Problems in the History of Early Liturgy

Our mission is to study issues in Christian and Jewish liturgical history through the early centuries of the Common Era.


James Sabak, O.F.M.

Seminar Report 2020


James G. Sabak, O.F.M., Executive Committee, Catholic Academy of Liturgy; Director of Worship, Diocese of Raleigh, NC; Associate Pastor, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Community, Raleigh, NC; Chair, American Franciscan Liturgical Commission

Members in Attendance

Teresa Berger, Paul Bradshaw, Harald Buchinger, Pedrag Bukovec, Glenn Byer, Nathan Chase, Charles Cosgrove, Rick Fabian, Hans-Jürgen Feulner, Lizette Larson-Miller, Clemens Leonhard, Liborius Lum- ma, Martin Lüstraeten, Anne McGowan, Hugo Méndez, Mark Morozowich, Anna Petrin, Marie-Ange Rakotoniaina, Jim Sabak, Dominic Serra

Description of Work

The work of this seminar involves a variety of topics on celebration and significance of the liturgy in the early centuries of the common era. At this meeting the seminar fielded papers on the historical development of the reception of Holy Communion by children in the Eastern and Western traditions, the challenge of exorcism in light of early Christian apologetics, a comparative perspective on occasional prayers in liturgical year, the celebrations of Epiphany and various octaves in the Jerusalem lectionary, the meaning of the phrase “ter- minum figat” in the Apostolic Tradition, the advice of John the Deacon on Roman liturgical practice, representations and experiences of time in late-antique Roman Africa, the interpolation of the Institution Narrative in the BAR, influences on the Anaphora of St. James, and resonances between the cup of the Last Supper and Greco-Roman toasting. In addition, members of the seminar provided brief reports on the status of current research projects.

Papers and Presentations

  • Liborius Lumma, Universität Innsburck, “Holy Communion for Children: Issues between the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Catholic Churches.” While baptized Eastern Catholic infants are entitled to receive holy communion in a Roman Catholic Eucharistic celebration, Roman Catholic infants are excluded from the same communion. From the perspective of Catholic Canon law this is easy to explain, but it raises not only severe pastoral issues in the Catholic Church today but also serious questions about the relation between Liturgical studies, Sacramental theology, and Canon law.
  • Nathan Chase, PhD Candidate, University of Notre Dame,“The Interpolation of the Institution Narrative into ” The interpolation of the institution narrative is the crux interpretum in the history of the Barcelona Papyrus and a number of other Egyptian anaphoras. The interpolated nature of Barcelo- na’s institution narrative can be seen through internal literary analysis and through a comparison to Cyril’s Epiclesis 1 and a number of other Egyptian anaphoras.
  • Martin Lüstraeten, University of Mainz, “Exorcism as a Challenge to our Perception of Christian ” Martin reflected on how exorcism is treated in the apologetical writings, from Justin Martyr up to Nicetius. Besides several contradictions one gets the impression that the exorcism of the possessed was much more uncommon than stated in the sources and that the subject is only treated (and repeated) as part of a line of argument and thus to fulfill a certain rhetoric function.
  • Harald Buchinger, Universität Regensburg, “Text-Matter-Ritual: Occasional prayers of the liturgical year in historical and comparative ” Harald’s paper aimed at categorizing the various kinds of material objects used in Easter liturgy, the genres of prayers addressing them, and the hermeneutics of a-mimetic, mimetic and post-mimetic use.
  • Dominic Serra, The Catholic University of America, “John the Deacon: How Roman is His Advice?” John the deacon’s letter to Senarius of Ravenna at the start of the sixth century provides an account of catechumenal rites and baptismal practice that contradicts the evidence we have from other reliable sources of the Roman liturgy of the time. This paper offers some information about the interlocutors, John and Senarius, and about the relationship of Rome to North Italian liturgical practice that helps clarify the reasons for and the nature of the discrepancies.
  • Predrag Bukovec, Universität Regensburg. Among the early anaphoras, the Apostolic Tradition ch. 4 is one of the most archaic examples. The difficult phrase “He (Christ) fixed a limit” in the middle of the prayer can be under- stood in the light of the descent of Christ which occurs in the Syrian tradition; the next parallels are Aphrahat and The second paper “On Anaphoral Development” was a brief sketch of two chapters of my doctoral thesis: the analysis of the Barcelona Papyrus and the development of the Egyptian epicleses.
  • Paul Bradshaw, University of Notre Dame, “The Early Jerusalem Lectionary and the Evolution of its ” Paul Bradshaw’s paper displays in order an early fragmentary lectionary from Jerusalem and considers what may—and may not—be learned from it, and especially in relation to the evolution of octaves.
  • Hugo Méndez, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, “The Sixth Day of the Epiphany in the Early Jerusalem ” Hugo’s paper concludes that Epiphany VI was the partial continuation of an older and more com- plex memorial on the Saturday immediately before Holy Week—one that commemorated all of Jesus’ encounter with Mary, the raising of Lazarus, and a later supper shared in the home of Lazarus. Méndez finds evidence of this older celebration in Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechetical Lectures, the Itinierarium Egeriae, and suggests that it may also stand behind Hesychius of Jerusalem’s eleventh festal homily. By the mid-fifth century, however, the church of Jerusalem limited the focus of this feast to the supper at Lazarus’ home; simultaneously, it moved the account of Lazarus’ raising to the only other date on which it held a public liturgy in Bethany: Epiphany VI.
  • Marie-Ange Rakotoniaina, PhD Candidate, Emory University, “Time in Late Antique North Africa: Representations and Experiences.” This paper offers a reading of the sermons of Augustine on sun, moon and the seasons in light of Roman African representations of Weaving texts with North African visual evidence, I show how Augustine creates a new visual (counter-) culture that serves a renewed Christian pastoral education to time. The bishop of Hippo reclaims time and the cosmos in a process of Christianization of the celestial spheres. What was once the realms of the gods, he invests with Christological and ecclesiological symbolism.
  • Clemens Leonhard, Universität Münster, “Languages in the Haggadah of Pe- ” The older parts of the Haggadah of Pesach are composed in Hebrew. However, the Haggadah starts with a short passage in Aramaic: „This is the bread of affliction that our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. May everyone who is hungry come and eat. May everyone who is needy come and celebrate Pesach. This year, here, etc.“ The paper and the discussion in the group analyzed the liturgical role of this passage at the beginning of the Haggadah and the origins of its textual elements. Its first part („This is the bread of affliction, etc.“) may be interpreted together with Israel Yuval as a medieval addition to the Haggadah that seems to be influenced by the Christian mass. For its second part („May everyone who is needy, etc.“), Menachem Kister claims liturgical origins in Second Temple times because of its parallel in Tobit 2. The paper suggests that this passage came into the Haggadah towards the end of the first millennium based on rather literary texts (e.g., the Babylonian Talmud) than ritualized acts.
  • Anna Petrin, PhD Candidate, University of Notre Dame, “Influences on the Sanctus of Mystagogical Catechesis 5: Implications for the Anaphora of St. ” Anna offered a paper that considered the sources of the Sanctus unit described in Mystagogical Catechesis 5, associated with Cyril of Jerusalem. The paper considered the question of Egyptian influence, and it argued that the evidence for some influence from the Egyptian liturgical tradition was present in both the pre-Sanctus focus on creation and use of angelology, as well as the Sanctus-without-Benedictus described by the mystagogue. Finally she considered how the presence of Egyptian influence by the late fourth-century causes the need for a re-appraisal of the influences often associated with the Anaphora of St. James.
  • Charles Cosgrove, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, “The Last Supper Cup and the Greco-Roman Toast: Resonances of Friendship and Gift-Giving.” The tradition that Jesus took a cup of wine at the Last Supper and gave it to his disciples implies a passing of the cup around the couches. Viewed among the cultural traditions of social dining at the time, the gesture resembles a Greek toast, which, unlike the modern toast, was not “drinking to” someone but giving a cup of wine to another diner or the dining group, as a symbolic gift and token of friendship. The gesture, originally Greek but adopted by Romans and Hellenistic Jews, was repurposed by a Christian storyteller and given a new meaning.

Other Work and Plans of the Seminar for the Future

In addition to presentations on current research and publication, the seminar will also consider discus- sion of current published texts in the field in future gatherings.

Seminar Report 2019


James G Sabak, OFM, Director of Worship, Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina; Associate Pastor, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Community, Raleigh, North Carolina; Chair, American Franciscan Liturgical Commission

Members in Attendance

Marco Benini, Teresa Berger, A.J. Berkovitz, Paul Bradshaw, Glenn Byer, Nathan Chase, Maria Cornou, Charles Cosgrove, Elizabeth Klein, Clemens Leonhard, Liborius Lumma, Martin Lüstraeten, Anne Mc- Gowan, Hugo Méndez, Anna Petrin, Pekka Rehumäki, Jim Sabak, Dominic Serra, Lisa M. Weaver

Description of Work: The work of this seminar involves a variety of topics on celebration and significance of the liturgy in the early centuries of the common era. At this meeting the seminar fielded papers on the role of the daily office, the relationship of word and table, the dating Armenian lectionary, the time for celebrating the Eucharist, the role and function of exorcists, and the sacramentality of the Word. The seminar also entertained description of current research projects by some of its members.

Papers and Presentations:

The following papers were presented at the 2019 meeting of the Problems in the Early History of Liturgy Seminar:

  • Nathan Chase, PhD Candidate, University of Notre Dame “Another Look at the ‘Daily Office’ in the Apostolic Tradition
    The daily prayer practices outlined in the Apostolic Tradition, their origins, and even the number of prayer hours, has been a point of dispute among scholars. However, new sources of the Apostolic Tradition, as well as work on lay ascetical movement in Egypt call for the reevaluation of this document, its dating, provenance, and interpretation. This article argues that the Apostolic Tradition is a composite document, whose daily prayer cycle in its current form has been shaped by a third or fourth century lay ascetical movement in Egypt. The document appears to outline prayer at rising, followed by a communal service of catechesis and prayer, prayer at the third, sixth, and ninth hours, as well as prayer at bed and in the middle of the night. Given the difficulties in interpreting the document it is unlikely that the document, or at least the daily prayer practices outlined in it, were celebrated as written.
  • Martin Lüstraeten, University of Mainz “What Did ‘Exorcists’ Do?”
    The paper documents that in Early Christianity every Christian was allowed to exorcize and that the term “exorcist” thus designates any Christian who exorcizes. From the 3rd century onwards, the term was also used to designate an order in the sense of rank among the clergy. This order was first detached from the gift of expelling demons and later on from the task of expelling demons: the exorcism of baptizands was left to acolytes or the presider of the baptismal rite whereas the exorcism over the possessed was a task of holy men or the higher clergy. Thus, for most of the time of Christian history, the term “exorcist” designated people who were neither supposed nor allowed to exorcize.
  • Paul Bradshaw, University of Notre Dame “The Earliest Eucharist: Saturday or Sunday?”
    Paul Bradshaw’s paper, “The Earliest Eucharist: Saturday or Sunday,”tried to examine where, when, and why the weekly Eucharist in early Christianity began to be celebrated on Sunday mornings.
  • Hugo Méndez, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill “A Revised Dating of the Old Jerusalem/Armenian Lectionary System”
    Hugo Méndez presented a paper challenging Athanase Renoux’s widely-accepted dating of the Armenian Lectionary of Jerusalem (AL). Whereas Re- noux dates the Greek Vorlagen of AL to the early-fifth century (417–439), Méndez anchors the same sources in the mid- to late-fifth-century—that is, in the period subsequent to the consecration of Eudocia’s Church of St. Stephen in 439 CE, and Juvenal’s short-lived attempt to introduce the 25 December Christmas feast into Jerusalem. His paper also reinterprets undated entry for the “dedication of altars” in the P ms. of AL—analyzed as a Christianization of Channukah—as a vestige of Christmas’ initial introduction into the city.
  • Charles Cosgrove, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary “Word and Table: The Origins of a Liturgical Sequence”
    It is now widely-held that early Christians organized their community meals along the lines of Greco-Roman dining, adapting the format to their own particular interests and purposes. It is commonly assumed that this Greco-Roman dining style assigned all serious reading and discussion to the after-supper drinking party. Yet beginning in at least in the middle of the second century, a pattern emerged at Christian meetings where the “word” pre- ceded the “table,” the format that would become dominant in later centuries. This paper shows that in some parts of the wider culture, too, reading and discussion were conducted during the dinner-time, before the “symposion,” probably because diners were more alert in the first half of the gathering than during the wine party. Hence the word-table sequence is intelligible as an ancient banquet practice and need not be explained as a departure from the typical customs of social meals.
  • Marco Benini, The Catholic University of America “The Living Word of God: The Sacramentality of the Word as Key Aspect of a Liturgical Hermeneutic of Sacred Scripture”
    The paper discussed the sacramentality of the Word that was emphasized by Pope Benedict in Verbum Domini (2010), from a liturgical point of view. Following the method of liturgical theology, it collected evidence for the sacramentality of the Word in its celebrations. Then the paper reflected theologically the presence of Christ in the proclaimed word and the relationship between word and Eucharist focusing on the patristic explications.
  • In addition, the following members of the seminar provided brief reports on the status of current research projects: Teresa Berger on creatures, angels and natural elements in liturgy; Dominic Serra on Holy Spirit in the anaphora, Hugo Méndez on Justin Martyr, Glenn Byer on pastoral catechesis, and Liborius Lumma on communion norms for Eastern Catholics.

Other Work and Plans of the Seminar for the Future

In the future, in addition to presentations on current research and publication, the seminar will also consid- er discussion of current published texts in the field.