We continue with the sixth installment of an extensive series on the Church and the Mass - the sacrifice of the New Law in which Jesus Christ, through the ministry of the priest, offers Himself to God in
an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine.
In this journey on the Barque of Peter, we will detail the evolution of the Mass and the Church
from the early Christian times to our present day so that all may better understand
the true meaning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and our faith - the One, Holy,
Catholic and Apostolic Church. Today we continue with Chapter Two, THE EMBRYO YEARS, part three.
We will be using various sources, but the best are four books that are out of print but provide so much
solid material: "My Catholic Faith - A Manual of Religion" (1949) by Bishop Louis LaRavoire Morrow, S.T.D. from My Mission House ; "The Glories and Triumphs of the Catholic Church" (1907) from Benziger Brothers; "The Catholic Church Alone the One True Church of Christ" (1902) from the Catholic Educational Company; and "Cabinet of Catholic Information" (1904) from Duggan Publishing Co. In addition we will be using material gleaned from "The Oxford Dictionary of Popes" by J.N.D. Kelly; The Papal Princes: A History of the Sacred College of Cardinals" by Glenn D. Kittler; "Pontiffs: Popes who shaped history" by John Jay Hughes; "The Mass of the Roman Rite" by Fr. Josef Jungmann, S.J.; "The Story of the Church" from Tan Books by Fr. George Johnson, PhD; "The Story of the Mass" by Fr. Pierre Loret; "Rubrics of
the Mass" by Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas; "The Wonders of the Mass" by Fr.
Paul O'Sullivan, O.P.; and the Code of Canon Law", as well as the
"Catechism of the Catholic Church"; "Baltimore Catechism"; Catholic Encyclopedia (Thomas Nelson Publishers); "Catholic Dictionary" by Fr. John Hardon, S.J.; "Dictionary of Saints" by John J. Delaney; "Butler's Lives of the Saints" from Benziger Brothers; "Saints of the Roman Calendar" by Enzo Lodi and Fr. Jordan Aumann, OP; "1999 Catholic Almanac" from Our Sunday Visitor, and numerous missals and references.
With a better perception of what the Church stands for and what the Mass truly is, we will not
so easily be swayed by new-fangled gimmicks and liturgical abuses being
introduced by individual celebrants and ICEL, the International Committee
for English in the Liturgy. We will discover why the basis for the use of
vestments and sacred vessels, the purpose for the Rubrics of the Mass, the
logic of Church Scholars and Popes through the ages for fending off changes
that would water-down the faith and the Holy Sacrifice and even invalidate the greatest
remembrance Christ gave to His Church.
THE EMBRYO YEARS
part three: The Early Popes - The First Century
The Church didn't miss a beat when Saint Linus, born in Volterra, was elected by
the disciples in 67 after the death of Peter who was crucified upside down on June 29, 67 A.D. on the order of the wicked Roman Emperor Nero. In fact, all the Apostles save for Saint John suffered cruel deaths. Saint James the Greater, who had journeyed to Zaragoza in Spain to spread the Gospel Message, had been summoned back to Jerusalem in 40 A.D. by the Blessed Mother herself for Our Lady was carried on a pillar by angels before her glorious Assumption into Heaven with a message for James that he return to the Holy City and ultimately be beheaded by Herod Agrippa in 44 A.D. Saint Matthew preached and administered the Sacraments in Ethiopia, Persia and Parthia where he was eventually murdered. Saint Andrew, Peter's brother, brought the Word to the lower Danube regions and was crucified in Greece. Saint Thomas and Saint Bartholomew travelled all the way to India, the latter returned to Arabia and Assyria and was flayed and crucified in Armenia; the former was pierced with a lance on the command of the king in India. Saint Simon and Saint Jude were both martyred in Persia, while Saint Philip was crucied in Hieropolis and Saint Matthias in Sebastopolis.
Taking up where Peter left off, Pope St. Linus created the first fifteen bishops and forbade women to enter a church with uncovered heads, something that has grown lax since Vatican II in our century. During his pontificate the evangelists Saint Luke and Saint Mark were martyred. He himself died a martyr on September 23, 76 A.D. under the Emperor Vespasianand he was succeeded by Pope Saint Cletus, the third successor of Peter and Roman-born. He drew up the rules for the consecration of bishops. In the area of the Vatican, near the tomb of St. Peter, he had an oratory built for the burial of martyrs. He also established the early rules governing ecclesiastical dress. He also was martyred for the new faith in 88 A.D. during the reign of the Roman Emperor Flavius Domitian, the last of the twelve Caesars. Cletus was succeeded by another Roman-born pontiff Pope Saint Clement I.
During these embryo years of the Church language differences and customs had to be overcome. Though we believe Jesus spoke in Aramaic, most of those who the Apostles and disciples
ministered to in the other regions outside Israel spoke Greek. In 1 Corinthians
14: 18-19 Paul makes clear it is vital to reach people in their native
tongue so that they understand the Word. Greek thus first became the
dialect of the New Sacrifice in order to reach more converts and
communicate the purpose of their mission. Even to this day, some remnants
of the Hellenic language remain such as the Kyrie eleison in which we
implore God's Mercy at the beginning of the Mass. Also, the Greek word of
meal is agape, which means "love feast" and, with the institution of the
Mass in Greek, became the memorial of the Last Supper. However, through
abuse it became more of a social event rather than the purpose for which it
was intended and was soon abolished.
Other practices were abrogated as the structure took permanent form. One
reason for this was that each local church community maintained their own
traditions and practices and sometimes bolted when asked to blend with the
One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
One practice that remained steady in the early years was the Didache which
was a treatise in two parts called the "Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles"
which was written about 65-80 A.D. by Paul, but many attribute its origin
to the second century. Whenever it came to be, it seemed to be a manual
for those missionary disciples who were ministering to believers. Because
it was a prayerful groundwork for the celebration of the Eucharist, many
perceived it as a manual for the Mass - the first missal, if you will. The
Didache was divided into two parts, the first being a moral treatise and
the second disciplinary, keying on the administration and ministry of the
Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. It was not only highly
regarded by the early Fathers of the Church but also provided insight into
how the early Church was governed and the liturgy practiced which was
perceived as an initiation rite to be highly guarded from unbelievers.
Even among the Gentiles there were differences regarding the direction the
Church should go. Just as there is today, so also in the early days there
were arguments over liturgical aspects of the Mass. These controversies
even threatened to split Christ's Church during the embryo stages…an
element that still exists today in so many circles within and outside the
This reached its apex around the yeas 95-98 A.D. when followers of Cephas
and others who followed Apollos argued vehemently. Pope Saint Clement I, the
fourth in the line of pontiffs, urged harmony among all and he stressed
that it was the role of the bishop and priests who had earned his trust to
preside over the New Sacrifice. Some were not approved. It was also a
manifestation of the Papal supremacy in the succession of Peter as early as
the first century. Clement restored the sacrament of Confirmation according to the rite of St. Peter.
It was to his time that is attributed the use of "Amen" in religious ceremonies. He was banished to Pontus by the Roman Emperor Trajan and thrown into the sea with an anchor around his neck in 97 A.D.
He was succeeded by Pope Saint Evaristus, the first Greek Pope whose pontificate lasted eight years. Given the increase in the number of Christian converts, he divided the city of Rome into parishes. He also founded the first seven diaconates entrusted to senior priests, which is actually considered the origin of the present College of Cardinals.
TOMORROW: Installment Seven: The Embryo Years: The Second Century