You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Christianity’ tag.

palm-sundayPalm Sunday falls on March 29 this year and marks the beginning of Holy Week.

Readers might be interested in the following posts in recalling our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an occasion of elation which would not last the week.

The day before Palm Sunday is known in some Catholic quarters and by the Eastern Orthodox as Lazarus Saturday, when Jesus raised Mary and Martha’s brother from the dead (John 11:1-45).

Palm Sunday remembers the juxtaposition of the joy of the crowds and the plotting by the Jewish hierarchy to get rid of Jesus.

Palm Sunday donkey landysadventures_comJesus entered the city not held aloft by the Apostles nor sitting upon a horse — which symbolised power and battle — but on a humble donkey. This explanation gives us more information.

Another post explains why we receive palms. If you receive palm fronds instead of a palm cross, here are ideas for plaiting them as soon as possible so that they will last for another year.

This post on the Anglican Book of Common Prayer concludes a study of Church liturgy and Communion polity from the first century through the Reformation.

Past posts — all of which are available on my Christianity/Apologetics page under Church history and miscellany — are as follows:

Church history: early form of liturgy still followed

Church history: Eastern liturgy in the 4th and 5th centuries

Church history: Western liturgy between the 5th and 9th centuries

Church history: how mediaeval Mass led to the Reformation

Church history: early Lutheran liturgy

Church history: Zwingli’s rite in Zurich

Church history: the German rites in Strasbourg (Martin Bucer)

Church history: Calvin’s French rites

Church history: early Reformed rites in Scotland

Unless otherwise indicated, source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.

Background to Anglican liturgy and practice

The Church of England is a via media — middle way — between Lutheranism and Calvinism (p. 144).

Doctrinally, it is similar to Calvinism. Liturgically, it is closer to Lutheranism.

However, it is less prescriptive and proscriptive than Calvinism. It also has liturgical distinctions all its own.

During Henry VIII’s reign, although the English Church broke with Rome, Mass remained a constant. However, small changes occurred with regard to church services. In 1536, the Mass in Latin was explained to the people so that they understood what was happening in the liturgy. In 1542, the Convocation of Canterbury decreed that all churches in England should have a morning and evening reading — one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament — in English every Sunday and holy day. This included the main Sunday Mass. The litany was first said in English in 1544 (p. 145).

An English liturgy took shape during Edward VI’s reign. The First Book of Homilies, which contained 12 sermons in English, was issued in 1547.

In March 1548, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer issued an English Order of Communion to be incorporated into the Mass (p. 145). These new parts of the liturgy included an exhortation to prayer, fencing the Table, invitation, public confession of sins with absolution, comfortable words (verses from the New Testament) and a prayer of humble access (expressing unworthiness to approach the Lord’s Table).

Cranmer incorporated these rubrics into the first Book of Common Prayer (BCP) which appeared in 1549 (see illustration above, courtesy of Charles Wohlers’s site). He, along with a group of clergymen, including Nicholas Ridley (p. 146) and Martin Bucer, wrote and compiled the prayers.

Maxwell describes the BCP as follows (p. 146):

It preserved a rich treasure of liturgical material, the whole rendered in an English style singularly felicitous, dignified and chaste. The character of the collects was retained, the English style equalling the Latin, while the style of the Canon far surpassed that of the old rite.

Just as important (emphases mine):

The achievement was unique in that the Book of Common Prayer, in contrast with the other vernacular rites of the sixteenth century, survives in use to this day.

The current Church of England service book is Common Worship, issued about 15 years ago, replacing the 1984 Alternative Service Book. Since the mid-1980s, our clergy have been trying to eliminate BCP services. However, vicars who occasionally use the BCP find their churches fuller than when they use the modern liturgy.

Communion policy

Doctrinally, the Church of England forbids either extreme belief about the nature of Communion. Specifically, church members are not allowed to believe in Catholic transubstantiation nor in Zwinglian symbolism (p. 144). We believe in an undefined Real Presence.

Those receiving Communion were to kneel once they approached the Table. However, some early Protestants were concerned how communicants and those in the pews would consider this posture.

Therefore, John Knox’s Black Rubric appeared in the 1552 BCP. It disappeared from the 1559 edition and was reinstated as an advisory notation in the 1662 edition, still used today. It reads as follows:

WHEREAS it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved: It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;) and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ’s natural Body to be at one time in more places than one.

A Communion liturgy was stipulated as being the norm. In the early days of the Reformation, churches mandated that at least some of their congregation receive the Sacrament on every Sunday and holy day (p. 146). In addition to the celebrant, a minimum of three or four persons was required (p. 149). Acknowledging that this might be more difficult at Wednesday and Friday services, the Church directives specified that clergy could truncate the service accordingly, omitting the parts of the Liturgy of the Upper Room which concerned the elements, consecration and Communion.

The reason for mandating that certain members of the congregation receive Communion at each service originated from the requirement to receive the Sacrament at least once a year (p. 150). This was stated in the 1549 BCP. In the next edition, which appeared in 1552, the directive for minimum reception stated that congregations must receive Communion three times a year, one of these occasions being Easter.

The 1662 BCP allowed Morning Prayer to become a standard Sunday and holy day liturgy. In practice, it became the standard as most parishes began to hold a Communion service only three or four times a year (p. 151).

Until the late 20th century, Morning Prayer continued to be the norm on Sundays which did not involve a major Church feast. Today, however, nearly every Church of England service is one of Holy Communion. It is very unusual to find Morning Prayer on a Sunday.

Liturgical highlights

It is difficult to reproduce everything from the 1549 ‘Supper of the Lorde and the holy Communion, commonly called the Masse’ (pp. 147, 148). So much changed in the liturgy between then and 1662. Certain parts were omitted, reinstated and rearranged during that time. My notes follow in italics.

Liturgy of the Word:

– Introit, consisting of a Psalm appointed for the day (replaced by a hymn);

– Lord’s Prayer, said by the celebrant;

– Collect for Purity, said by the celebrant;

– Repetition of the Introit (replaced by either a full responsorial recitation of the Ten Commandments or a truncated summary thereof);

Kyrie, ninefold (omitted by 1662);

Gloria (repositioned between the post-Communion prayer and the final blessing);

– Salutation and collect of the day;

– Collect for the King (or Queen);

– Epistle;

– Gospel;

– Nicene Creed;

– Sermon.

Liturgy of the Upper Room:

– Exhortation to receive Communion worthily and with a clear conscience (nowadays no longer read);

– A selection of Scripture verses;

– Offertory and collection of alms;

– Procession of communicants to the sanctuary, men on one side and women on the other (discontinued — people queue and walk to the altar rail when the celebrant is ready to distribute Communion);

– Celebrant prepares the elements;

– Intercessions for the living and dead;

– Comfortable words (New Testament verses);

– Salutation and Sursum corda;

– Prayer of Consecration;

– Lord’s Prayer (moved to post-Communion);

– The Peace (omitted);

Christ our Pascall Lambe (a version of the Agnus Dei, omitted);

– Invitation to Communion (part of Cranmer’s ‘Order of Communion’, omitted);

– General Confession and Absolution (repositioned to take place after the Intercessions);

– Prayer of Humble Access (repositioned to be recited before the Prayer of Consecration);

– Holy Communion, with clergy and assistants receiving the Sacrament before the congregation, and ‘clerks’ or choir sing the Agnus Dei (Agnus Dei omitted) ;

– Post-Communion Scripture sentences (omitted);

– Salutation and post-Communion thanksgiving (the Gloria follows);

– Peace and blessing (a possible reference to ‘The peace of God which passeth all understanding …’).

21st century developments

The new liturgical book, Common Worship, has a traditional service which has reinstated the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei. The Gloria has been moved to follow the Kyrie. The Prayer of Humble Access is said immediately before Communion.

Sadly, the Peace was restored in the 1980s, which is a shame in the 21st century;  some churchgoers are, quite frankly, unattentive to hygiene. A Methodist told me that his church’s policy is to allow for a discreet tucking of hands into one’s sleeves to indicate non-participation. Only one person did that in his church, but the congregation respected it.

The new traditional service is a great improvement on the one in the 1984 Alternative Service Book.

However, no liturgy anywhere will ever top that of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. It is a pity so many of today’s Anglican clergy refuse to use it more frequently. Such a refusal can only be considered some of Satan’s finest work.

End of series

My past several posts have looked at the liturgy and Communion from the early days of the Church through to the Reformation.

So far, we have read about early Christian liturgy, that of the East, changes during the Dark Ages, Mass during the Middle Ages, Martin Luther’s liturgy, Zwingli’s rite in Zurich, the German liturgy in Strasbourg and Calvin’s rites in Strasbourg for the Huguenots and later in Geneva.

Today’s post takes a brief look at John Knox’s Reformed rites for the English speakers in Frankfurt, Geneva and, later, the Scots.

Unless otherwise indicated, source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.

John Knox in brief

Space prohibits a full account of John Knox’s turbulent life and times.

A few descriptive terms about the man come to mind which I shall suppress.

Knox supporters in North America find it inexplicable why those of us who are not Presbyterians could not admire him. Yet, the facts show that he was contentious and disagreeable from the start. No doubt he was very nice to his family, friends and followers.

However, for the English, he goes against what they appreciate as moderation in spirit and personality.

Even Calvin advised him in Frankfurt to

avoid contention.

Calvin carefully chose his battles — principally about Communion frequency — even if he fell foul of the Geneva city council. However, Geneva invited him to return from Strasbourg in 1541.

Knox, on the other hand, was a firebrand at every opportunity. Sadly, a few lay Presbyterians and their supporters have adopted Knox’s unfortunate manner in their online discourse. Look to Calvin, friends. He was much more measured in his speech and relationships.

Knox’s litany of self-imposed trouble included many episodes.

His first sermon to the garrison at St Andrews pronounced the Pope as the Antichrist.

Two months later in June 1547, Mary of Guise (Queen Mother and Regent to Mary, Queen of Scots) asked the French to intervene at St Andrews. The French took as prisoners a group of Protestants, including Scottish nobles and Knox. They all became galley slaves. Knox was freed in February 1549.

Knox settled in England where he became a chaplain to Edward VI in 1550. Prior to that, as a licensed minister in the Church of England, he was sent to Berwick upon Tweed, where he promptly modified the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) to make it a more Protestant rite. He met his first wife Margery Bowes at this time and, although he married her, he did so without her family’s consent.

Knox’s fiery preaching was highly popular among influential English Protestants. His clerical star continued to rise in subsequent parish appointments in England. When Mary Tudor succeeded Edward VI, Knox’s allies told him to flee the country.

In 1554, he sailed for France and continued his travels until he reached Calvin’s Geneva. Calvin gave non-committal replies to his contentious questions about female and ‘idolatrous’ rulers, referring him to Heinrich Bullinger in Zurich. Bullinger gave him no quarter. Undeterred, Knox published a diatribe in July of that year verbally attacking Mary Tudor, her bishops and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

In September 1554, a group of English exiles invited Knox to Frankfurt to be their minister. Calvin encouraged him to go. Knox found a congregation torn between using the BCP and those who favoured a more Protestant version of it. It was about this controversy that Calvin advised Knox and his colleague William Whittingham to avoid contention. A new group of refugees arrived, including Richard Cox, who had substantial input to the BCP. Cox informed Frankfurt’s authorities of Knox’s pamphlet attacking Charles V. The authorities told Knox to leave the city, which he did on March 26, 1555.

Knox returned to Geneva, where he was put in charge of a new church.

Meanwhile, his mother-in-law wrote him asking him to return to his wife, who was living in Scotland. He went home in August 1555.

Knox’s warm welcome home by Scottish Protestant nobles saw off opposition from the Scottish bishops who found him deeply worrying and arranged a hearing with him in Edinburgh. Accompanied by his powerful allies, he appeared in front of them on May 15, 1556. The bishops cancelled the hearing and granted Knox the freedom to preach in Edinburgh. Knox’s friends among the nobility persuaded him to write to Mary of Guise, the Regent for Mary, Queen of Scots. Knox wrote a letter calling for her support of the Reformation and deposing her bishops. Mary of Guise ignored it.

Meanwhile, his new congregation in Geneva called. They had elected him their pastor on November 1, 1555. He returned to the city in September 1556. This time, he took his wife and mother-in-law with him.

The next two years were blissful for Knox. He felt at home in Geneva. Life and spirituality were unsurpassed.

But that wasn’t good enough.

In the summer of 1558, unbeknownst to Calvin, Knox anonymously published a diatribe called The first blast of the trumpet against the monstruous regiment of women. Even given the general misogyny of the time, Knox went way over the top in attacking women rulers to the point where he could have been charged with sedition. He took strong issue with Mary I of England and Mary of Guise. Wikipedia says:

In calling the “regiment” or rule of women “monstruous”, he meant that it was “unnatural”. The pamphlet has been called a classic of misogyny. Knox states that his purpose was to demonstrate “how abominable before God is the Empire or Rule of a wicked woman, yea, of a traiteresse and bastard”.[55]

A royal proclamation banned the pamphlet in England.

The pamphlet came back to bite him when Elizabeth I ascended to the English throne. Geneva’s English speakers felt comfortable returning home now that they had a Protestant Queen. Knox left Geneva in January 1559 for Scotland. He should have arrived long before May 2 of that year, but Elizabeth I, aware of the pamphlet and deeply offended, refused to give him a passport to travel through England!

Not long afterward, Scottish authorities under Mary of Guise pronounced Knox an outlaw. He and a large group of Protestants travelled to Perth because it was a walled city they could defend in case of a siege. Once there, Knox preached an inflammatory sermon in the Church of St John the Baptist during which a small incident sparked a riot. The result was a gutted church. Not only that, but the mob went on to loot and vandalise two nearby friaries.

Later, safe in St Andrews, Knox preached there. Another riot broke out which resulted in more vandalism and looting.

Knox cannot be personally blamed for the Protestant uprisings occurring all over Scotland that year, but did he ever appeal for calm and godliness? Hmm.

On October 24, 1559, the Scottish nobility deposed Mary of Guise of the Regency. She died in Edinburgh Castle on June 10, 1560. The Treaty of Edinburgh was signed, which resulted in French and English troops returning home.

During the rest of that year the Scottish Parliament, Knox and a handful of fellow clergymen devised the Book of Discipline for the new Protestant church. Knox’s wife Margery died in December 1560. He was left to care for their two little boys.

Mary Queen of Scots returned from exile on August 19, 1561. She and Knox had several personal confrontations over his inciting rebellion, her right to rule as a woman and her impending marriage. He told her he owed her no allegiance. He continued his fiery sermons in the pulpit of St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.

On March 26, 1564, Knox married a 17-year old member of the nobility, Margaret Stewart. He was 50 years old. She bore him three daughters.

Near the end of the decade a complex civil war broke out involving nobles from both sides of the religious question. Knox moved around Scotland during this time, although he returned to Edinburgh as and when he could. He wrote his History of the Reformation in Scotland during these years.

In July 1572, he was able to freely preach once again at St Giles. However, he had grown progressively weaker. He died on November 24, 1572, surrounded by his family and friends.

Knox is the founder of Presbyterianism.

Knox’s liturgy

The following is taken from Maxwell’s book and describes a typical Knox liturgy from his book The Forme of Prayers (p. 123, 124).

Knox largely borrowed from Calvin but Maxwell notes a BCP influence as well. As with Calvin’s liturgy, there is no Peace.

The format is as follows for a Communion service, still divided into the Liturgies of the Word and the Upper Room:

– Confession of sins;

– Prayer for pardon;

– Psalm in metre;

– Prayer for illumination;

– Scripture reading (only one, although there were sometimes separate Scottish Readers Services before the Liturgy of the Word which included more Psalms as well as Old and New Testament readings [p. 124]);

– Sermon (lengthy, as was the Scripture reading; together, they could last over an hour [p. 124);

– Collection of alms;

– Thanksgiving and intercessions;

– Lord’s Prayer;

– Apostles’ Creed, spoken;

– Offertory, including presentation and preparation of elements and a sung Psalm;

– Words of Institution;

– Exhortation;

– Prayer of Consecration which included adoration, thanksgiving, anamnesis and Doxology;

– Fraction;

– Ministers’ Communion;

– People’s Communion, apparently given by assistant ministers because the celebrant read the account of the Passion of Christ during this time;

– Post-Communion thanksgiving;

– Psalm 103 in metre;

– Aaronic or Apostolic blessing.

The readings appear to have been through one book of the Bible at a time until concluded — ‘in course’. The sermons were always about the readings given (p. 124).

The Forme of Prayers was never intended to be used as uniformly as England’s BCP was. Knox allowed for local variations on prayers and parts of the rite.

Although Knox sought to abolish kneeling and feasts of the Church calendar, these seem to have continued in some Scottish churches.

Communion policy

Communicants walked to the Lord’s Table where a separate Communion Table with chairs was installed (p. 126).

The people took their places and sat down to receive the Sacrament.

An Act passed by Scotland’s General Assembly in 1562 indicated that the Sacrament was received quarterly in the large towns and less frequently in the countryside (p. 125). Clergy were fewer outside of the former. Furthermore, people at that time were still used to infrequent Communion, perhaps only annually.

This custom of the Communion Table disappeared in the early part of the 19th century, when English Nonconformist procedure was adopted. This is reminiscent of the Zwinglian practice of receiving Communion in the pews, although people remained standing for this in Britain.

Long-lasting liturgy

Introduced to Scotland in 1560, Knox’s The Forme of Prayers — or Book of Common Order — was used for over 80 years, despite attempts to revise it (p. 127). It was replaced in 1645 by the Westminster Directory.

180px-John_Calvin_-_Young WikipediaThis series has been examining liturgy and Holy Communion from the Church’s earliest days through to the Reformation.

So far, we have read about early Christian liturgy, that of the East, changes during the Dark Ages, Mass during the Middle Ages, Martin Luther’s liturgy and Zwingli’s rite in Zurich.

Source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.

Yesterday’s post looked at the German rite in Strasbourg which Martin Bucer revised further in the 1530s making it more Protestant and more austere.

By the time he invited John Calvin to Strasbourg in 1538, Bucer’s liturgy had changed considerably from that of the late 1520s.

Calvin and the Supper

It should be noted that, at the time he went to Strasbourg, Calvin was at odds with Geneva over the frequency of Communion.

Calvin had always advocated weekly Communion, but he had to acquiesce to the city council in this matter.

Even when he returned to Geneva in 1541, Calvin could not change local government’s mind. Their Zwinglian policy of quarterly Communion was practically set in stone.

Calvin came up with a plan whereby Communion Sundays could be staggered in Geneva’s churches, which would have allowed communicants to receive the Sacrament more often. However, the council turned down the suggestion (p. 117).

Calvin was diligent about advocating frequent Communion, not only in his Institutes but also in personal correspondence. In 1555, he wrote to the magistrates of Bern whose policy was for the Sacrament to be given only three times a year, versus Geneva’s four (p. 118):

Please, God, gentlemen, that both you and we may be able to establish a more frequent usage. For it is evident from St Luke in the Book of Acts that communion was much more frequently celebrated in the primitive Church; and that continued for a long time in the ancient Church, until this abomination of the mass was set up by Satan, who so caused it that people received communion only once or twice a year. Wherefore, we must acknowledge that it is a defect in us that we do not follow the example of the Apostles.

In 1561, he expressed his dissatisfaction with Geneva’s Communion policy:

I have taken care to record publicly that our custom is defective, so that those who come after me may be able to correct it the more freely and easily.

Calvin’s time in Strasbourg

Bucer invited Calvin to minister to the French Protestants — Huguenots — seeking refuge in Strasbourg, which was German-speaking.

Calvin lived in the city from 1538 to 1541, at which time he returned to Geneva.

He approved of Bucer’s liturgy, which a friend had translated into French (p. 113). Calvin adopted most of it for the Huguenots.

His French Communion liturgy for Strasbourg (pp 114, 115):

– Introduced a Scripture verse at the beginning of the service: Psalm 124:8;

– Replaced the standard Kyrie and Gloria with sung Kyrie responsorials to a metrical version of the Ten Commandments;

– Retained the Gospel reading (Bucer’s only Bible reading);

– Added a paraphrased Lord’s Prayer whilst retaining the standard Lord’s Prayer (before and after the Consecration Prayer);

– Moved the sung Apostles’ Creed just before the Consecration Prayer;

– Added the Nunc Dimittis just before the final blessing;

– Retained the Aaronic Blessing at the dismissal.

The Peace had disappeared from Bucer’s liturgy. Calvin did not reinstate it either in Strasbourg or, later, in Geneva.

The Geneva liturgy

Upon his return to Geneva, the city council asked Calvin to simplify his liturgy further (p. 115).

In 1542, he made the following changes (pp. 114, 115):

– Removal of the Absolution after the Confession of Sins;

– Replacement of the Ten Commandments with a metrical Psalm;

– Omission of the Nunc Dimittis.

Communicants approached the Holy Table where they stood or knelt to receive the Supper (p. 119).

Calvin’s Genevan rite spread to other Reformed churches on the Continent. Even with minor local variations, the rite was recognisably his.

Tomorrow: Early Reformed rites in Scotland

So far, my series on liturgy and Communion from the early centuries through the Reformation has included early Christian liturgy, that of the East, changes during the Dark Ages, Mass during the Middle Ages, Martin Luther’s liturgy and Zwingli’s rite in Zurich.

Today’s post looks at the Protestant liturgy in Strasbourg, which, during the Reformation, was one of the free imperial cities in the Holy Roman Empire. This meant that the city council had more sway over local government than the Catholic emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

This was also true of smaller princedoms scattered throughout this vast tract of Europe, and, although the Empire was designed to ensure Catholicism remained the principal form of Christianity, in reality, the devolution of power enabled the Reformation to flourish.

Strasbourg, like other free imperial cities, developed its own form of Protestantism. Strasbourg was close to the Swiss cities which had broken away from the Holy Roman Empire. Its leading Protestants not only borrowed both from Martin Luther and Zwingli in Zurich, they also knew the two Reformers personally. Later, they invited Geneva’s Calvin to the city to help integrate French-speaking Huguenots. More about this later in the post.

Strasbourg’s German liturgy

Unless otherwise indicated, source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.

A year before Zwingli finalised his rite for Zurich, in Strasbourg, Diebold Schwarz (Theobaldus Niger, in Latin) developed a German liturgy. (Alsace was then part of Germany.) He celebrated it for the first time on February 16, 1524 in St John’s Chapel in the Church of St Laurence (p. 88).

Schwarz and Zwingli were the first two Reformers to include public confession of sin in church services.

Schwarz retained much of the ceremonial aspects of Catholic Mass — e.g. the celebrant’s washing of hands (Lavabo) during the Liturgy of the Upper Room — which made it a meaningful rite compared with Luther’s pared down effort (p. 88).

The format was as follows (p. 89, 90):

Liturgy of the Word —

– Invocation at the altar steps;

– Public confession of sin (a revised Confiteor);

– Scripture sentence (Psalm 124:8), retained from Mass;

– Salutation and response;

– Introit, spoken not sung;



– Salutation and Collect;

– Epistle reading;

– Gospel reading;

– Nicene Creed, spoken, retained from Mass.

The Liturgy of the Upper Room —

– Offertory, with preparation of the elements and the Exhortation taken from the Orate Fratres in the Mass;

– Salutation and Sursum Corda, also from the Mass;

– Preface and Proper;

Sanctus and Benedictus, from the Mass;

Lavabo and related Collect, the former from the Mass;

– Canon — Prayer of Consecration — said with hands upraised. It included intercessions (prayers of the people); a prayer for quickened life; Words of Institution — consecration — and Elevation, concluding with the Anamnesis. It did not include the Epiclesis: the prayer requesting God’s blessing over the elements but Maxwell says it was commonplace for the time ‘in contemporary Western use';

– The Lord’s Prayer with Matthean doxology;

– The Peace;

– Agnus Dei;

– The Communion Collect, from the Mass;

– Communion, with celebrant receiving first, then the congregation, which had the choice of one or both elements;

– Two post-Communion Collects;

– Salutation and response;

– Final blessing, from the Mass.

Later developments

Martin Bucer by German School.jpgA young Reformer, Martin Bucer, arrived in Strasbourg seeking refuge after his local diocese in Germany excommunicated him.

Wikipedia says that Bucer came up with the aforementioned liturgy, but Maxwell’s research indicates that, even with alternative prayers and subsequent publications (p. 90):

The text there [in the Canon] differs only in the slightest degree from Schwarz’s …

During the years 1524-5 nine or ten printed editions of the German mass appeared at Strasbourg, each differing from the others, but all closely related in form and substance.

Bucer largely led a subsequent move in replacing Latin names with German ones for parts of the liturgy and the sanctuary. Eventually, words and terms such as ‘Lord’s Supper’, ‘Minister’ and ‘Holy Table’ became commonplace (p. 91).

Bucer also made the service more Protestant (p. 91):

– The Apostles’ Creed could be substituted for the Nicene (a nod to Luther and to Zwingli);

– The Epistle and Gospel readings no longer followed the Catholic prescriptions; Maxwell says they were ‘in course’, however, I am uncertain whether this points to following Zwingli’s lectio continua, which covers one book at a time from Sunday to Sunday;

– The two readings were considerably longer than before;

– Sermons held greater importance. It was not unusual for the minister to preach a separate sermon for each reading;

– The ceremonial aspects were simplified or, as in the case of the Elevation, eliminated;

– The Holy Table was brought forward to give the minister more room when celebrating the Supper and also allow him to be seen by more of the congregation;

– He developed various versions of certain prayers, any of which could be used (p. 99): three confessions of sin, three prayers of consecration and four post-Communion prayers.

Communion policy

Communicants had to approach the Lord’s Table in an orderly queue to receive the Sacrament. They either stood or knelt for this. The minister distributed the Bread and an assistant minister followed with the Cup (p. 111).

By 1537, the Liturgy of the Upper Room was celebrated weekly only in the Cathedral; churches held a Communion service monthly (p. 100).

Another Bucerian innovation — multiple service attendance on Sunday

After the service concluded, the congregation ate Sunday lunch.

Those who worshipped at the Cathedral returned ‘immediately’ after lunch for another service of psalms, communal prayers and a sermon (p. 110). A children’s service followed to provide them with a knowledge of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostles’ Creed and the local catechism.

In the parish churches, Vespers followed the Cathedral’s afternoon services. Vespers consisted of psalms, prayers and a collect.

The parish churches also had four annual day-long periods of instruction in facts about Christianity, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacraments and how all of these related to the believer’s daily life and practice.

It could well be that from these multiple services that we have the Protestant traditions — obligations? — of returning to church later on Sunday. Many Reformed churches have this policy.

What to remember about Martin Bucer

Bucer’s influence extended to four areas of the Reformation:

1/ He was the first ecumenist, seeking unity in essentials and ignoring doctrinal differences, which had mixed results;

2/ He attempted to mediate between Luther and Zwingli at the famous Marburg Colloquy in October 1529. This discussion — dispute?  — involved the nature of the Sacrament. By then, Bucer began to adopt Zwingli’s view that the bread and wine were only symbolic. Luther was aghast, concluding:

It is obvious that we do not have one and the same spirit. 

Between 1534 and 1538, Bucer also tried to achieve Protestant unity in the German and Swiss churches. The German representatives signed the Wittenberg Concord, but the Swiss churches never did, principally because of the words used to describe the nature of the Sacrament.

3/In 1538, Bucer invited John Calvin to Strasbourg to lead a congregation of Huguenots who had sought exile in the city. The two became lifelong friends. Calvin adapted Bucer’s liturgy for later use in Geneva.

4/ Bucer eventually had to leave Strasbourg when Holy Roman Emperor Charles V attempted to reimpose the Catholic Mass throughout the Empire. In 1549, the people and the city council considered him more of a liability than an asset, as he attempted to preserve the Protestant church there. He was relieved of his responsibilities on March 1, 1549.

He had several invitations from other Reformers for resettlement and accepted Thomas Cranmer’s. He arrived in England on April 25, 1549, and accepted the post of Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.

His remaining two years in England were notable for the following:

a/ He shied away from controversies about the nature of Communion and whether clergy should wear vestments;

b/ He promoted charity to the poor via the Pauline practice of sending deacons to exercise that responsibility. He also wrote the controversial De Regno Christi [On the Kingdom of Christ], addressed to Edward VI, although it was never printed as the authorities considered it too controversial. Bucer advocated 14 reforms of both church and state. These included a plea for divorce decrees, his reason being that marriage was a social contract, not a sacrament. The document was a step too far for the Church of England. It ended up being published in Basel in 1557, six years after Bucer’s death.

c/ Scholars of Church history say that Bucer’s greatest influence was on the early editions of the Book of Common Prayer, at Cranmer’s request. By 1551, the year of his death from tuberculosis, he submitted his response to the Archbishop, advocating a simplified liturgy, a removal of non-essential feasts and practices as well as suggestions for making the service more meaningful to the congregation. Anglicans who know the Book of Common Prayer might wish to read Bucer’s Strasbourg prayers (p. 102-110), some of which are similar in style and content.

Martin Bucer is buried at the Church of Saint Mary the Great in Cambridge.

The previous post in this series on Christian liturgy looked at Martin Luther’s liturgy in German, which appeared in 1526.

Those who missed the previous instalments on early Christian liturgy, that of the East, changes during the Dark Ages and Mass during the Middle Ages might find them helpful in understanding the services which emerged during the Reformation.

Ulrich-Zwingli-1.jpgToday’s entry examines Ulrich Zwingli’s rite for his churches in and around Zurich.

Unless otherwise indicated, source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.

Before we go into Maxwell’s text, however, what follows are some facts about Zwingli, some of which demonstrate the influence he has had on Protestant churches to this day.

Zwingli’s theology

Zwingli had the same vehement complaints against the Catholic Church as the other early Refomers: questioning aspects of the Mass, forbidding remembrance of the saints and criticising corrupt clergy.


1/ Was the first to use and develop lectio continua, which consisted of preaching on one book of the Bible at a time, disregarding the Church calendar. In 1519, during his early ministry, he began with Matthew’s Gospel — still pre-eminent at the time — then did the same with Acts, the Epistles and the Old Testament. This continuity provided the congregation with a greater understanding of the Bible. A number of independent churches do this today. My Forbidden Bible Verses series follows this format, too.

2/ Vehemently opposed Lenten fasting and food restrictions. On the first Sunday of Lent in 1522, he and a dozen followers cut up two smoked sausages and distributed the meat in Zurich. This is known as the Affair of the Sausages, considered to be the beginning of the Reformation in Switzerland. Zwingli also maintained that there was no scriptural support for food restriction of any kind at any time.

3/ He opposed celibacy on the part of clergy. In fact, he had secretly married widow Anna Reinhard in 1522, after the Affair of the Sausages. They were publicly married in 1524, three months before the birth of their first child.

4/Believed the Sacrament and the Liturgy of the Upper Room were symbolic of Christ’s body and blood and the Last Supper. He did not believe in the Real Presence, arguing that Christ gave His greatest sacrifice for us once and for all time. Therefore, it must not be re-enacted in a sacrificial or mystical way but in the manner of a memorial.

5/ Took issue with Anabaptists, radical reformers who did not believe in paedobaptism and did not hesitate to rebaptise people they felt had not received this sacrament properly as Catholics or Protestants. It was Zwingli and the Zurich City Council — not John Calvin — who condemned Felix Manz, the first Anabaptist martyr, to death by drowning.

Now to Maxwell’s chapter on the Zwinglian rite, developed in 1525, at the same time Luther was devising his service in Germany.

Communion policy

Because Zwingli held that the Sacrament was but a memorial, he said that his followers should be able to receive it only four times a year: Easter, Pentecost, one Sunday in the autumn and Christmas (p. 84).

Although Luther and Calvin promoted weekly Communion, as their denominations and other Protestant churches evolved, people received Communion only a few times a year. A shortage of clergy accounted for this as did the requirement for communicants to meet with the celebrant the week before the Communion service. That said, even at four times a year, these Protestants probably received the Sacrament more frequently than Catholics; it was only in 1905 when Pius X encouraged Catholics to receive Communion at every Mass.

Zwingli’s communicants sat together in church, and deacons brought the elements to them. The communicants remained seated during this time.

The paten — plate for the bread — and cup were made out of wood to avoid any ostentation.

Public confession of sin

Zwingli’s was the second liturgical rite to incorporate a public confession of sin. The first was Diebold Schwarz (Theobaldus Niger, in Latin) who modified the Confiteor for Protestants in Strasbourg in 1524, one year before Zwingli’s services began (p. 88).

This came after the sermon (p. 84).

Today, nearly every church — including the Catholic Church — has incorporated a public confession of sin into its liturgy.

Characteristics of the Zwinglian rite

Although Zwingli’s rite of 1525 differed from Martin Luther’s, it was equally as pared down.

Zwingli rearranged aspects of the Liturgy of the Word. It was a combination of Mattins and the Prone, a Catholic service without Communion, spoken largely in local language. The Prone was popular in Germany and France.

The main characteristics were as follows (pp. 84 – 86):

– The sermon was given in the first part of the Liturgy of the Word during the Mattins part of the service;

– The Offertory — preparation of the elements — occurred after the public confession of sins;

– The Invocation — prayers of the people — followed the Offertory;

– After the Offertory came the readings for that Sunday: the Epistle and the Gospel. In between the two, the congregation — men on one side, women on the other — recited the Gloria antiphonally.

– The Apostles Creed concluded the Liturgy of the Word;

– During the Liturgy of the Upper Room, the minister and deacons faced the people and prayers were said audibly so that everyone could hear them. Zwingli’s deacons had an active participation in line with early Christian liturgies;

– Although Zwingli considered the Sacrament to be a memorial, his fencing of the table made it clear that no one unworthy was to receive it;

– The congregation then knelt for the celebrant’s recitation of the Lord’s Prayer;

– Zwingli might have been the first Reformer to write a prayer of humble access — expressing man’s unworthiness and giving thanks for the Sacrament — which the celebrant said. The congregation also knelt for this prayer.

– The congregation then sat whilst the minister briefly consecrated the elements;

– The deacons allowed people to take the unleavened bread from the paten and to take the cup in their own hands;

– The service concluded with a psalm, a collect and a brief blessing.

– Zwingli did not allow any music initially, although he relented a few decades later.

Maxwell’s verdict

Maxwell thought that Zwingli’s rite was ‘the least adequate of all the Reformation liturgies’ (p. 87), accusing it of:

– lack of content;

– no sense of communion or continuity with the Church ‘on earth and in heaven';

– the separation of the Lord’s Supper from the Lord’s Day.

Yet, albeit unintentionally, Zwinglian principles entered into other Protestant denominations to the point where present day Reformed pastors and elders wonder whether their congregations think of the Supper as a mere memorial, symbolic in content and nature.

Yesterday’s post Saint Matthew and the Angel by Rembrandt is the first in a study of verses from St Matthew’s Gospel which do not appear in the three-year Lectionary (‘the Lectionary’ for the purposes of this entry).

I have completed a similar study on the Gospels of John, Mark and Luke in that order to encourage those unfamiliar with the New Testament to read them. These are available on my Essential Bible Verses page.

I purposely held off with the first book of the New Testament — Matthew’s Gospel — because I found it difficult to read when I was younger. Some of my friends have also expressed the same opinion.

However, the Gospel according to Matthew is undoubtedly the most complete account of our Lord’s earthly ministry. And, to the credit of the Lectionary compilers and editors, they leave comparatively little of it out in prescribed readings for public worship. In that sense, they are honouring the tradition of the first and second centuries of the Church, where Matthew was the pre-eminent Gospel (p. 2 of PDF).

That said, for centuries, Bible scholars have been asking who wrote what when.

Modern Synoptic Gospel hypothesis

My introduction to St Mark’s Gospel gave an explanation of how the three Synoptic Gospels fit together.

Synoptic means ‘seen together’ as Matthew, Mark and Luke share many of the same accounts of Jesus’s ministry. St John’s Gospel differs, focussing on other episodes of His life, although it, too, follows a chronology of the essentials, particularly in relating the Last Supper, which is the fullest Gospel account, comprising several chapters.

My post on Mark explains the theory held by many scholars, theologians and clergy of all persuasions that Mark was the first to be written. Luke and Matthew came in the decades following.

However, Matthew is still the pre-eminent Gospel and appears first in the New Testament. If the early Church had to rely on Mark’s concise yet highly readable account, the end of which might have been lost, there might not have been so many Christians throughout the centuries.

Before addressing what early Doctors of the Church have written, let us look at background information about Matthew (depicted above by Rembrandt, courtesy of Wikipedia).

Matthew and his Gospel

Unlike modern scholars, Christians who are faithful to Church history consider that the Apostle Matthew — Levi, when our Lord called him — is the author.

Because he was a tax collector, he would have come in contact with not only the local Aramaic-speaking public but travellers as well. Therefore, he was also well versed in Greek.

When he began his ministry, Matthew stayed in Judea. Later, he went further afield to preach to Gentiles as well as Jews.

This raises the ancient question of whether Matthew had written an account of Christ’s life in Aramaic and a subsequent one in Greek for the second phase of his ministry. Matthew Henry, who died in the first decade of the 18th century, left this contentious question open, writing:

it is probable that there might be an edition of it in Hebrew, published by St. Matthew himself, at the same time that he wrote it in Greek the former for the Jews, the latter for the Gentiles, when he left Judea, to preach among the Gentiles.

Bible History tells us that St Matthew’s primary audience was the Jews:

One of the obvious reasons is that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is mentioned over 30 times and never the Kingdom of God. This is because the Jews do not speak the name of God and this could be the very reason that Matthew used this phrase. There are many times while reading the book that an event happens and a prophecy is cited. The event is mentioned as the direct fulfillment of a promise made to the Jews by one of their Jewish prophets, and the fulfillment of the prophecy was happening before their very eyes.

Indeed, we can see from the genealogy in Matthew 1 that the Apostle set out to prove to the Jews from the start that Jesus is, indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. His Gospel goes on to show that Jesus’s contemporaries rejected Him time and time again.

Another hotly debated question revolves around the time Matthew composed it. Bible History explains that, although most scholars believe it was written before the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, a number of today’s scholars discount this and place it afterward. Bible History says the reason for this is that these scholars

do not believe in the miracle of prophecy.

What we can expect from the text

Bible History tells us that Matthew was intent on demonstrating our Lord as Christ the King:

– Matthew 1 refers to David as ‘king’, indicating the prophesied royal lineage of Jesus;

– Matthew 3 refers to John the Baptist as a ‘herald’, signifying that his role is to announce a king — something the Jews would have understood;

– Throughout, the King — Jesus Christ — came to His people and the people rejected Him.

Bible History explains Matthew’s five themes, divided into chapters as follows:

Matthew 1 – 12: the people reject Christ’s Kingdom;

Matthew 13 – 25: they reject the King’s teaching and ministry;

Matthew 26 – 27: the King’s trial and crucifixion;

Matthew 28: the King’s resurrection proves His triumph over death;

Matthew 28: the King commissions His Apostles to go out and preach.

What Doctors of the Church have written

The more I read about the modern scholarship relating to the Gospel timeline the more inclined I am to return to the earliest sources, the Doctors of the Church, for their verdict.

I also question exactly why scholars from the 18th century — if not before — to the present day would wish to come up with an alternative verdict on the Gospels. Even a less detailed reading of their hypothesis reveals many dismissive comments about our early theologians’ scholarship.

Dr F David Farnell, Professor of New Testament at The Master’s Seminary under John MacArthur’s aegis wrote a learned paper on the subject, ‘The Synoptic Gospels in the Ancient Church: The Testimony to the Priority of Matthew’s Gospel’. His introduction states, in part (emphases mine):

Since the church fathers lived much closer to the time of the composition of the gospels and were scholars in their own right, their testimony must be given serious consideration in any hypothesis regarding chronological order. Such early testimony stands in direct contradiction to the predominant contention of source criticism that concludes for the Two- or Four-Document Hypothesis (i.e. priority of Mark and Q), especially since the latter is not a product of objective historical analysis but a late-blooming conjecture spawned by Enlightenment ideologies.

In Farnell’s exposition of the writings of our Church fathers, it seems that only one, Papias, entertained the possibility — and it was only a possibility — that Mark could have been written before Matthew.

Papias was the bishop of Hierapolis, a city located between Colosse and Laodicea in Asia Minor. He was a disciple of the Apostle John, so would have had first hand knowledge from him as to what the other Apostles were doing. Papias’s written works date from 95 to 110 AD, therefore, crucial to what was happening in that era (p. 4 of PDF). Unfortunately, his works no longer exist, and what we know of them has been cited by other Church fathers.

As such, some modern scholars, such as Gundry, have looked at a fourth century quote from Eusebius, citing Papias (pp 12, 13):

And the Presbyter [John] used to say this, ‘Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had he followed him, but later on, as I said, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.’ This is related by Papias about Mark.

Gundry concludes that, from this, Papias was explaining that Matthew brought ‘order’ to Mark’s Gospel and wrote a fuller history. Farnell, however, doubts that taking random quotes from Papias — as Eusebius did — hardly proves the Markan primacy hypothesis. And nothing is in evidence that Papias — or Eusebius — sought to actively disprove Matthew’s Gospel as being the primary one.

I would recommend Farnell’s paper to anyone interested in the Church fathers and Matthew’s Gospel.

Catholic Answers has three main quotes from these early theologians. These also appear in Farnell’s paper. For our purposes, we discover that everything we have had for nearly two millenia as Gospel manuscripts have been copies written in Greek.

However, let us look at the Catholic Answers quotes. After Papias, we have Irenaeus of Lyons who wrote in 180 AD:

Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching in Rome and laying the foundation of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon his breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. (Against Heresies 3:1:1)

Although we do not find a chronology there among the writers, we can be sure that the authors of the Gospels are as named in the New Testament.

In 244, Origen wrote:

Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned by tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism and published in the Hebrew language. (Commentaries on Matthew [cited by Eusebius in History of the Church 6:25]).

Between 300 and 325, Eusebius wrote:

Matthew had begun by preaching to the Hebrews, and when he made up his mind to go to others too, he committed his own Gospel to writing in his native tongue [Aramaic], so that for those with whom he was no longer present the gap left by his departure was filled by what he wrote. (History of the Church 3:24 [inter 300-325]).

From that, I am reaching a personal conclusion that what matters is that we actually have the texts which have been adopted into the Canon. Knowing who wrote what when is a secondary matter, as Matthew Henry wrote:

Let us bless God that we have it, and have it in a language we understand.

As for other ‘gospels’, Henry’s commentary makes it clear that

These four gospels were early and constantly received by the primitive church, and read in Christian assemblies, as appears by the writings of Justin Martyr and Irenæus, who lived little more than a hundred years after the ascension of Christ they declared that neither more nor fewer than four were received by the church. A Harmony of these four evangelists was compiled by Tatian about that time, which he called, To dia tessaronThe Gospel out of the four. In the third and fourth centuries there were gospels forged by divers sects, and published, one under the name of St. Peter, another of St. Thomas, another of St. Philip, &c. But they were never owned by the church, nor was any credit given to them, as the learned Dr. Whitby shows. And he gives this good reason why we should adhere to these written records, because, whatever the pretences of tradition may be, it is not sufficient to preserve things with any certainty, as appears by experience. For, whereas Christ said and did many memorable things, which were not written (John 20:30,21:25), tradition has not preserved any one of them to us, but all is lost except what was written that therefore is what we must abide by and blessed by God that we have it to abide by it is the sure word of history.

Bible read me 2The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and other clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 1:1-17

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[a] and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph,[b] and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos,[c] and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,[d] and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.


Today’s post begins a weekly study of passages from St Matthew’s Gospel which, as mentioned above, do not appear in prescribed readings for churches using the three-year Lectionary.

Not surprisingly, this Lectionary, developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, avoids any verses deemed to be too complex or unpleasant.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Bible, including children, seeing a genealogy as the first entry of the New Testament is bewildering. Children will find the names amusing and the content boring. Adults will wonder why this was included.

Matthew, formerly Levi the tax collector, wrote for a Jewish audience in the decades following Christ’s ministry on earth. During his ministry Matthew sought to prove to the Jews that our Lord was indeed the long-promised Messiah. The best way to do this was by proving his lineage.

Every Jew knew his family line and tribe. Those who are familiar with the Old Testament know this well. John MacArthur explains (emphases mine):

After the conquering of the land of Canaan, it was essential to determine what your tribe was and what your heritage was so that you knew where you were to live because the line of all the land was divided into tribes. 

And according to Numbers chapter 26 and chapter 35, you had to know your tribe, you had to know your family, and you had to know your father’s house so that you could identify yourself in the right location in the land.  So a pedigree was very important, tribal identification essential.  Under certain circumstances, according to the Book of Ruth, chapters 3 and 4 … transfer of property required accurate knowledge of the family tree.  God wanted to keep tribal land within the tribe, and so there had to be pedigree in order to make some business transactions with land.

Another interesting thing is indicated to us in Ezra 2  … it tells us at the end of Ezra … verse 62, “These sought their registration among those who were reckoned by genealogy.”  And what it means is that when after the Babylonian captivity, the people started coming back to Israel – you remember at the end of the 70 years, they started flowing back – many of them were claiming to be priests and they were claiming to be the tribe of Levi. 

Genealogy was part of Jewish history and personal identity. Matthew used it to prove that our Lord Jesus Christ is descended from David and from Abraham, our father in faith. Mention of these ancestors combined with the extensive records the Jewish authorities kept prove that God had fulfilled His promise to His people.

Matthew is careful to use ‘genealogy’ in the first verse. In Greek the word was genesis.

As this family tree unfolds, we see a variety of people. Some were ordinary people, some were royalty. We also see a mix of saints and sinners. Matthew Henry reminds us:

He took upon him the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), and takes even great sinners, upon their repentance, into the nearest relation to himself.

Verse 17 explains how verses 2 – 16 were deliberately organised: verses 2 through 6 cover the 14 generations from Abraham to David; the second half of verse 6 through verse 11 recounts the ancestors from David through to exile in Babylon; the next four verses describe family from the end of Babylonian exile to the birth of Christ.

Henry calls our attention to the following in the first tranche of verses:

– No mention of Ishmael (Abraham’s son by Hagar) nor of Esau, Isaac’s son who forfeited his birthright to Jacob.

– Not all of those mentioned had a traceable bloodline with our Lord, nonetheless, Matthew included these patriarchs from the different tribes here to indicate that all Jews should have an interest in this genealogy and Christ as the Messiah;

– Judah’s twin sons Perez (Phares) and Zara are both named, although our Lord was related only to Perez. Zara’s inclusion could have been allegorical. At birth, he put his hand out of the womb first but then withdrew it, leaving Perez as Judah’s heir. Similarly, the Jews claimed a Messiah from their own but, once He appeared, rejected Him. The second, lesser group — the Gentiles — embraced Him as Lord and Saviour.

– We see three women mentioned. Tamar, Perez and Zara’s mother, was an adulteress. Rahab was Boaz’s mother, and Ruth, his wife. Rahab was a Canaanite — Gentile — woman of bad reputation who, yet, had her role to play in helping to bring down the walls of Jericho. She obeyed when God’s servants gave her instructions. Ruth was also a Gentile — a Moabite — but very different in character. She was an example of holiness and faith and one of King David’s grandmothers.

In the next set of verses, Henry’s commentary points out:

– One more woman is mentioned, although not by name: Bathsheba, an adulteress, was ‘the wife of Uriah’.

– Rehoboam and Abijah were both ‘wicked’, yet from that family came the obedient Asaph whose son Jesoshaphat was also faithful. The latter’s son Joram, however, was completely different:

Grace does not run in the blood, neither does reigning sin. God’s grace is his own, and he gives or withholds it as he pleases.

The final period of history through to the birth of Jesus Christ recalls the following:

– The captivity in Babylon was a significant time in Jewish history. Henry explains that the Jews survived it only because they believed in a Messiah and wished for His deliverance. Although that did not occur in their lifetimes, their faith saved them.

– Although Joseph and Mary were both descended from King David, Joseph’s lineage is mentioned as the Jews considered the paternal family as being more important. That said, Joseph was Jesus’s earthly father only. Still, under Jewish law, MacArthur explains that Jesus was considered his son:

He was Joseph’s child legally because if you were adopted into a family, you were the legal child with all the rights and privileges.  He was Joseph’s child legally.  He was Mary’s child lineally and by blood.  And so every way possible Jesus Christ had the right to rule.  The father was the one who granted the royal line.  The mother was the one who granted the royal blood to Jesus.

The remainder of Matthew 1 recounts the angel’s visitation to Joseph with a brief mention of Jesus’s birth. It concludes with these verses:

21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Next time: Matthew 4:24-25

The past few posts have looked at how Christian liturgy developed from the first century through the ages: early Christian liturgy, that of the East as well as the Gallican and Roman rites in the West.

Source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.

Rome began extending ecclesiastical influence throughout Western Europe in the ninth century. By the 11th century all Western churches followed the Roman rite. That said, the Roman rite, initially austere and brief, had incorporated elaborate elements of the Gallican rite used elsewhere in the West. One of these was recitation of a Creed. The Roman rite adopted the Nicene Creed for this purpose (p. 65).

Also of note is that few liturgical changes took place between this time and 1570, when the post-Trent Tridentine Mass was instituted. In fact, Maxwell observes that there is little difference between the two.

Lack of understanding

One of the major problems with the Roman rite was the secondary role given to the deacon.

In the Gallican rite the deacon directed public worship. In the Roman rite he became an acolyte, assisting the priest during Mass (p. 66). A number of the priest’s prayers were also said in a low voice which was inaudible to the congregation. With no one in front to direct their worship, they found the service confusing.

Another factor in a lack of understanding was that most people did not understand Latin. The liturgy was no longer meant for public participation (p. 66). Choirs took over the responsorials.

As most Christians no longer understood what was happening at Mass, they began to reinterpret it. One example was the elevation of the consecrated Host which held undue importance for them, to the extent that many left church after that point (p. 65).

To help explain the liturgy the theologian Amalarius of Metz wrote an explanation of it in the ninth century (p. 67). It was faithful to the symbolism of the very first church services. Amalarius’s analysis is still used today in explaining the liturgy to churchgoers.

Infrequent Communion

Receiving Communion had been done rarely since the early centuries of the Church, including the East. Church councils tried to encourage frequent Communion but to no avail.

By the sixth century churchgoers were required to receive the Sacrament on the major feasts of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. By 1215, the requirement was reduced to annually at Easter (p. 65).

The Cup was also withdrawn from the laity by 1215, possibly earlier.

Types of Mass in the Middle Ages

Different types of Mass began appearing in the Middle Ages.

Until this time, most Masses were concelebrated. However, there were not always adequate numbers of priests for this to happen. Consequently, Mass was adapted according to local need.

High Mass

This has been the most historically traditional form of church service in Christianity. A bishop is the main celebrant with other clergy assisting him.

Locally, a priest says Mass, assisted by a deacon, subdeacon and servers.

A choir sings responsorials as well as hymns or psalms.

After the ninth century it was rare for Communion to be given to the congregation at this type of Mass (p. 64). This changed in the 20th century with clergy or eucharistic ministers stationed at different points in the church to accommodate large congregations.

Low Mass

At Low Mass the priest has no deacons or subdeacons. He is assisted by servers.

There is also no choir, which meant that prayers are said, apart from certain ones which were always sung.

People were able to receive Communion at Low Mass during the Middle Ages (p. 64). They still are, but in that era, that was the only occasion when they were allowed to do so.

Missa Cantata

This was a Mass with a priest, servers and a choir.

Because a choir is present, the whole Mass is sung.

Communion was not generally given to the congregation during this era (p. 64).

Dry Mass

In Latin the name for this type of service is Missa Sicca.

It is a Low Mass with no consecration of the elements. The Bread and Wine are reserved from a prior consecration and distributed to the congregation.

Dry Mass is celebrated on Good Friday in both Western and Eastern Churches. In the latter, it is called the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified (p. 64).

Maxwell tells us that Dry Mass was the prototype for early Anglican and Reformed services (p. 65). I would add that today’s Anglican Communion service is very much like Low Mass in structure.

The Prone — not a Mass

The Prone was not a Mass but a service similar to traditional Protestant ones where there is no Communion. It was particularly popular in France and Germany.

Maxwell would refute that, saying there is no evidence for it (p. 66), however it was said in the vernacular.

The format was in Latin through the Gospel reading. Then, the priest spoke and prayed in the local language.

The Prone had the following sections after the Gospel: the Creed, sermon and exhortation, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer or a lengthy paraphrase of it.

Frequency of Mass and special intentions

During the Middle Ages Masses were said with increasing frequency.

As it was seen as a re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice, the Church held that Mass had a specific spiritual value with our Lord. The more Masses celebrated, the more of this value was accumulated with God (p. 67).

It was at this time that special intentions for a particular Mass became popular. This is still done today in the Catholic Church. A Mass might be dedicated to missionaries, disaster victims or in memory of someone who has recently died (excluding the funeral Mass).

However, from the Dark Ages through mediaeval times, aberrations and abuses began to occur on the part of both laity and clergy. The earliest known one was the custom of a Mass intention to bring about someone’s death. The Synod of Toledo banned this practice in 694 (p. 68).

Laypeople brought their special Mass requests to priests, who told them how many Masses would need to be said in order for their prayers to be answered (p. 68). This meant that praying for a soul to be released from Purgatory would require a set number of Masses whilst a good growing season in the fields would require another.

With all the Masses that needed to be said every day, churches and cathedrals needed room for the various priests to say them at any one time (p. 68). This was the reason for having side chapels, each with an altar.

Eastern churches, on the other hand, have but one altar.

Confession between clergy only

The Confiteor and Misereatur, the confession of sin and prayer for mercy, was introduced after the Kyrie in the Middle Ages (p. 69).

However, it was only said between the celebrant and his clergy or servers.

This remained true until Novus Ordo appeared in the late 1960s.

Other notes

Incense was now used not only during the Gospel reading but also at the Offertory and the Elevation of the Host (p. 70).

Bells were introduced during the Prayer of Consecration to signal to the congregation where the priest was in his recitation (p. 70). The absence of the deacon directing worship made the bells necessary.

The Kiss of Peace was done during the Agnus Dei, just before Communion. It was no longer a public greeting and was restricted to the clergy at the altar (p. 70).

Mass concluded with the celebrant reading what was called the Last Gospel, John 1:1-14. The congregation responded with ‘Deo Gratias‘ (‘Thanks be to God’).

What angered the Reformers

We know that simony — the purchase of ecclesiastical office, indulgences and other spiritual things — was rife during this time.

We also know that people were frustrated with a Mass that they did not understand.

The early Reformers were also appalled at the infrequency of Communion among congregations.

They also took issue with illiterate priests who were unable to deliver the Scripture readings or preach a sermon. Instead, these priests extemporised on the lives of the saints (p. 72).

However, Maxwell takes issue in the way that the Reformers revamped the liturgy. He says that it was ‘largely negative’ apart from Bucer’s efforts in Strasbourg and Cranmer’s in England (p. 73). He takes them to task for not knowing about the earlier Gallican rites or the Eastern liturgy.

That said, he acknowledges the great uplift the Reformers gave to worship in making it accessible to and understood by everyone.

Next time: the early Lutheran rite

This short series continues with an examination of Christian liturgy in Rome and Western Europe during the Dark Ages.

Those who missed the first two instalments on early Christian liturgy and that of the East might find them helpful in comparing and contrasting with the information below.

Source material is taken from W.D. Maxwell’s 1937 book A History of Christian Worship: An Outline of Its Development and Form, available to read in full online (H/T: Revd P. Aasman). Page references are given below.

Although the liturgies discussed in this post will be seen as purely Catholic by Protestants, it is useful for all Christians to know how our church services originated and developed pre-Rome and pre-Reformation.

N.B.: Those wondering about public confession of sin should note that this did not occur until Diebold Schwarz’s (Theobaldus Niger) modification of the Confiteor for Strasbourg Protestants in 1524 (p. 88) and Zwingli’s 1525 service in Zurich during the Reformation. Public confession was later adopted by Bucer in Strasbourg and Calvin in Geneva. More will appear on this next week.

Two different rites

During this era, two different rites emerged in Europe.

The austere Roman rite was peculiar to Rome and the surrounding region. Roman ecclesiastical control did not extend further until the ninth century (p. 45).

Meanwhile, other parts of Europe — including Milan — used their own elaborate regional liturgies, historically known as Gallican rites.

It was only near the end of the Dark Ages, characterised by tribal barbarian invasions (e.g. Goths, Gauls), that the Roman rite became predominant, but not before it had absorbed aspects of Gallican rites (p. 45).

It should be noted that, wherever one was in the West, services were in Latin once Constantine legalised Christianity at the end of the fourth century. Prior to that, they were said in Greek (p. 45).

Gallican rites

The Gallican rites, whether used in France, Spain, Milan or the British Isles, were much more elaborate than the Roman rite.

In fact, until the 19th or early 20th century — Maxwell does not specify — it was thought that they the Celtic Gallican rites were brought to the West from Ephesus, which would have used an Eastern form of liturgy. Maxwell tells us that the Ephesus connection was documented in a book from the eighth century called Cursus Scottorum (p. 51, also footnote p. 51, 52). Maxwell explains that, while the book is useful in several areas, its conclusions about liturgy have been proven wrong in light of more recent research. That said, it seems that at least one aspect, the Grand Entrance, was imported from the East (p. 48).

Understandably, given the rampages occuring after the fall of the Roman Empire, documentation from this period is thin on the ground. Texts which have survived describe the (p. 47):

– Ambrosian rite of Milan;

– Mozarabic rites of Spain;

Libellus missarum, Missale Gothicum and Missale Gallicanum of France;

– Various Celtic rites from the British Isles.


Historical research tells us that these cities and regions developed new prayers during the sixth century for various church feast days and occasions (p. 46). Rites were colourful and flamboyant. That said, the most essential prayers, i.e. Consecration, and liturgical format followed the earliest established Christian liturgy of the first century AD.

Other characteristics of Gallican worship included (p. 48):

– Services created for active participation by the congregation, including singing;

– Very few sanctuary screens hiding the sanctuary;

– Deacons having an active role — not as much as in the Eastern churches but more than that of an acolyte;

– Lengthy prayers;

– Services designed to appeal to the congregation’s senses, lifting them up to the ethereal; along with this was a copious use of incense;

– The Lord’s Prayer as a permanent part of the liturgy; it might have been said by everyone or perhaps the clergy and deacons in the sanctuary;

– Two main processions, one at the beginning of the service and the other prior to the Gospel reading.

– The retention of the diptych of the third and fourth centuries with the names of the sick and the dead for whom the deacon said a litany;

The Gallican service retained the traditional division of the Liturgies of the Word and the Upper Room. The following aspects were added or changed:

– The recitation of either the Benedictus or the Gloria in Excelsis;

– The placement of the Kiss of Peace between the Offertory and the consecration prayer;

– Three readings: the first from the Old Testament, especially prophecy; the second from Acts or the Epistles, then the Gospel.

– A dismissal using the words Missa acta est (‘the Mass is ended’) or In pace (‘In peace’).

Celtic rites, also Gallican

It is understandable that early historians thought Celtic rites arrived from Ephesus, as the Celts were the first in the West to add the Creed to their liturgy. They also recited the Eastern Trisagion before the Gloria in Excelsis (p. 53). Furthermore, as in the East, their clergy also privately confessed to each other and prayed whilst putting on their vestments before the service (p. 52).

However, the liturgy also included a lengthy section of intercessions to Celtic saints in the prayer of consecration, not unlike that to the saints and Mary which was part of the Roman prayer (p. 53).

Documentation which has survived throughout the centuries includes the (p. 52):

Bangor Antiphonary used at St Columba’s monastery (Welsh, late seventh century);

Stowe Missal, also monastic (English, early tenth century);

Bobbio Missal (Irish, seventh century).

The Roman rite

The Roman rite was much less elaborate than the Gallican and Eastern liturgies.

It is unclear how it came to be so. Maxwell tells us that very little documentation has survived over the centuries (pp. 55, 56). What historians have had at their disposal includes the:

de Sacramentis, possibly authored by St Ambrose (fifth century);

Leonine Sacramentary, named after Pope Leo the Great, a collection of fourth and fifth century collects, prefaces and other variable prayers;

Gelasian Sacramentary of Pope Gelasius I (fifth century), compiled during the eighth century;

Gregorian Sacramentary of Pope Gregory the Great (seventh century), compiled a few centuries later.

Roman rite documentation became more available after the ninth century (p. 56).

The Roman rite was largely based on the earliest liturgy from the first through the third centuries, although the Lord’s Prayer was a regular feature, said before the distribution of Communion. Also added to the Prayer of Consecration was a lengthy litany of saints.

Most of the lesser prayers, such as the collect, did not vary much between services. They were also very short, only a few lines long (p. 57).

Incense was used only at the Gospel reading.

The dead were not prayed for until the ninth century (p. 62). This was a possible reflection of the admixture of Gallican influences to the Roman rite of that era.

The dismissal also used the words Missa acta est (‘the Mass is ended’) or In pace (‘In peace’).

Although catechumens were dismissed after the Liturgy of the Word, so were any congregants eligible to communicate but who chose not to do so (p. 58).

Curtains were sometimes used to hide the celebrant and the sacristy during the consecration (p. 59).

As in the Eastern churches, those participating in the Roman rite saw increasingly fewer communicants.

The Canon — Prayer of Consecration

The Canon, the Prayer of Consecration following the Sanctus, was central to the Roman rite. Parts of it dated from the fourth century (p. 59). It is faithful to the earliest liturgy and was not unlike the Eastern one, in general.

However, its overall intent was to re-enact our Lord’s actions at the Last Supper (p. 63), the ‘Sacrifice of the Mass’. That said, during this era, the words of the Canon made clear that what happened during the consecration was a miracle in the sense of a holy mystery. Maxwell explains that at this time theological philosophers understood the event to be of ‘substance’ and of ‘accident’.

Possibly because the prayer referred to the Host — the meaning of which is ‘Holy Victim’ — the understanding differed from the Middle Ages onward. It was then that the concept, if not yet doctrine, of ‘transubstantiation’ became more prevalent.

Maxwell cites a Church historian by the name of Burkitt (p. 63):

It may be that ‘transubstantiation’ is incredible; it is certain that many superstitious ideas had come to be connected with the Mass by the beginning of the sixteenth century, and it may be these were inevitable. But before we can appreciate the Reformed worship, or condemn the unreformed service, it is necessary to have a clear idea of the structure of that service and of the principles underlying it.

Liturgical convergence

Once Rome began extending her ecclesiastical reach in the ninth century, the French rulers Pepin and Charlemagne suppressed the Gallican rite in France (p. 45).

The Gallican rite in the British Isles disappeared during the reign of (St) Margaret of Scotland towards the end of the 11th century when the Sarum Missal began to be used (p. 52).

However, although the Roman rite prevailed in most regions by the tenth century, it had incorporated elements of the Gallican rite and was no longer as austere as it had been five centuries before.

Rome and the other Western churches began referring to their services as the Mass, referring to the aforementioned words used in the dismissal blessing.

The veil, the altar and celebrant’s position

In common with the Eastern liturgies, the elements of bread and wine were covered. This ‘veil’, which exists today, symbolises the one our Lord’s face was draped with for burial. The Offertory included the Prayer of the Veil, during which the elements were uncovered (p. 50).

The altar was so called in the West from the earliest days of Christianity (p. 44).

The celebrant’s position varied. Some were able to face the people behind the altar, but, in other churches, saint’s relics were placed in a vault in front of the altar. As such, the priest or bishop had no choice other than to turn his back to the people for many of the prayers (pp. 54, 58-59).

Next time: Different types of Mass during the Middle Ages

© Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 2009-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? If you wish to borrow, 1) please use the link from the post, 2) give credit to Churchmouse and Churchmouse Campanologist, 3) copy only selected paragraphs from the post -- not all of it.
PLAGIARISERS will be named and shamed.
First case: June 2-3, 2011 -- resolved

Creative Commons License
Churchmouse Campanologist by Churchmouse is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 607 other followers


Calendar of posts

March 2015
« Feb    
293031 - The internets fastest growing blog directory
Powered by WebRing.
This site is a member of WebRing.
To browse visit Here.

Blog Stats

  • 763,859 hits

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 607 other followers