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Let us note first

By Malihah · Jun 14, 2020 ·
  1. Let us note first of all that the disagreements of historians on this point are to be explained frequently by an inadequate grasp of the question itself. Until quite recently the attention of liturgiologists has been concentrated almost exclusively on questions connected with the history of the sacramental Christian cult— the Eucharist and Baptism. The other aspects of the liturgical life of the early Church have been left in shadow. Their study is only just beginning: ‘too many problems remain unresolved, too many hypotheses unproved. From the purely historical point of view, therefore, every unconditional ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in this matter of the early existence of a Christian liturgy of time must be regarded as premature. Yet even on the basis of the material which has been gathered and studied so far the inadequacy of the hypothesis which insists on the late and specifically monastic origin of the liturgy of the daily cycle is becoming more and more evident. As we shall see shortly, the opinion concerning the post-Constantine origin of the idea of the ‘yearly cycle’ is also untenable.

    We must be able to furnish unanimous evidence from pre-Nicene texts for the hours of prayer, for the connection of prayer with definite times of day. And in fact in the Epistle of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians we read: ‘We must do all things in order... at fixed times... not haphazardly and not without order, but at definite times and hours.’ Three hours of prayer are indicated in the Didache, by Tertullian, by Cyprian of Carthage, by Origen, in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. ‘We should pray in the early morning,’ writes Cyprian, ‘that by means of our morning prayer the resurrection of the Lord might be recalled; also at the setting of the sun and in the evening we should pray again....’ The tradition of hours and times of prayer can certainly be accepted as a tradition common to the whole of the early Church. We know that some historians of worship explain this tradition as referring to private prayer rather than to prayer in the Church. But even this would indicate a definite interest in prayer within time, an understanding of time as the necessary ‘framework’ of prayer. Quite early we find a reference (in the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus) to the theological significance of these hours and times. Therefore if we have nothing more in the tradition of the pre-Nicene Church than these prescriptions to say prayers at fixed hours, this would be enough to infer the subsequent development of the daily cycle of worship. Nor would this be a ‘liturgical revolution,’ but simply the development and ordering of the early tradition.


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