Palmer: Origines Liturgicæ 08.

Vol. I: Diss. on Primitive Liturgies, Sect. VIII.


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I NOW enter on the consideration of the rites used by the churches of Africa, the civil diocese of which comprised the provinces of Africa Proconsularis, Byzacium, Numidia, Tripolis, and the two Mauritanias1. These churches, once conspicuous in the Christian world, adorned with the piety and learning of illustrious Fathers, and ruled by nearly five hundred bishops, have long ceased to exist. Weakened by unhappy schisms, they were unable to bear up against the tide of Mahommedan infidelity, which in the seventh and eighth centuries threatened to overwhelm the world. No monument of the African liturgy remains: we must be content, therefore, to seek for its relics amongst the writings of those Fathers who lived in Africa.

In perusing many works relating to the primitive liturgy and offices of the Roman church, it has appeared to me, that the most valuable allusions to [135] Roman customs are almost always found in the writings of African Fathers; and it is remarkable that they profess in those places to describe the rites of their own churches, and not those of the Roman. I have thence been inclined to conjecture that the African rites were generally the same as the Roman; and in fact there is no sort of difficulty in supposing that Christianity and religious rites came from Rome to Africa. The geographical position of Africa, separated by deserts from Egypt and the East, renders it more probable that Christianity should have come from the apostolical church of Rome than from any other quarter. Spain and Gaul were probably not converted to Christianity before Africa, therefore it is not likely that they sent missionaries to that country.

The Roman liturgy differed from those of Antioch, Cæsarea, Constantinople, Alexandria, and all the East, and from those of Gaul and Spain in the West, in directing the kiss of peace to be given after the consecration was finished. The only liturgy now remaining which agrees in this respect with the Roman, is that of Milan, which was evidently derived originally from it. The ancient African also agreed with the Roman from the earliest period, in placing the kiss of peace after consecration, as we learn from Tertullian2 and Augustine3. This [136] similarity in so remarkable a point, renders it highly probable that we may find further signs of conformity between these two liturgies; and if it should appear that all the accounts we have of the African liturgy, harmonize with the opinion that it was originally the same as the Roman, we may fairly conclude that such an opinion is correct.

Augustine says, that about his time the custom of singing anthems from the Book of Psalms before the liturgy began at Carthage4. We find that Cœlestine bishop of Rome, about the same time, adopted a similar rule at Rome5. The reading of Scripture then commenced. Augustine sometimes speaks of the first lesson being taken from the Prophets, and followed by the Epistle6. In other places he refers to the Epistle as the first lesson7. In like manner we find that at certain seasons the Epistle was preceded by a lesson from the Prophets, in the Roman church8,. After the Prophet (when it was read), and the Epistle, came a Psalm9, which corresponds with the Roman Gradual, and to which there is no other exact parallel in any of the eastern or western rites. [137] After the Psalm, the Gospel was read, and the bishop preached10. Then the catechumens were dismissed11, and the oblations of the faithful were received12. Cyprian and Augustine speak of the beginning of the preface, Sursum corda, "Lift up your hearts;"13 to which the latter adds the form "Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro;"14 and both speak of the thanksgiving or preface, which is also referred to by Tertullian15. The singing of the hymn Tersanctus is alluded to by Tertullian16. All these things perfectly agree with the ancient Roman liturgy. Optatus speaks of a verbal oblation made for the church, which very nearly agrees with that of the Roman church17. Tertullian says that they [138] sacrificed or offered for the emperor18, which is also consistent with the Roman liturgy. Cyprian speaks of the commemoration of the living19. Augustine seems to refer to prayers and an oblation before consecration20; and Optatus and Fulgentius speak of an invocation of the Holy Spirit to perform the sanctification of the elements21. This is almost the only point in which any material difference can be pointed out between the Roman and the African liturgies. The former never contained such an [139] invocation. But the African church may very well have introduced this form in imitation of the oriental liturgies, in which it had been extant from a most remote period. I have not found any distinct allusion to the words of our Saviour22. The verbal commemoration of Christ’s passion and death is spoken of by Cyprian and Fulgentius23. The commemoration of the departed saints is mentioned by Augustine, Cyprian, and Tertullian24; as is also the termination "in sæcula sæculorum," and the response of the people, Amen, by Tertullian25. We also read, in Augustine, of the breaking of the bread or body for distributions26, and of a benediction of the people, to which the canons of the African church refer, as "an imposition of hands;"27 and Optatus alludes to the absolution of penitents sometimes given at this time28. The Lord’s Prayer then followed, and is [140] spoken of by Augustine, Optatus, and Cyprian29. The salutation of peace, "Pax vobis," and the holy kiss, are alluded to by Augustine, Optatus, and Tertullian30. Augustine speaks of the anthem sung during communions31, and of the thanksgiving, "post communionem."32

This is perhaps almost all we can know about the African liturgy, and, as far as it goes, it agrees perfectly with the ancient Roman, except in the single instance of the invocation of the Holy Spirit, which was probably introduced from the east, or from Gaul and Spain. Some passages from the African Fathers have been cited, which may be imagined to refer to a liturgy different from the Roman. Thus, for instance, Tertullian and other Fathers speak of prayers for the emperor and his court33, &c.; Augustine, of prayers for infidels, catechumens34, &c. which do not appear in the ancient [141] Roman canon. But in fact we have no proof that these prayers were used in the African canon; they may have occupied the place of the Roman collect before the lessons; and even if they did occur in the canon, it would not have constituted any material difference between the Roman and African rites, for we often find that such small additions were made in ancient liturgies, the main substance and order still remaining identical35. I am altogether satisfied that the African liturgy agreed in very many points with the primitive Roman, and that no material difference can be shewn between them. If this were the proper place for doing so, and if I did not fear to enlarge this dissertation too much, it would be easy to trace this conformity of the Roman and African rites through the offices of Baptism, Matrimony, &c. and to bring a large body of [142] evidence to prove the original derivation of the African rites from those of the Roman church.

When we reflect on the patriarchal jurisdiction of the archbishop of Carthage, the resolute independence of the African churches in the third and following centuries, and their rejection of the pretended jurisdiction of the patriarch of Rome36, we shall find it difficult to account for the identity of the African and Roman rites in any other manner, than by supposing that the first bishops of Africa were ordained at Rome, and carried thence the liturgy and ritual, which in after-ages prevailed in Africa. It is unknown at what period the church was founded in Africa; but as Tertullian was presbyter of Carthage at the end of the second century, as the acts of the martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicitas speak of Optatus as bishop of Carthage about the year 200, and Agrippinus bishop of Carthage is said to have assembled a council of many bishops about A.D. 215; it seems probable that the church of Africa was founded some time not remote from the middle of the second century, or about the same time as the church of Gaul.

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1 Bingham, book ix. c. 2. §. 5.

2 "Habita oratione cum fratribus, subtrahunt osculum pacis quod est signaculum orationis.—Quale sacrificium est a quo sine pace receditur." Lib. de Orat. c. xiv. p. 134, 135. ed. Rigalt. Paris. 1664.

3 "Ecce ubi est peracta sanctificatio dicimus orationem Dominicam quam accepistis et reddidistis. Post ipsam dicitur Pax vobiscum, et osculant se Christiani in osculo sancto." August. Serm. 227. in die Paschæ, p. 974. tom. v. oper. Benediet.

4 "Hilarius quidam—nescio unde adversus Dei rninistros, ut fieri assolet irritatus, morem qui tunc esse apud Carthaginem cœperat, ut hymni ad altare dicerentur de psalmorum libro, sive ante oblationem, sive cum distribueretur populo quod fuisset oblatum, maledica reprehensione ubicumque poterat lacerabat." August. Retractat. lib. ii. c. 11.

5 See note 23, section vi. p. 122.

6 "In omnibus lectionibus quas recitatas audivimus si animadvertit caritas vestra, primam lectionem Isaiæ prophetæ —deinde adscendit apostolica lectio," &c. Serm. xiv. p. 21 8. tom. v.

7 "Primam lectionem audivimus Apostoli—deinde cantavimus psalmum—post hæc Evangelica lectio." Serm. clxxvi. p. 839. tom. v.

8 Vide Lectionar. vel Comitem Pamel. Liturg. tom. ii. p. i, &c.

9 See note 7 in this page.

10 This is manifest from almost all the sermons of Augustine, which profess to have been delivered immediately after the reading of Scripture.

11 "Post sermonem missa fit catechumenis: manebunt fideles, venietur ad locum orationis." Augustin. Serm. xlix. de Temp. p. 275. tom. v.

12 "Locuples et dives es, et Dominicum celebrare te credis, quæ corbanam omnino non respicis. quæ in Dominicum sine sacrificio venis, quæ partem de saerificio quod pauper obtulit sumis." Cypr. de Oper. et Eleemos. p. 203. ed. Fell.

13 "Ideo et sacerdos ante orationem, præfatione præmissa parat fratrum mentes dicendo: Sursum corda: ut dum respondet plebs, Habemus ad Dominum: admoneatur nihil aliud se, quam Dominum, cogitare debere." Cypr. de Orat. Dom. p. 152. Aug. de Don. Persev. c. 13. p. 839. tom. x.

14 Aug. de Don. Persev. c. cit.

15 Cypr. de Orat. Dom. ut supra. Aug. de Don. Persev. c. cit. Tertullian. lib. i. adv. Marcionem, c. xxiii. p. 377. "Super alienum panem alii Deo gratiarum actionibus fungitur."

16 "Cur illa angelorum circumstantia non cessant dicere, Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus. Proinde igitur et nos angelorum, si meminerimus, candidati jam hinc cœlestem illam in Deum vocem, et officium futuræ claritatis ediscimus." Tertull. de Orat. c. iii. p. 130.

17 "Quis dubitet, vos illud legitimum in Sacramentorum mysterio præterire non posse? Olferre vos Deo dicitis pro Ecclesia quæ una est: hoc ipsum mendacii pars est, unam te vocare, de qua feceris duas. Et offerre vos dicitis pro una ecclesia, quæ sit in toto terrarum orbe difusa." Optat. contra Parmen. lib. ii. p. 45. Paris. 1679. Compare Gregor. Sacr. a Menard. p. 2.

18 "Itaque et sacrificamus pro salute imperatoris sed Deo nostro et ipsius: sed quomodo præcepit Deus, prece pura." Tertull. ad Scapulam, p. 69. c. 2. Compare Greg. Sacr. p. 2.

19 "Ad communionem admittuntur, et offertur nomen eorum." Cypr. Epist. xvi. p.37. et Epist. lxii. p. 147. Compare Greg. Sacr. Menard. p. 2. Marteni, de Antiq. Eccl. Rit. lib. i. c. 4. art. 8. p. 400, &c.

20 Speaking of the words of the apostle, I Tim. ii. 1. "Eligo in his verbis hoc intelligere quod omnis vel fere omnis frequentat Ecclesia, ut precationes (obsecrationes) accipiamus dictas, quas facimus in celebratione Sacramentorum, antequam illud, quod est in Domini mensa, incipiat benedici; orationes cum benedicitur et sanctificatur, et ad distribuendum comminuitur, quam totam petitionem fere omnis Ecclesia Dominica oratione concludit" —This he explains from the scriptural use of the word proseuchê; proceeding thus—"si usitatius ut dixi, in Scripturis volum appellatur euchê, excepto nomine generali orationis, ea proprie inteligenda oratio quam facimus ad votum, id est pros euchê. Voventur autem omnia quae offeruntur Deo, maxime sancti altaris ohlatio—ideo in hujus sanctificationis præparatione existimo Apostolum jussisse proprie fieri proseuchas id est, orationes,—hoc est enim ad votum quod usitatius in Scripturis nuncupatur euchê." Aug. Epist. cxlix. p. 509. tom. ii. Compare Greg. Sacr. Menard. p. 2.

21 "Quid est enim tam sacrilegum, quam altaria Dei (in quibus et vos aliquando obtulistis) frangere, radere, removere? In quibus vota populi et membra Christi portata sunt: quo Deus omnipotens invocatus sit, quo postulatus descendit Spiritus Sanctus," &c. Optat. cont. Parmen. lib. vi. p. 111. See also Fulgent. lib. ii. qu. 2. ad Monimum, and contra Fabian. Excerpta a Sirmondo, p. 36. 39.

22 The tract De Cœna Dom. which alludes to them, and is ascribed to Cyprian, is spurious; as is "Sermo 28. de Verbis Domini," 84 in Appendix of Augustine’s works, tom. 5.

23 "Passionis ejus mentionem in sacrificiis omnibus facimus—quotiescunque ergo calicem in commemorationem Domini et passionis oferimus," &c. Cypr. Ep. lxiii. ad Cæcil. p.156. "Cum tempore sacrificii cornmemorationem mortis ejus faciamus." Fulgent. cont. Fabian. Excerpta a Sirmond. p. 36.

24 Aug. de Sanct. Virginitat. c. 45; de Civ. Dei, lib. xxi. c. 10. Cypr. Ep. xii. p. 27. xxix. p. 77. Tertull. de Coron. Militis, p. 102; de Monogamia, p. 531 A; de Exhort. Cast. p. 523 D.

25 Tertull. de Spectaculis, c. 25. p. 83.

26 See Epist. cxlix. cited in note 20, p. 138.

27 "Interpellationes autem—fiunt cum populus benedicitur. Tunc enim antistites velut advocati susceptos suos per manus impositionem misericordissimæ offerunt potestati." Epist. cxlix. p. 509. tom. ii., Concil. African. A.D. 424, canon lxx. Labbe, tom. ii. p. 1662. Codex Canon. Eccl. Afr. A.D. 390. canon ciii. ib. p. 1117.

28 "Etenim inter vicina momenta, dum manus imponitis, et delicta donatis, mox ad altare conversi, Dominicam orationem prætermittere nonpotestis." Optatus, lib. ii. p. 52.

29 Augustini Epist. cxlix. ad Paulin. p. 509. tom. ii. quoted above, in note 20, p. 138. The following passage is also valuable. "Ideo cum dicitur, Sursum cor; respondetis, Habemus ad Dominum—ideo sequitur episcopus vel presbyter qui offert, et dicit cum responderit populus, Habemus ad Dominum sursum cor: gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro—et vos adtestamini, dignum et justum est dicentes. Deinde post sanctificationem sacrificii Dei—ecce ubi est peracta sanctificatio dicimus orationem Dominicam—Post ipsam dicitur Pax vobiscuin; et osculantur se Christiani in osculo sancto." August. 227. in die Paschæ, p. 974. tom. v. See Optatus Milev. lib. ii. adv. Parmen. cited above in note 28. Cypr. de Orat. Dom. p. 146.

30 For testimony of Augustine, see last note, and note 3, p. 135. "Et non potuistis prætermittere quod legitimum est. Utique dixistis Pax vobiscum—salutas de pace, qui non amas." Optat. Milev. lib. iii. p. 79. Tertull. de Orat. cited in note 2, p. 135.

31 Retractat. lib. ii. c. 11.

32 "Quibus peractis, et participato sancto Sacramento, gratiarum actio cuncta concludit." Epist. cxlix. ad Paulin. p. 509. tom. ii.

33 Tertull. in Apolog. p. 31A. Arnob. adv. Gentes, lib. iv. sub finem.

34 August. Epist. ccxvii. ad Vitalem, p. 799. tom. ii.

35 Victorinus Afer, lib. i. adversus Arianos, cites the following passage from the African liturgy: "Sicuti et in oblatione dicitur, munda tibi populum circumvitalem, aemulatorem bonorum operum, circa tuam substantiam venientem." Fulgeiitius, in his remarks on I Cor. xi. 23. amongst the Excerpta published by Sirmond. p. 36, says, "Cum tempore sacrificii commemorationem mortis ejus faciamus, charitatem nobis tribui per adventum sancti Spiritus postulamus: hoc suppliciter exorantes ut per ipsam charitatem, qua pro nobis Christus crucifigi dignatus est, nos quoque gratia sancti Spiritus accepta, mundum crucifixum habere, et mundo crucifigi possimus: imitantesque Domini nostri mortem, sicut Christus quod mortuus est peccato, mortuus est semel, quod autem vivit, vivit Deo, etiam nos in novitate vitæ ambulemus, et munere charitatis accepto, moriamur peccato, et vivamus Deo." p. 39. "Hoc autem quod petimus, id est, ut in Patre et Filio unum simus, per unitatem gratiæ spiritualiter accipimus." This plainly shews that the African canon contained petitions which did not exist in the Roman, but it does not prove that they were originally different. The invocation of the Holy Spirit was derived from Gaul, Spain, or the East, by the African church. The petition for unity was no doubt introduced, in consequence of the schisms so prevalent in Africa.

36 See these points proved by Basnage, Hist. de I’Eglise, liv. iv. ch. 1.

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