Monday, October 25, 2004
Simplify, simplify, simplify
From The Story of Christianity: Vol. 1 by Justo Gonzalez in the chapter entitled "Constantine":
Until Constantine's time, Christian worship had been relatively simple. At first, Christians gathered to worship in private homes. Then they began to gather in cemeteries, such as the Roman catacombs. By the third century there were structures set aside for worship. The oldest church that archaeologists have discovered is that of Dura-Europos, which dates from about A.D. 250. This is a fairly small room, decorated with very simple murals.

After Constantine's conversion, Christian worship began to be influenced by imperial protocol. Incense, which was used as a sign of respect for the emperor, began appearing in Christian churches. Officiating ministers, who until then had worn everyday clothes, began dressing in more luxurious garments. Likewise, a number of gestures indicating respect, which were normally made before the emperor, now became part of Christian worship. The custom was also introduced of beginning services with a processional. Choirs were developed, partly in order to give body to that procession. Eventually, the congregation came to have a less active role in worship.

I have been to churches that boast of being "New Testament" churches. It makes me cringe to hear it because they don't look anything like what is described above. There seems to be thinking that the progression goes something like Jesus, the book of Acts, our church. Somehow 2000 years of history and heritage is invalid because it's not in the Bible.

And yet, is it idealistic naivity to think that the Church can restore this simplicity of public worship it experienced prior to the Edict of Milan in 313? Can the congregation be once again given the active role?

posted by Peter at 3:07 AM
| | permalink |