Those 2nd century Christians did some things that would never fly in an Evangelical community today. Check out these nine things that the people schooled by the apostles saw fit to do in their day, things they knew they had the authority to do.
1. There was no worship music
BOOM! (like the bass drum that didn’t get played at Christian services) Seriously, not only was “worship music” never heard in early Christian liturgy, but it’s also considered by some to be “unBiblical”. Say what?! Yeah, there are actually Christian groups today who don’t allow any instruments because the NT never mentions music in Christian liturgy.
2. They read The Maccabees in church
They did what?! Yeah, it just so happens that the early Christians accepted Scripture to include the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures), which contained all those books that Luther maligned as Apocrypha. They probably did this because, you know, the NT authors used the Septuagint for about 80% of all their OT quotes.
3. They baptized infants
“But Tertullian…” Ha, yeah, John Piper likes to tell people that the earliest explicit reference to infant baptism is from Tertullian, but Piper’s… not speaking the truth. Even setting aside the implicit mentions of baptizing whole households found in the NT, we have St. Irenaeus writing circa 190:
It was not for nothing that Naaman of old, when suffering from leprosy, was purified upon his being baptized, but [this served] as an indication to us. For as we are lepers in sin, we are made clean, by means of the sacred water and the invocation of the Lord, from our old transgressions, being spiritually regenerated as newborn babes, even as the Lord has declared: ‘Except a man be born again through water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]”.
4. For adults, they delayed baptism until after catechesis
Now what made them think they had the authority to do that? Oh, right: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” I guess when you have the authority of Jesus, you can do these things.
5. They excluded the unbaptized from congregational prayer
NO WAY!? Mm-hmm. Yeah, during those early Christian liturgies, they would welcome the uninitiated (the inquiring) to gather with them for the first part of their liturgy, which was the reading of OT and NT Scriptures and listening to the presbyter (AKA priest) give a homily. After that, they had to leave before the congregational prayers began.
6. They excluded the unbaptized from Holy Communion
Yep, they weren’t allowed to pray with the baptized inside the liturgy, and they couldn’t get anywhere near the consecrated bread and wine. Now why might that be? It’s almost as if the first Christians believed that there was a substantive difference between baptized and unbaptized persons — as though baptism DID something — and that the consecrated elements were now substantively other than bread and wine.
7. They did not pray the doxology
What’s the doxology? Oh, you know, that little bit at the end of the Lord’s Prayer (AKA the Our Father) that begins “For Thine is the Kingdom…”? While that appears in some Bible translations, it’s well known that it’s not original. Thus, it’s not part of the Lord’s Prayer. It’s – GASP! – extra-Biblical.
8. They celebrated Mass in catacombs surrounded by dead popes
Maybe hard to believe, but that’s history. Every Sunday, in the Catacombs of Callixtus, containing the Crypt of the Popes, a priest would celebrate the Eucharist. And it wasn’t unusual for a sarcophagus to serve as the altar, which is why even today the altars in Catholic churches usually have within or under them a bone fragment from a saint.
9. Sub Tuum Praesidium
Sub Tuum what-now? If you know it at all, you might know it by it’s English title, “Beneath thy compassion”. It’s the oldest extant prayer/hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Admittedly, the earliest copy is from the mid 3rd century, but you’ll forgive me for believing that we didn’t manage to find the very first copy. The prayer is still used to this day in various Christian liturgies.
Beneath your compassion,
We take refuge, O Mother of God:
do not despise our petitions in time of trouble:
but rescue us from dangers,
only pure, only blessed one.
Want to read a little about what how the ancient Mass was celebrated? Check out this excellent article from Msgr. Charles Pope on “house churches” and what they did.