In this journey on the Barque of Peter, we continue to 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 cover the period in which the Church evolves into a power thanks to Constantine the Great as the persecutions cease during the fourth century in IN HOC SIGNO VINCES, part one: the Fourth Century
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.
IN HOC SIGNO VINCES
part one: the Fourth Century
With the death of Pope Saint Marcellinus on October 25, 304, the "last hurrah" for persecutions by Roman Emperors, specifically Diocletian was inevitable. But because of Diocletian's intensified persecutions no successor was chosen for four years until May 27, 308 when Pope Saint Marcellus I whas elected the 30th successor of Peter. Because of the four-year vacancy, he had to deal with the difficult responsibility of pardoning those who had abjured during during the persecutions. He also decreed that a Council could not be held without the authorization of the Pope. Diocletian's death gave portent to better things ahead for the Church but that tempered by the death of Marcellus on January 16, 309 who was martyred by Diocletian's hardline soldiers. He was succeeded three months later on April 18, 309 by Pope Saint Eusebius whose papacy lasted even shorter, for he was martyred on August 17 of the same year while in Sicily. During this time apostates were growing which was bringing the Church to the brink of schism, yet he succeeded in maintaining a position of firmness and pardon.
After a two year vacancy and a change of emperors, Pope Saint Miltiades became the 32nd in the line of Peter and ruled over the Church from July 2, 311 to 314. It was during the reign of this African-born pontiff that the horrendous persecutions finally ended. Christianity had won through the Edict of Milan in which two
emperors - Licinus, a pagan from the East, and Constantine, who would soon be converted to Christianity, made a pact - often called the Edict of Toleration - which recognized and accepted Christianity as a religion. Militiades is responsible for constructing the first Basilica of Saint John Lateran and Blessed bread dates from this time.
Christ lived thirty three years. It's interesting to note that it was
during the reign of the 33rd pontiff - Pope Saint Sylvester I from January 31, 314 to December 31, 335 that Christianity was free to spread throughout the world under the same Constantine the Great who was inspired to victory in a fierce battle after seeing a luminous cross in the sky with the Latin words "In Hoc Signo
vinces." Translated it means "In this sign you shall conquer." His mother Saint Helena was rewarded for her tireless prayers with his conversion and ensuing far-reaching Christian influence on the world. Constantine not only became the first Christian Roman Emperor and the founder of the Byzantine Empire, but also declared Christianity as the official national religion. During Sylvester's 21 year pontificate the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea was convened where the Credo was formulated. He instituted Sunday as a holyday in memory of the Resurrection and created the "Iron Crown" with a nail from the true Holy Cross.
During this glorious time, Pope Saint Mark became the new pope on January 18, 336 for only
ten months. He decreed that the Pope should be consecrated by the Bishop of Ostia. He also instituted the Pallium which is still in use. It is made from the wool of a previously blessed lambs and is decorated with black crosses. During his pontificate the first calendar of religious feastdays was released and more might have been accomplished had he lived longer but Mark died on October 7, the same year. Upon his death Pope Julius I was placed on the throne of Peter, where he reigned for 15 years until April 12, 352 when he passed on to eternity on April 12, 352. During his pontificate, Arianism raised its ugly head again.
Even though it had been condemned in 325 at the Council of Nicea, it marked the beginning of a plethora of disputes in which civil authorities would interfere with church affairs. He ordered that the Oriental Church should celebrate Christmas on December 25th instead of uniting it with the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th which is the date the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrate Christmas to this day. He also is considered to be the founder of the Archives of the Holy See since he ordered that all official acts be preserved. At the Council of Sardica in Illyricum, Pope Julius proved the innocence of Saint Athanasius who had deposed certain Arian bishops. Julius also framed 21 canons of discipline, thus clarifying further Church government and administration in accordance with Rome. It was also during this time that the great early Doctors of the Church came into vogue - men like Saint Gregory Nazianzen, Saint Athanasius, Saint Eusebius, Saint Basil the Great, Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint John Chrysostom, and Saint Augustine who all upheld Church teaching and helped formulate Church doctrine, dogmas and traditions of the Church.
A month after Julius' death on April 12, 352 Pope Saint Liberius was declared the new
pontiff as the 36th successor of Peter. The polemics with the Arians continued and this led to the Arians electing their own pope - Felix II, thus establishing the first official antipope even though Novatian had been antipope in 252 no records existed until Unfortunately Felix would not be the last. Liberius laid the foundations for the Basilica of Saint Mary Major by tracing out the perimeter in fresh snow after a miraculous snowfall in heat of the Roman summer on August 15th. On September 24, 366 after fourteen years as Vicar of Christ God called Liberius home.
His successor on October 1, 366 was Pope Saint Damasus I who was born in Spain. He was a learned pontiff and introduced the use of the Hebrew term "Alleluia". He also had the Sacred Scriptures translated from Hebrew into Latin and Greek, the first being the Psalms which he authorized the singing of the Psalms by alternate choirs which became the "Ambrosian Rite" in honor of Saint Ambrose. He convened the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 381 in which 350 bishops attended and condemned Macedonians and declared the Holy Spirit was consubstantial with the Father and the Son. It was also when the Word , comprised in various books was compiled into Divine Revelation as the "Bible." with Saint Jerome translating much of it into Latin in progress as the "Latin Vulgate." Damasus ruled for sixteen years until dying on December 11, 384.
It was during his reign that hordes of barbarian Huns, Goths, Vandals, and Visigoths began descending from the north and east, ravaging millions as they carved a bloody path toward Rome. This was a gradual process over the reigns of those who followed him beginning with his immediate successor Pope Saint Siricus, 39th successor of Peter who brought Holy Mother Church to the brink of the fifth century. He was born in Rome and elected four days after Liberius' death. He was the first, after Peter, to assume the title of "Pope" Papa from the Greek "Father." It was also believed to be an anagram from the initials of the words "Petri Apostoli Potestatem Accipiens." Siricus upheld the necessity of celibacy for priests and, after a fifteen year papacy, died on November 26, 399.
It would be left to his successor Pope Saint Anastasius I to bring the Church into the Fifth Century. Also born in Rome he was elected a day after Siricus' death and strenuously fought the followers o fimmoral practices, maintaining that the Divinity was also hidden in material things. He decreed that priests should remain standing during the reading of the Holy Gospel at Mass. Even though his pontificate only lasted two years, he resolved the schism between Rome and the Church of Antioch. He died on December 19,401.
Next Week: Installment Twelve: The Fall of the Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity