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WORSHIP AND LIFE.
1.- SACRED TIMES, RITES, AND SERVICES. THE law of Constantine, issued in 321, relative to the observance of Sunday, contains the following prescription : "On the venerable day of the sun, let the magistrates and the people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because it often happens that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing or for vine-planting.”] Later emperors re-affirmed this law, and added the prohibition of theatricals and other public spectacles on Sunday. 2 Decrees of similar import were issued by authorities of the Church. The council of Laodicea, for example, discountenanced the practice of resting on the Jewish Sabbath, and prescribed that Christians should honor the Lord's Day, and, when possible, refrain from work on the same.
1 Cod. Justin., III. xii. 3.
2 Cod. Theod., VIII. viii. 1; XV. v. 2; XV. v. 5; Cod. Justin. III. xii. 11.
8 Canon 29. This action indicates that in some communities in the East the Jewish day was observed. Very likely it was in places where a large proportion of Christians were of Jewish antecedents. It is not to be presumed that such neglected the Lord's Day, but rather that they observed two days of the week. Somewhat remarkably, the Apostolic Constitutions (ii. 59; v. 20; vii. 23; viii. 33) prescribe this double obseryance. In this they conform to the general view respecting the inde pendence of the Christian day; but in their marked deference to the Jewish day they cannot be taken as an exponent of the mind of the Church at large. The general verdict agreed with Augustine's words: “Dominus sabbatum solvebat” (Serm., cxxxvi).
The central conception of the Lord's Day was the same as heretofore. It was regarded as the weekly festival of the resurrection, - not a fast day, but a day of joy; and, in conformity to this feature, the standing posture in prayer was alone regarded as suitable to its observance, and, indeed, was formally prescribed. The sanctions of the day were also substantially the same as those which were quoted in the previous centuries. Its independent Christian basis, as opposed to any Jewish origin, was universally acknowledged. “In no clearly
. genuine passage,” says a very thorough investigator of the subject, “ that I can discover in any writer of these two centuries [the fourth and fifth], or in any public document, ecclesiastical or civil, is the Fourth Commandment referred to as the ground of the obligation to observe the Lord's Day. In no passage is there any hint of the transfer of the Sabbath to the Lord's Day, or of the planting of the Lord's Day on the ruins of the Sabbath. If the Sabbath appears, it appears as a perfectly distinct day.”] The utmost connection pred
1 icated in the first five, perhaps we may say six, centuries between the Jewish and the Christian day appears in the idea, very rarely expressed, that the former was in a sense emblematic of the latter. A conspicuous example of this is seen in the decree of the second coun. cil of Macon, in 585, “that no one should allow himself
1 J. A. Hessey, Sunday, Lect. iii.
on the Lord's Day, under plea of necessity, to put a yoke on the necks of his cattle; but all be occupied with mind and body in the hymns and the praise of God. For this is the day of perpetual rest; this is shadowed out to us by the seventh day in the law and the prophets." This assigning of a typical force to the Jewish Sabbath was quite different from distinctly asserting that the Sabbath law of the Jews was still in force, and was to be regarded as governing the Lord's Day. The emphasis, nevertheless, upon Jewish precedents was a step toward the latter conception.
Among the other days of the week, Wednesday and Friday were very largely distinguished as fast days. At Rome, and in some of the neighboring churches, Saturday was reckoned among fast days, and tended to take the place of Wednesday in this respect. Roman usage naturally became the usage of the Latin Church; still, this result was wrought out but slowly. We learn from Augustine, who decided very emphatically for liberty in this matter, that Western custom was divided in his day. In the East, the practice of fasting on Saturday, even in the lenten season (the Saturday commemorative of Christ's repose in the tomb alone excepted), was steadfastly denounced.
Aside from saints' days, the chief addition in this period to the yearly festivals was Christmas. The first distinct reference to its observance belongs to the pontificate of Liberius (352-366). It appears at this date to have been a well-known festival at Rome. In the East, its introduction was some years later. Chrysostom, in 386, spoke of it as having been known in Antioch for
less than ten years, and heartily commended its general observance. In Alexandria, the celebration of Christ's nativity was incorporated with the feast of Epiphany until about 430, when we find indications of the observance of Christmas Day proper.
The reasons which dictated the choice of the 25th of December are involved in obscurity. No general tradition which makes this the time of the nativity can be traced back. In the absence of other data, there is not a little plausibility in the supposition that the location of Christmas was influenced by the fact that heathen Rome was wont to celebrate joyous festivals — such as the Saturnalia, Sigillaria, and Brumalia - in the closing days of the year. To place Christmas at this point, subserved a practical end, since it turned the minds of the people to a new and better occasion of rejoicing. It should be remembered, however, that this is supposition rather than ascertained fact.
Yearly festivals in honor of Mary, the chief apostles, John the Baptist, the martyr Stephen, and of the saints collectively, were quite generally celebrated before the close of the period. Many individual saints received a local commemoration in different quarters. The festivals in honor of the Virgin, which had their beginning within or upon the border of the period, were the following: (1) the Annunciation of Mary, on the 25th of March; (2) the Purification of Mary, or Candlemas, on the 2d of February; (3) the Ascension, or Assumption, of Mary, on the 15th of August. A definite recognition of the first of these is not found till the seventh century; the second was sanctioned by Justinian in 541 or 542; the third, by the Emperor Maurice (582-602).
The basis for this last was a legend which began to be circulated at the end of the fourth or the beginning of the fifth century, and which taught, that, after the soul of the Virgin had been carried to heaven by Christ and His angels, her body was carried thither from the presence of the apostles, and was united with the soul.
The tendencies toward sacramentalism, already sufficiently strong in the latter part of the preceding period, show an increased momentum in these centuries. Not content with a rational emphasis upon baptism as a seal of adoption into the family of God, many indulged a decidedly superstitious estimate of its virtue, and depended upon it as an instrument of a kind of magical absolution. The intemperate language of the most eminent theologians encouraged the exaggerated notions. Thus Chrysostom says, “ As the element of fire, when it meets with ore from the mine, straightway of earth makes it gold, even so and much more baptism makes those who are washed to be gold instead of clay; the Spirit at that time falling like fire into our souls, burning up the image of the earthy, and producing the image of the heavenly, fresh coined, bright and glittering, as from the furnace mould. ... To have been born the mystical birth, and to have been cleansed from all our former sins, comes from baptism.”1 Frequently, that this wholesale remission might be enjoyed late in life, there were long delays in receiving baptism. An earthquake or pestilence was very apt to hurry up the delinquents. Easter was the favorite season for baptism; though, in the East, Epiphany was also chosen. Infant baptism was universally recognized in theory; but in practice, espe
1 Hom. in Joan., X.