I was going to link to a long book excerpt that the Pontificator put up last week, but he seems to have taken it down. (Maybe he had copyright trouble?) The book is called The Mass of the Early Christians, and the excerpt described a third-century Mass from the point of view of an imaginary artisan.
The structure was similar to Masses today, but I noticed a few interesting things. One, everybody brought their own bread and wine for communion. The elders went and gathered them up during the time now reserved for the collection of money (the early churches gathered money as people were leaving). They then consecrated your bread and wine and fed you a bit at Mass, but you took the rest home for daily communion with your family through the week. I guess daily Masses later superseded that, as Christians were able to go to church out in the open (the folks in this excerpt were still sneaking around). Still, it's curious given how some people today emphasize that communion must come from a common cup and loaf -- that aspect of the Last Supper was ignored pretty early!
Another interesting thing was how the congregation was grouped into various divisions. There were regular church members in one area, catechumens in another, widows and orphans in their own section, and penitents in the back. There was another group mentioned whose existence I wasn't aware of -- the "hesitants." They'd gone through the catechumenate, apparently, but were still wavering about actually getting baptized. Apparently a lot of this had to do with the fact that Donatism hadn't been declared a heresy yet, so people were afraid of what would happen if they fell into serious sin after baptism. (The presence of the penitents suggests that some sins were forgivable, anyway; maybe it depended on the severity.) But when I read it I thought, hey, there's a group I can relate to. I guess some things haven't changed much.
(Via Dappled Things.)Posted by Camassia at August 30, 2004 05:33 PM | TrackBack