of the departed reads. “And further we offer to thee this reasonable service on behalf of those who have departed in the faith, our ancestors, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, and every just spirit made perfect in the faith …. Especially the most holy, undefiled, excellently laudable, glorious Lady, the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary …. the holy John the Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist, the holy, glorious and all-celebrated Apostles, and all thy Saints, through whose prayers look upon us, O God. And remember all those that are departed in the hope of the resurrection to eternal life, and give them rest where the light of Thy countenance shines upon them.”

Cyril of Jerusalem, in his fifth and last mystagogic Catechesis, which is devoted to the consideration of the eucharistic sacrifice and the liturgical service of God, gives the following description of the eucharistic intercessions for the departed: “When the spiritual sacrifice, the unbloody service of God, is performed, we pray to God over this atoning sacrifice for the universal peace of the church, for the welfare of the world, for the emperor, for soldiers and prisoners, for the sick and afflicted, for all the poor and needy. Then we commemorate also those who sleep, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, that God through their prayers and their intercessions may receive our prayer; and in general we pray for all who have gone from us, since we believe that it is of the greatest help to those souls for whom the prayer is offered, while the holy sacrifice, exciting a holy awe, lies before us.”

This is clearly an approach to the later idea of purgatory in the Latin church. Even St. Augustine, with Tertullian, teaches plainly, as an old tradition, that the eucharistic sacrifice, the intercessions or suffragia and alms, of the living are of benefit to the departed believers, so that the Lord deals more mercifully with them than their sins deserve. His noble mother, Monica, when dying, told him he might bury her body where he pleased, and should give himself no concern for it, only she begged of him that he would remember her soul at the altar of the Lord.

With this is connected the idea of a repentance and purification in the intermediate state between death and resurrection, which likewise Augustine derives from Mat_12:32, and 1Co_3:15, yet mainly as a mere opinion. From these and similar passages, and under the influence of previous Jewish and heathen ideas and customs, arose, after Gregory the Great, the Roman doctrine of the purgatorial fire for imperfect believers who still need to be purified from the dross of their sins before they are fit for heaven, and the institution of special masses for the dead, in which the perversion of the thankful remembrance of the one eternally availing sacrifice of Christ reaches its height, and the idea of the communion utterly disappears.

In general, in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper the sacrament continually retired behind the sacrifice. In the Roman churches in all countries one may see and hear splendid masses at the high altar, where the congregation of the faithful, instead of taking part in the communion, are mere spectators of the sacrificial act of the priest. The communion is frequently despatched at a side altar at an early hour in the morning.


97. The Celebration of the Eucharist

Comp. the Liturgical Literature cited in the next section, especially the works of Daniel, Neale, and Freeman.

The celebration of the eucharistic sacrifice and of the communion was the center and summit of the public worship of the Lord’s day, and all other parts of worship served as preparation and accompaniment. The old liturgies are essentially, and almost exclusively, eucharistic prayers and exercises; they contain nothing besides, except some baptismal formulas and prayers for the catechumens. The word liturgy (λειτουργία), which properly embraces all parts of the worship of God, denotes in the narrower sense a celebration of the eucharist or the mass.

Here lies a cardinal difference between the Catholic and Evangelical cultus: in the former the sacrifice of the mass, in the latter the sermon, is the center.

With all variations in particulars, especially in the introductory portions, the old Catholic liturgies agree in the essential points, particularly in the prayers which immediately precede and follow the consecration of the elements. They all (excepting some Syriac copies of certain Nestorian and Monophysite formularies) repeat the solemn Words of Institution from the Gospels, understanding them not merely in a declaratory but in an operative sense; they all contain the acts of Consecration, Intercession, and Communion; all (except the Roman) invoke the Holy Ghost upon the elements to sanctify them, and make them actual vehicles of the body and blood of Christ; all conceive the Eucharist primarily as a sacrifice, and then, on the basis of the sacrifice, as a communion.

The eucharistic action in the narrower sense is called the Anaphora, or the canon missae, and begins after the close of the service of the catechumens (which consisted principally of reading and preaching, and extended to the Offertory, i.e., the preparation of the bread and wine, and the placing of it on the altar). It is introduced with the Ἄνω τάς καρδίας, or Sursum corda, of the priest: the exhortation to the faithful to lift up their hearts in devotion, and take part in the prayers; to which the congregation answers: Habemus ad Dominum, “We lift them up unto the Lord.” Then follows the exhortation: “Let us give thanks to the Lord,” with the response: “It is meet and right.”

The first principal act of the Anaphora is the great prayer of thanksgiving, the εὐλογία or εὐχαριστία, after the example of the Saviour in the institution of the Supper. In this prayer the priest thanks God for all the gifts of creation and of redemption, and the choir generally concludes the thanksgiving with the so-called Trisagion or Seraphic Hymn (Isa_6:3), and the triumphal Hosanna (Mat_20:9): “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory. Hosanna in the highest: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.”

Then follows the consecration and oblation of the elements, by the commemoration of the great facts in the life of Christ, by the rehearsing of the Words of Institution from the Gospels or from Paul, and by the invocation of the Holy Ghost, who brings to pass the mysterious change of the bread and wine into the sacramental body and blood of Christ. This invocation of the Holy Ghost appears in all the Oriental liturgies, but is wanting in the Latin church, which ascribes the consecration exclusively to the virtue of Christ’s Words of Institution. The form of the Words of Institution is different in the different liturgies. The elevation of the consecrated elements was introduced in the Latin church, though not till after the Berengarian controversies in the eleventh century, to give the people occasion to show, by the adoration of the host, their faith in the real presence of Christ in the sacrament.

To add an example: The prayer of consecration and oblation in one of the oldest and most important of the liturgies, that of St. James, runs thus: After the Words of Institution the priest proceeds:

“Priest: We sinners, remembering His life-giving passion, His saving cross, His death, and His resurrection from the dead on the third day, His ascension to heaven, and His sitting at the right hand of Thee His God and Father, and His glorious and terrible second appearing, when He shall come in glory to judge the quick and the dead, and to render to every man according to his works, — offer to Thee, O Lord, this awful and unbloody sacrifice; beseeching Thee that Thou wouldst deal with us not after our sins nor reward us according to our iniquities, but according to Thy goodness and unspeakable love to men wouldst blot out the handwriting which is against us Thy suppliants, and wouldst vouchsafe to us Thy heavenly and eternal gifts, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man what Thou, O God, hast prepared for them that love Thee. And reject not Thy people, O loving Lord, for my sake and on account of my sins.

He repeats thrice: For Thy people and Thy Church prayeth to Thee.

People: Have mercy upon us, O Lord God, almighty Father!

Priest: Have mercy upon us, almighty God!

Have mercy upon us, O God, our Redeemer

Have mercy upon us, O God, according to Thy great mercy, and send upon us, and upon these gifts here present, Thy most holy Spirit, Lord, Giver of life, who with Thee the God and Father, and with Thine only begotten Son, sitteth and reigneth upon one throne, and is of the same essence and co-eternal, who spoke in the law and in the prophets, and in Thy new covenant, who descended in the form of a dove upon our Lord Jesus Christ in the river Jordan, and rested upon Him, who came down upon Thy holy apostles in the form of tongues of fire in the upper room of Thy holy and glorious Zion on the day of Pentecost: send down, O Lord, the same Holy Ghost upon us and upon these holy gifts here present, that with His holy and good and glorious presence He may sanctify this bread and make it the holy body of Thy Christ.

People: Amen.

Priest: And this cup the dear blood of Thy Christ.

People: Amen.

Priest (in a low voice): That they may avail to those who receive them, for the forgiveness of sins and for eternal life, for the sanctification of soul and body, for the bringing forth of good works, for the strengthening of Thy holy Catholic church which Thou hast built upon the rock of faith, that the gates of hell may not prevail against her; delivering her from all error and all scandal, and from the ungodly, and preserving her unto the consummation of all things.”

After the act of consecration come the intercessions, sometimes very long, for the church, for all classes, for the living, and for the dead from righteous Abel to Mary, the apostles, the martyrs, and the saints in Paradise; and finally the Lord’s Prayer. To the several intercessions, and the Lord’s Prayer, the people or the choir responds Amen. With this closes the act of eucharistic sacrifice.

Now follows the communion, or the participation of the consecrated elements. It is introduced with the words: “Holy things for holy persons,” and the Kyrie eleison, or (as in the Clementine liturgy) the Gloria in Excelsis: “Glory be to God on high, peace on earth, and good will to men. Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: God is the Lord, and he hath appeared among us.” The bishop and the clergy communicate first, and then the people. The formula of distribution in the Clementine liturgy is simply: “The body of Christ;” “The blood of Christ, the cup of life,” to which the receiver answers “Amen.” In other liturgies it is longer.

The holy act closes with prayers of thanksgiving, psalms, and the benediction.

The Eucharist was celebrated daily, or at least every Sunday. The people were exhorted to frequent communion, especially on the high festivals. In North Africa some communed every day, others every Sunday, others still less frequently. Augustine leaves this to the needs of every believer, but says in one place: “The Eucharist is our daily bread.” The daily communion was connected with the current mystical interpretation of the fourth petition in the Lord’s Prayer. Basil communed four times in the week. Gennadius of Massilia commends at least weekly communion. In the East it seems to have been the custom, after the fourth century, to commune only once a year, or on great occasions. Chrysostom often complains of the indifference of those who come to church only to hear the sermon, or who attend the eucharistic sacrifice, but do not commune. One of his allusions to this neglect we have already quoted. Some later councils threatened all laymen with excommunication, who did not commune at least on Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost.

In the Oriental and North African churches prevailed the incongruous custom of infant communion, which seemed to follow from infant baptism, and was advocated by Augustine and Innocent I. on the authority of Joh_6:53. In the Greek church this custom continues to this day, but in the Latin, after the ninth century, it was disputed or forbidden, because the apostle (1Co_11:28, 1Co_11:29) requires self-examination as the condition of worthy participation.

With this custom appear the first instances, and they exceptional, of a communio sub una specie; after a little girl in Carthage in the time of Cyprian had been made drunk by receiving the wine. But the withholding of the cup from the laity, which transgresses the express command of the Lord: “Drink ye all of it,” and is associated with a superstitious horror of profaning the blood of the Lord by spilling, and with the development of the power of the priesthood, dates only from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and was then justified by the scholastic doctrine of concomitance.

In the Greek church it was customary to dip the bread in the wine, and deliver both elements in a spoon.

The customs of house-communion and after-communion for the sick and for prisoners, of distributing the unconsecrated remainder of the bread among the non-communicants, and of sending the consecrated elements, or their substitutes, to distant bishops or churches at Easter as a token of fellowship, are very old.

The Greek church used leavened bread, the Latin, unleavened. This difference ultimately led to intricate controversies.

The mixing of the wine with water was considered essential, and was explained in various mystical ways; chiefly by reference to the blood and water which flowed from the side of Jesus on the cross.


98. The Liturgies. Their Origin and Contents

J. Goar. (a learned Dominican, † 1653): Εὐχολόγιον, sive Rituale Graecorum, etc. Gr. et Lat. Par. 1647 (another ed. at Venice, 1740). Jos. Aloys. Assemani (R.C.): Codex Liturgicus ecclesiae universae, … in quo continentur libri rituales, missales, pontificales, officia, dypticha, etc., ecclesiarum Occidentis et Orientis (published under the auspices of Pope Boniface XIV.). Rom. 1749-’66, 13 vols. Euseb. Renaudot (R.C.): Liturgiarum orientalium collectio. Par. 1716 (reprinted 1847), 2 vols. L. A. Muratori (R.C., † 1750): Liturgia Romana vetus. Venet. 1748, 2 vols. (contains the three Roman sacramentaries of Leo, Gelasius, and Gregory I., also the Missale Gothicum, and a learned introductory dissertation, De rebus liturgicis). W. Palmer (Anglican): Origines Liturgicae. Lond. 1832 (and 1845), 2 vols. (with special reference to the Anglican liturgy). Ths. Brett: A Collection of the Principal Liturgies used in the Christian Church in the celebration of the Eucharist, particularly the ancient (translated into English), with a Dissertation upon them. Lond. 1838 (pp. 465). W. Trollope (Anglican): The Greek Liturgy of St. James. Edinb. 1848. H. A. Daniel (Lutheran, the most learned German liturgist): Codex Liturgicus ecclesiae universae in epitomem redactus. Lips. 1847 sqq. 4 vols. (vol. i. contains the Roman, vol. iv. the Oriental Liturgies). Fr. J. Mone (R.C.): Lateinische u. Griechische Messen aus dem 2ten his 6ten Jahrhundert. Frankf. a. M. 1850 (with valuable treatises on the Gallican, African, and Roman Mass). J. M. Neale († 1866, the most learned Anglican ritualist and liturgist, who studied the Eastern liturgies daily for thirty years, and almost knew them by heart); Tetralogia liturgica; sive S. Chrysostom, S. Jacobi, S. Marci divinae missae: quibus accedit ordo Mozarabicus. Lond. 1849. The Same: The Liturgies of S. Mark, S. James, S. Clement, S. Chrysostom, S. Basil, or according to the use of the churches of Alexandria, Jerusalem, Constantinople. Lond. 1859 f. (in the Greek original, and the same liturgies in an English translation, with an introduction and appendices, also at Lond. 1859). Comp. also Neale’s History of the Holy Eastern Church. Lond. 1850; Gen. Introd. vol. second; and his Essays on Liturgiology and Church History. Lond. 1863. (The latter, dedicated to the metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, is a collection of various learned treatises of the author from the “Christian Remembrancer” on the Roman and Gallican Breviary, the Church Collects, the Mozarabic and Ambrosian Liturgies, Liturgical Quotations, etc.) The already cited work, of kindred spirit, by the English Episcopal divine, Freeman, likewise treats much of the old Liturgies, with a predilection for the Western, while Neale has an especial reverence for the Eastern ritual. (Comp. also Bunsen: Christianity and Mankind, Lond. 1854, vol. vii., which contains Reliquiae Liturgicae; the Irvingite work: Readings upon the Liturgy and other Divine Offices of the Church. Lond. 1848-’54; Höfling: Liturgisches Urkundenbuch. Leipz. 1854.) C. A. Hammond: Antient Liturgies (with introduction, notes, and liturgical glossary). Oxford, 1878. Ch. A. Swainson: Greek Liturgies, chiefly from Original Sources. Cambridge, 1884.

Liturgy means, in ecclesiastical language, the order and administration of public worship in general, and the celebration of the Eucharist in particular; then, the book or collection of the prayers used in this celebration. The Latin church calls the public eucharistic service Mass, and the liturgical books, sacramentarium, rituale, missale, also libri mysteriorum, or simply libelli.

The Jewish worship consisted more of acts than of words, but it included also fixed prayers and psalms (as Ps 113-118) and the Amen of the congregation (Comp. 1Co_14:16). The pagan Greeks and Romans had, in connection with their sacrifices, some fixed prayers and formulas of consecration, which, however, were not written) but perpetuated by oral tradition. The Indian literature, on the contrary, has liturgical books, and even the Koran contains prescribed forms of prayer.

The New Testament gives us neither a liturgy nor a ritual, but the main elements for both. The Lord’s Prayer, and the Words of the Institution of baptism and of the Holy Supper, are the living germs from which the best prayers and baptismal and eucharistic formulas of the church, whether oral or written, have grown. From the confession of Peter and the formula of baptism gradually arose in the Western church the Apostles’ Creed, which besides its doctrinal import, has also a liturgical office, as a public profession of candidates for baptism and of the faithful. In the Eastern church the Nicene creed is used instead. The Song of the angelic host is the ground-work of the Gloria in Excelsis. The Apocalypse is one sublime liturgic vision. With these belong also the Psalms, which have passed as a legitimate inheritance to the Christian church, and have afforded at all times the richest material for public edification.

In the ante-Nicene age we find as yet no traces of liturgical books. In each church, of course, a fixed order of worship gradually formed itself, which in apostolic congregations ran back to a more or less apostolic origin, but became enlarged and altered in time, and, until the fourth century, was perpetuated only by oral tradition. For the celebration of the sacraments, especially of the Eucharist, belonged to the Disciplina arcani, and was concealed, as the most holy thing of the church, from the gaze of Jews and heathens, and even of catechumens, for fear of profanation; through a misunderstanding of the warning of the Lord against casting pearls before swine, and after the example of the Samothracian and Eleusinian mysteries. On the downfall of heathenism in the Roman empire the Disciplina arcani gradually disappeared, and the administration of the sacraments became a public act, open to all.

Hence also we now find, from the fourth and fifth centuries onward, a great number of written liturgies, and that not only in the orthodox catholic church, but also among the schismatics (as among the Nestorians, and the Monophysites). These liturgies bear in most cases apostolic names, but in their present form can no more be of apostolic origin than the so-called Apostolic Constitutions and Canons, nor nearly so much as the Apostles’ Creed. They contrast too strongly with the simplicity of the original Christian worship, so far as we can infer it from the New Testament and from the writings of the apologists and the ante-Nicene fathers. They contain also theological terms, such as ὁμοούσιος (concerning the Son of God), θεοτόκος (concerning the Virgin Mary), and some of them the whole Nicene Creed with the additions of the second ecumenical council of 381, also allusions to the worship of martyrs and saints, and to monasticism, which point unmistakably to the Nicene and post-Nicene age. Yet they are based on a common liturgical tradition, which in its essential elements reaches back to an earlier time, perhaps in some points to the apostolic age, or even comes down from the Jewish worship through the channel of the Jewish Christian congregations. Otherwise their affinity, which in many respects reminds one of the affinity of the Synoptical Gospels cannot be satisfactorily explained. These old catholic liturgies differ from one another in the wording, the number, the length, and the order of the prayers, and in other unessential points, but agree in the most important parts of the service of the Eucharist. They are too different to be derived from a common original, and yet too similar to have arisen each entirely by itself.

All the old liturgies combine action and prayer, and presuppose, according to the Jewish custom, the participation of the people, who frequently respond to the prayers of the priest, and thereby testify their own priestly character. These responses are sometimes a simple Amen, sometimes Kyrie eleison, sometimes a sort of dialogue with the priest:

Priest: The Lord be with you!

People: And with thy spirit!

Priest: Lift up your hearts!

People: We lift them up unto the Lord.

Priest: Let us give thanks!

People: It is meet and right.

Some parts of the liturgy, as the Creed, the Seraphic Hymn, the Lord’s Prayer, were said or sung by the priest and congregation together. Originally the whole congregation of the faithful was intended to respond; but with the advance of the hierarchical principle the democratic and popular element fell away, and the deacons or the choir assumed the responses of the congregation, especially where the liturgical language was not intelligible to the people.

Several of the oldest liturgies, like those of St. Clement and St. James, have long since gone out of use, and have only a historical interest. Others, like those of St. Basil and St. Chrysostom, and the Roman, are still used, with various changes and additions made at various times, in the Greek and Latin churches. Many of their most valuable parts have passed, through the medium of the Latin mass-books, into the liturgies and agenda of the Anglican, the Lutheran, and some of the Reformed churches.

But in general they breathe an entirely different atmosphere from the Protestant liturgies, even the Anglican not excepted. For in them all the eucharistic sacrifice is the center around which all the prayers and services revolve. This act of sacrifice for the quick and the dead is a complete service, the sermon being entirely unessential, and in fact usually dispensed with. In Protestantism, on the contrary, the Lord’s Supper is almost exclusively Communion, and the sermon is the chief matter in every ordinary service.

Between the Oriental and Occidental liturgies there are the following characteristic differences:

1. The Eastern retain the ante-Nicene division of public worship into two parts: the λειτουργία κατηξουμένων, Missa Catechumenorum, which is mainly didactic, and the λειτουργία τῶν πιστῶν, Missa Fidelium, which contains the celebration of the Eucharist proper. This division lost its primitive import upon the union of church and state, and the universal introduction of infant baptism. The Latin liturgies connect the two parts in one whole.

2. The Eastern liturgies contain, after the Words of Institution, an express Invocation of the Holy Ghost, without which the sanctification of the elements is not fully effected. Traces of this appear in the Gallican liturgies. But in the Roman liturgy this invocation is entirely wanting, and the sanctification of the elements is considered as effected by the priest’s rehearsal of the Words of Institution. This has remained a point of dispute between the Greek and the Roman churches. Gregory the Great asserts that the apostles used nothing in the consecration but the Words of Institution and the Lord’s Prayer. But whence could he know this in the sixth century, since the New Testament gives us no information on the subject? An invocatio Spiritus Sancti upon the elements is nowhere mentioned; only a thanksgiving of the Lord, preceding the Words of Institution, and forming also, it may be, an act of consecration, though neither in the sense of the Greek nor of the Roman church. The Words of Institution: “This is my body,” etc., are more-over addressed not to God, but to the disciples, and express, so to speak, the result of the Lord’s benediction.

3. The Oriental liturgy allowed, more like the Protestant church, the use of the various vernaculars, Greek, Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, etc.; while the Roman mass, in its desire for uniformity, sacrifices all vernacular tongues to the Latin, and so makes itself unintelligible to the people.

4. The Oriental liturgy is, so to speak, a symbolic drama of the history of redemption, repeated with little alteration every Sunday. The preceding vespers represent the creation, the fall, and the earnest expectation of Christ; the principal service on Sunday morning exhibits the life of Christ from his birth to his ascension; and the prayers and lessons are accompanied by corresponding symbolical acts of the priests and deacon: lighting and extinguishing candles, opening and closing doors, kissing the altar and the gospel, crossing the forehead, mouth, and breast, swinging the censer, frequent change of liturgical vestments, processions, genuflexions, and prostrations. The whole orthodox Greek and Russian worship has a strongly marked Oriental character, and exceeds the Roman in splendor and pomp of symbolical ceremonial.

The Roman mass is also a dramatic commemoration and representation of the history of redemption, especially of the passion and atoning death of Christ, but has a more didactic character, and sets forth not so much the objective history, as the subjective application of redemption from the Confiteor to the Postcommunio. It affords less room for symbolical action, but more for word and song, and follows more closely the course of the church year with varying collects and prefaces for the high festivals, thus gaining variety. In this it stands the nearer to the Protestant worship, which, however, entirely casts off symbolical veils, and makes the sermon the center.

Every Oriental liturgy has two main divisions. The first embraces the prayers and acts before the Anaphora or Oblation (canon Missae) to the Sursum corda; the second, the Anaphora to the close.

The first division again falls into the Mass of the Catechumens, and the Mass of the Faithful, to the Sursum corda. To it belong the Prefatory Prayer, the Introit, Ingressa, or Antiphon, the Little Entrance, the Trisagion, the Scripture Lessons, the Prayers after the Gospel, and the Expulsion of the Catechumens; then the Prayers of the Faithful, the Great Entrance, the Offertory, the Kiss of Peace, the Creed.

The Anaphora comprises the great Eucharistic Prayer of Thanksgiving, the Commemoration of the life of Jesus, the Words of Institution, the Oblation of the Elements, the Invocation of the Holy Ghost, the Great Intercession for Quick and Dead, the Lord’s Prayer, and finally the Communion with its proper prayers and acts, the Thanksgiving, and the Dismissal.


99. The Oriental Liturgies

There are, in all, probably more than a hundred ancient liturgies, if we reckon revisals, modifications, and translations. But according to modern investigations they may all be reduced to five or six families, which may be named after the churches in which they originated and were used, Jerusalem (or Antioch), Alexandria, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Rome. Most of them belong to the Oriental church; for this church was in general much more productive, and favored greater variety, than the Western, which sought uniformity in organization and worship. And among the Oriental liturgies the Greek are the oldest and most important.

1. The liturgy of St. Clement. This is found in the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions, and, with them, is erroneously ascribed to the Roman bishop Clement. It is the oldest complete order of divine service, and was probably composed in the East in the beginning of the fourth century. It agrees most with the liturgy of St. James and of Cyril of Jerusalem, and may for this reason be considered a branch of the Jerusalem family. We know not in what churches, or whether at all, it was used. It was a sort of normal liturgy, and is chiefly valuable for showing the difference between the Nicene or ante-Nicene form of worship and the later additions and alterations.

The Clementine liturgy rigidly separates the service of the catechumens from that of the faithful. It contains the simplest form for the distribution of the sacred elements: “The body of Christ,” and “The blood of Christ, the cup of life,” with the “Amen” of the congregation to each. In the commemoration of the departed it mentions no particular names of saints, not even the mother of God, who first found a place in public worship after the council of Ephesus in 431; and it omits several prefatory prayers of the priest. Finally it lacks the Nicene creed, and even the Lord’s Prayer, which is added to all other eucharistic prayers, and, according to the principles of some canonists, is absolutely necessary.

2. The liturgy of St. James. This is ascribed by tradition to James, the brother to the Lord, and bishop of Jerusalem. It, of course, cannot have been composed by him, even considering only the Nicene creed and the expressions ὁμοούσιος and θεοτόκος, which occur in it, and which belong to the Nicene and post-Nicene theology. The following passage also bespeaks a much later origin: “Let us remember the most holy, immaculate, most glorious, blessed Mother of God and perpetual Virgin Mary, with all saints, that we through their prayers and intercessions may obtain mercy.” The first express mention of its use meets us in Proclus of Constantinople about the middle of the fifth century. But it is, as to substance, at all events one of the oldest liturgies, and must have been in use as early as the fourth century; for the liturgical quotations in Cyril of Jerusalem (in his fifth Mystagogic Catechesis), who died in 386, verbally agree with it. It was intended for the church of Jerusalem, which is mentioned in the beginning of the prayer for the church universal, as “the glorious Zion, the mother of all churches.”

In contents and diction it is the most important of the ancient liturgies, and the fruitful mother of many, among which the liturgies of St. Basil and St. Chrysostom must be separately named. It spread over the whole patriarchate of Antioch, even to Cyprus, Sicily, and Calabria, but was supplanted in the orthodox East, after the Mohammedan conquest, by the Byzantine liturgy. Only once in a year, on the 23d of October, the festival of St. James, it is yet used at Jerusalem and on some islands of Greece.

The Syriac liturgy of James is a free translation from the Greek; it gives the Invocation of the Holy Spirit in a larger form, the other prayers in a shorter; and it betrays a later date. It is the source of thirty-nine Monophysite liturgies, which are in use still among the schismatic Syrians or Jacobites.

3. The liturgy of St. Mark, or the Alexandrian liturgy. This is ascribed to the well-known Evangelist, who was also, according to tradition, the founder of the church and catechetical school in the Egyptian capital. Such origin involves, of course, a shocking anachronism, since the liturgy contains the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan creed of 381. In its present form it comes probably from Cyril, bishop of Alexandria († 444), who was claimed by the orthodox, as well as the Monophysites, as an advocate of their doctrine of the person of Christ. It agrees, at any rate, exactly with the liturgy which bears Cyril’s name.

It is distinguished from the other liturgies by the position of the great intercessory prayer for quick and dead before the Words of Institution and Invocation of the Holy Ghost, instead of after them. It was originally composed in Greek, and afterwards translated into Coptic and Arabic. It was used in Egypt till the twelfth century, and then supplanted by the Byzantine. The Copts still retained it. The Ethiopian canon is an offshoot from it. There are three Coptic and ten Ethiopian liturgies, which belong to the same family.

4. The liturgy of Edessa or Mesopotamia, or of All Apostles. This is traced to the apostles Thaddaeus (Adaeus) and Maris, and is confined to the Nestorians. From it afterwards proceeded the Nestorian liturgies: (1) of Theodore the Interpreter; (2) of Nestorius; (3) Narses the Leper; (4) of Barsumas; (5) of Malabar, or St. Thomas. The liturgy of the Thomas-Christians of Malabar has been much adulterated by the revisers of Diamper.

5. The liturgy of St. Basil and that of St. Chrysostom form together the Byzantine or Constantinopolitan liturgy, and passed at the same time into the Graeco-Russian church. Both descend from the liturgy of St. James and give that ritual in an abridged form. They are living books, not dead like the liturgies of Clement and of James.

The liturgy of bishop Basil of Neo-Caesarea († 379) is read in the orthodox Greek, and Russian church, during Lent (except on Palm Sunday), on the eve of Epiphany, Easter and Christmas, and on the feast of St. Basil (1st of January). From it proceeded the Armenian liturgy.

The liturgy of St. Chrysostom († 407) is used on all other Sundays. It is an abridgment and improvement of that of St. Basil, and, through the influence of the distinguished patriarchs of Constantinople, it has since the sixth century dislodged the liturgies of St. James and St. Mark. The original text can hardly be ascertained, as the extant copies differ greatly from one another.

The present Greek and Russian ritual, which surpasses even the Roman in pomp, cannot possibly have come down in all its details from the age of Chrysostom. Chrysostom is indeed supposed, as Proclus says, to have shortened in many respects the worship in Constantinople on account of the weakness of human nature; but the liturgy which bears his name is still in the seventh century called “the Liturgy of the Holy Apostles,” and appears to have received his name not before the eighth.


100. The Occidental Liturgies

The liturgies of the Western church may be divided into three classes: (1) the Ephesian family, which is traced to a Johannean origin, and embraces the Mozarabic and the Gallican liturgies; (2) the Roman liturgy, which, of course, like the papacy itself, must come down from St. Peter; (3) the Ambrosian and Aquileian, which is a mixture of the other two. We have therefore here less diversity than in the East. The tendency of the Latin church everywhere pressed strongly toward uniformity, and the Roman liturgy at last excluded all others.

1. The Old Gallican liturgy, in many of its features, points back, like the beginnings of Christianity in South Gaul, to an Asiatic, Ephesian, and so far we may say Johannean origin, and took its later form in the fifth century. Among its composers, or rather the revisers, Hilary, of Poictiers is particularly named. In the time of Charlemagne it was superseded by the Roman. Gallicanism, which in church organization and polity boldly asserted its rights, suffered itself easily to be Romanized in its worship.

The Old British liturgy was without doubt identical with the Gallican, but after the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons it was likewise supplanted by the Roman.

2. The Old Spanish or (though incorrectly so called) Gothic, also named Mozarabic liturgy. This is in many respects allied to the Gallic, and probably came through the latter from a similar Eastern Source. It appears to have existed before the incursion of the West Goths in 409; for it shows no trace of the influence of the Arian heresy, or of the ritual system of Constantinople. Its present form is attributed to Isidore of Seville and the fourth council of Toledo in 633. It maintained itself in Spain down to the thirteenth century and was then superseded by the Roman liturgy.

It has, like the Gallican, besides the Gospels and Epistles, lessons also from the Old Testament; it differs from the Roman liturgy in the order of festivals; and it contains, before the proper sacrificial action, a homiletic exhortation. The formula Sancta Sanctis, before the communion) the fraction of the host into nine parts (in memory of the nine mysteries of the life of Christ), the daily communion, the distribution of the cup by the deacon, remind us of the oriental ritual. The Mozarabic chant has much resemblance to the Gregorian, but exhibits besides a certain independent national character.

3. The African liturgy is known to us only through fragmentary quotations in Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine, from which we gather that it belonged to the Roman family.

4. The liturgy Of St. Ambrose. This is attributed to the renowned bishop of Milan († 397), and even to St. Barnabas. It is certain, that Ambrose introduced the responsive singing of psalms and hymns, and composed several prayers, prefaces, and hymns. His successor, Simplicius a.d. 397-400), is supposed to have made several additions to the ritual. Many elements date from the reign of the Gothic kings (a.d. 493-568), and the Lombard kings (a.d. 568-739).

The Ambrosian liturgy is still used in the diocese of Milan; and after sundry vain attempts to substitute the Roman, it was confirmed by Alexander VI. in 1497 by a special bull, as the Ritus Ambrosianus. Excepting some Oriental peculiarities, it coincides substantially with the Roman liturgy, but has neither the pregnant brevity of the Roman, nor the richness and fullness of the Mozarabic. The prayers for the oblation of the sacrificial gifts differ from the Roman; the Apostles’ Creed is not recited till after the oblation; some saints of the diocese are received into the canonical lists of the saints; the distribution of the host takes place before the Paternoster, with formulas of its own, etc.

The liturgy which was used for a long time in the patriarchate of Aquileia, is allied to the Ambrosian, and likewise stands midway between the Roman and the Oriental Gallican liturgies.

5. The Roman liturgy is ascribed by tradition, in its main features, to the Apostle Peter, but cannot be historically traced beyond the middle of the fifth century. It has without doubt slowly grown to its present form. The oldest written records of it appear in three sacramentaries, which bear the names of the three Popes, Leo, Gelasius, and Gregory.

(a) The Sacramentarium Leonianum, falsely ascribed to Pope Leo I. († 461), probably dates from the end of the fifth century, and is a planless collection of liturgical formularies. It was first edited in 1735 from a codex of Verona.

(b) The Sacramentarium Gelasianum, which was first printed at Rome in 1680, passes for the work of the Roman bishop Gelasius († 492-496), who certainly did compose a Sacramentarium. Many saints’ days are wanting in it, which have been in use since the seventh century.

(c) The Sacramentarium Gregorianum, edited by Muratori and others. Gregory I. (590-604) is reputed to be the proper father of the Roman Ordo et Canon Missae, which, with various additions and modifications at later periods, gradually attained almost exclusive prevalence in the Latin church, and was sanctioned by the Council of Trent.

The collection of the various parts of the Roman liturgy in one book is called Missale Romanum, and the directions for the priests are called Rubricae.


101. Liturgical Vestments

Besides the liturgical works already cited, Comp. John England (late R.C. bishop of Charleston, S. C., d. 1842): An Historical Explanation of the Vestments, Ceremonies, etc., appertaining to the holy Sacrifice of the Mass (an Introduction to the American Engl. edition of the Roman Missal). Philad. 1843. Fr. Bock. (R.C.): Geschichte der liturgischen Gewänder des Mittelalters. Bonn, 1856, 2 vols. C. Jos. Hefele: Beiträge zur Kirchengeschichte, Archäologie und Liturgik. Vol ii. Tüb. 1864, p. 150 ff.

The stately outward solemnity of public worship, and the strict separation of the hierarchy from the body of the laity, required corresponding liturgical vesture, after the example of the Jewish priesthood and cultus, symbolical of the grades of the clergy and of the different parts of the worship.

In the Greek church the liturgical vestments and ornaments are the sticharion, and the orarion, or horarion for the deacon; the sticharion, the phelonion, the zone, the epitrachelion, and the epimanikia for the priest; the saccos, the omophorion the epigonation, and the crozier for the bishop. The mitre is not used by the Greeks.

The vestments in the Latin church are the amict or humeral the alb (white cope or surplice), the cincture, the maniple, the orarium or stole for the priest; the chasuble, the dalmatic, the pectoral and the mitre for the bishop; the pallium for the archbishop. To these are to be added the episcopal ring and staff or crozier.

These clerical vestments almost all appear to have been more or less in use before the seventh century, though only in public worship; it is impossible exactly to determine the age of each. The use of priestly vestments itself originated in fact in the Old Testament, and undoubtedly passed into the church through the medium of the Jewish Christianity, but of course with many modifications. Constantine the Great presented the bishop Macarius of Jerusalem a splendid stole wrought with gold for use at baptism.

The Catholic ritualists of course give to the various mass-vestments a symbolical interpretation, which is in part derived from the undeniable meaning of the Jewish priestly garments, but in part is arbitrary, and hence variable. The amict, for example, denotes the collecting of the mind from distraction; the alb, the righteousness and holiness of the priests; the maniple, the fruits of good works; the stole, the official power of the priest; the mitre, the clerical chieftainship; the ring, the marriage of the bishop with the church; the staff his oversight of the flock.

The color of the liturgical garments was for several centuries white; as in the Jewish sacerdotal vesture the white color, the symbol of light and salvation, prevailed. But gradually five ecclesiastical colors established themselves. The material varied, except that for the amict and the alb linen (as in the Old Testament) was prescribed. According to the present Roman custom the sacred vestments, like other sacred utensils and the holy water, must be blessed by the bishop or a clergyman even appointed for the purpose. The Greeks bless them even before each use of them. The Roman Missal, and other liturgical books, give particular directions in the rubrics for the use of the mass vestments.

In everyday life, for the first five or six centuries the clergy universally wore the ordinary citizens’ dress; then gradually, after the precedent of the Jewish priests and Christian monks, exchanged it for a suitable official costume, to make manifest their elevation above the laity. So late as the year 428, the Roman bishop Celestine censured some Gallic priests for having, through misinterpretation of Luk_12:35, exchanged the universally used under-garment (tunica) and over-garment (toga) for the Oriental monastic dress, and rightly reminded them that the clergy should distinguish themselves from other people not so much by outward costume, as by purity of doctrine and of life. Later popes and councils, however, enacted various laws and penalties respecting these externals, and the council of Trent prescribed an official dress befitting the dignity of the priesthood.