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Irish Church Quarterly

Prayers of the Ancient Church for the Faithful Departed


Author(s): G. F. Hamilton
Source: The Irish Church Quarterly, Vol. 9, No. 35 (Jul., 1916), pp. 201-221
Published by: Irish Church Quarterly
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THE PRAYERSOF THE ANCIENTCHURCH.

201

PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH FOR


THE FAITHFUL DEPARTED.
evidence is wanting that in the time of our
DECISIVE
Lord prayers for the dead formed part of the regular
and authoritative worship of the Jewish Temple and
On the ground of Hebrew precedent,
synagogue.'
it
is
unsafe to argue that such prayers would
therefore,
have
been introduced from the first into the
naturally
services
of the primitive Christian community.
religious
In giving simple liturgical directions, an early authority
exhorted

that

" supplications

and

thanks-

givings ('eucharists') be made for all men; for kings and


all that are in high place."2 Though these words may
seem to us to have primary reference to the living, they
unquestionably influenced the ancient Church in offering her supplications and eucharistic sacrifices on behalf
of the faithful departed. Not, however, until the third
1 C"

I certainly do not think that the fact of a sin-offering made in


the Temple [2 Mace. xii. 48] involved [liturgical] prayers for the
dead in any manner whatsoever. Such an inference appears to be
contrary to all that we know of the ideas underlying Pentateuchal
legislation; and, as the Temple services during a considerable time
before A.D. were largely administered by Sadduceanpriests, it seems
quite unlikely that supplications for the dead were allowed to be
freshly introduced into the saErificial ritual." (Extract from a
letter dated Dec. 10, 1914, kindly sent to the writer by the Rev.
G. Margoliouth: see his valuable artiole on "Anoestor-worship"
[Jewish] : Encycl. of Rel. and Ethics). Dr. Schechter (qu. by the
Rev. R.- J. Boggis, B.D., Praying for the Dead, p. 21), has stated
that during the first ten centuries of the Christian era there is not
to be found in the Jewish liturgy "a single fixed prayer for the
benefit of the departed "; while M. Israel IAvi (see Warren's Liturgy
and Ritual of the Ante-Nicene Church, p. 221) even contended,
however improbably, that the liturgical practice was a late importation from the Church into the synagogue.
' 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2.
C

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202

THE PRAYERSOF THE ANCIENTCHURCH.

century is praying for the dead definitely found to be the


corporate practice of the Christian brotherhood (as distinguished from individual acts of devotion); and, even
then, the evidence is mainly confined to North Africa,
and seems to relate to special commemorations, rather
than the ordinary worship on the Lord's Day.
This distinction between week-day memorial observances on the one hand, and the regular Sunday gatherings on the other, should be carefully noted. So too
ought to be clearly marked the difference (indicated
above) between private, affectionate wishes sent after a
beloved one at rest (such as the naive " May you live in
God " of the catacombs), and the Church's public and
formal intercessions. Of still greater importance is it
to discriminate between praying for the dead in general,
and praying for the " faithful " departed. Whatever
may have been the practice of individual Christians
(like Perpetua and Falconilla), or the teaching of particular Fathers (e.g., Gregory of Nyssa), the Catholic
Church herself was ever careful in her own stated worship to ground her petitions " for them that had fallen
asleep " upon the promises of God to all believers and
upon the fact of the Communion of Saints.3 One further distinction was made very early, and became practically universal (at any rate in the West),*-that,
namely, between the festal commemoration of martyrs,
and the intercessions with offerings (including alms)
presented on behalf of the dead in Christ generally.
So far as the actual and unequivocal evidence goes,
we cannot assert positively that the ancient Church, in
the subject nothing better has been
3IOn the doctrinal aspects of
written than lasher's Answer to a Challenge made by a Jesuite in
Ireland (third ed., 1631), pp. 194-275. Even when all who died in
the communion of the Church were prayed for, the language ever
used showed that it was only on the assumption that they had truly
"hoped and believed in God," and were now "resting in Christ."
'See Herbert Thurston, S.J., The Memory of our Dead (1915),
p. 37.

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THE PRAYERSOF THE ANCIENTCHURCH.

208

congregational worship, began to pray for the dead before the third century. The First Epistle of Clement
(circ. 95 A.D.)5 contains a passage which is thought to
echo the liturgical language of the earliest Church
assemblies. In this prayer, while the living appear to
be mainly in view, the dead are at least not excluded.
" We will pray," it is urged, '"with eager intreaty and
supplication, that the Creatorof the Universe may guard
unhurt the numberof His elect, which He hath numbered
in all the world' through His beloved Child, Jesus
Christ . . . [Grant us] to hope on Thy name, the
source of all creation . . . Thou dost slay and make

ative, Thou alone are the Finder (or Benefactor) of


spirits and the God of all flesh,' Thou dost behold the
abysses, Thou seest into the works of men, Thou art the
helper of those in danger, the Saviour of those in despair,
the Creator and Guardian of every spirit . . ."

In the

Martyrdomof Polycarp8 (describing an event which took


place in 155-6 A.D.), it is stated that immediately after he
had suffered, the disciples took up the martyr's remains
" more precious than precious stones, and finer than
gold, and laid them where it was meet. At that place,"
continue the narrators, " the Lord will permit us to
come together according to our power, in gladness and
joy, and celebrate the' birthday ' of his martyrdom, both
in memory of those who have already engaged in the
contest, and for the practice and training of any who
shall hereafter contend." We may turn also to the
second-century Apology of Aristides (Syriac version),
which gives a brief account of the life and faith of the
early Christians.' " If any righteous man among them
s cc. 59, 60, 61 (ed. K. Lake, Loeb Classical Library).
*Cp. Did., ce. 9, 10.
'Cp. Sarapion's prayer quoted below.
Sc. 18. See Bethune-Baker's Introduction to the Early History
of Christian Doctrine, p. 422.
9 c. 15 (Ante-Nicene Christian Library, Addit. vol., "Recently
Discovered MSS.").

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204

THE PRAYERSOF THE ANCIENTCHURCH.

passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to


God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out

from one place to another near . . . And further if they

see that any one of their number dies in his ungodliness


or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as
for one who goes to meet his doom."
The quotation given above from the Martyrdom of
Polycarp illustrates the distinction which was so soon
drawn between martyrs and ordinary believers. The
" birthday" festivals of the martyrs were observed by
the disciples meeting together, presumably to hold
agape and eucharist, at the sacred place where the
" pre;ious bones" had been laid. The second passage
just cited above from the Apology of Aristides, shews,
moreover, that even ordinary Christians were not all
treated alike. While the wicked were bitterly grieved
for, as having gone to their doom, the " setting out " of
the righteous was made the occasion for a joyous procession with offering of thanksgiving. At the memorial
eucharist, of which there is here a possible hint, the
name of the " righteous man " may have been solemnly
mentioned before God.'O In the Leucian Acts of John
(a Gnostic work dating from the latter part of the
second century) we find, however, the first distinct
reference to the breaking of bread (probably agape and
eucharist) as a memorial for the faithful departed.xl
" The next day cometh John with Andronicus and the
brethren early in the morning to the tomb, being the
third day since the death of Drusiana, that we might
break bread there."
In the next century, unless at the very end, there
is still no clear proof that the faithful departed were
"0On the tomb of Bishop Avircius (anti-Montanist teacher in
N. Phrygia, end of second century) are inscribed the words:
",Let
or
everyone who is like-minded," i.e., anti-Montanist (Ramsay),
fellow-Christian (Lightfoot), "on considering these things, pray for
me." But note that private prayer only is suggested.
n c. 72 (ed. Bonnet, p. 186).

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THE PRAYERSOF THE ANCIENTCHURCH.

205

prayed for at the public worship on the Lord's Day. The


well-known references to the subject in Tertullian and
Cyprian seem to relate to special commemorative services only. Writing after he had become a Montanist,"
but no doubt giving the usual practice of the North
African Church in his day, Tertullian remarks: " We
annually make offerings for the dead [sc. the martyrs]
for their ' birthdays ' "3.

Besides

observing

these

annual festivals of the martyrs, individuals were wont to


make similar offerings (oblations of bread and wine for
the eucharist, accompanied by gifts of food, etc., for the
poor), with a view to benefiting the souls of friends who
had gone to their rest--adding at the same time prayers
for their " refreshment " and " participation

in the

first resurrection." Arguing against second marriages


on the ground that they were inconsistent with these
recognized acts of Christian devotion, Tertullian points
out that the believing widow, not forsaking her late
husband, " prays for his soul " and " offers on the
anniversary of his falling asleep.''14 The Christian
widower, likewise, prays " and makes annual offerings "
for his former wife, " for whom he cherishes an affection
all the more sacred now that she has been taken to be
with the Lord." Standing before the Lord, he commemorates the beloved one " in the prayer," " offering"
for her soul, and " commending" her to God "through
a priest.""' Elsewhere' this writer tells of a young wife,
a daughter of the Church, who " fell asleep in peace ";
and mentions that, while being " laid to rest by the
prayer of the presbyter," the dead woman placed her
12
I.e. "as he understood" the teaching of Montanus. "The qualifying words are necessary " (Lawlor, art. on "1Montanism,"Encycl.
of Rel. and Ethics, viii., 831a).
13de Cor., 3 (Migne, P.L. ii.).
" de
Monog., 10. St. Augustine several times mentions the offering of "alms for the dead " in conjunction with the sacrifice of the
altar.
Is de Exhort. Cast., 11.
de Anima, 51.

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206

THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

hands in a devotional attitude I Cyprian adds little to


what may be learnt from his acknowledged " master."
Speaking of certain martyrs and confessors, he refers
to the fact that " we offer sacrifices for them always, as
you remember, as often as we celebrate the 'passions'
and 'days' of the martyrs in the anniversary commemoration."'7 With regard to the other class of memorial
alms and oblations, such namely as were presented on behalf of the faithful dead generally, the rule had already
been established some time before Cyprian, that if a
" brotherdeparting" should appoint a priest his executor,
" no offering should be made for such a person nor any
sacrifice celebrated for his repose. For he does not
deserve to be named at the altar of God in the prayer of
the priests, who has willed to call away the priests and
the ministers fromthe altar."" Like Tertullian's "prayer
of the presbyter," and the commendation "through a
priest " mentioned by the same writer, this " prayer of
the priests " in Cyprian is most naturally understood as
having reference to a private or special commemorative
service, and not the Sunday eucharist.
The Commentaryon the Book of lob, wrongly assigned
to Origen, presents a view of the matter which is " surely
in the best spirit of the third century.""' The author,
whoever he may have been, states that the object of the
memorial rites (including the feast provided for widows
and orphans), celebrated on behalf of the saints and of
" relatives and friends dying in the faith," is that " we
may both rejoice in their refreshment, and at the same
time ask that a pious consummation in the faith may be
granted to ourselves." A brief notice of these solemnities
occurs in the Canons of Hippolytus.Y1 "If an anamnesis
(memorial) is held for the dead, let the people receive the
'mysteries' [i.e the eucharist] before sitting down [to
"7Ep. xxxix. 8.

s Ep. i. (lxvi.).
19
Swete,in Journ.of Theol.Studies,viii. 506.
2

c. 169; Duchesne, Christian Worship, app. vi., p. 586.

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THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

207

partake of the memorial feast], and let it not be held on


the first day [of the week]." The Verona Latin Fragments21 of the Didascalia supply further directions:
" When you meet in memoriis . . . then, setting
forth the pure bread . . . and praying . . .,
offer for them that sleep." There is one other
reference to the subject that perhaps, since the
evidence at this period is so scanty, ought to be added
here, even though it hardly represents general Church
tradition. In the Acts of Philip (which " may be as
early as the third century "22) the apostle, just before
expiring, gives instructions that the brethren should
pray for him for forty days, asking forgiveness from God
for the severity he had shown towards his enemies.
Notwithstanding that after Philip's death a voice proclaimed from heaven that he " had been crowned with
an incorruptiblecrown by Jesus Christ, the Arbiter of the
contest," the Church proceeded to " carry out all that
had been commanded them by him, offering oblations
for forty days, praying without ceasing."'23
Coming now to the fourth century, we have in Arnobius
(North Africa; about 303 A.D.)}whatmay be the earliest
reference to prayers for the dead as part of the ordinary
worship of the Church-a normal element in Divine
service. This writer protests incidentally2' against the
savage destruction of places of meeting, " in which
prayer is made . . for magistrates, armies, kings,
friends, enemies; for the living, and for those delivered
from the bondage of the body." It is in the same century that we find the earliest extant prayers of the ancient
Church for the faithful departed. Cyril of Jerusalem,
in explaining the eucharistic service to neophytes, says
that, after invoking the Holy Spirit to consecrate the
n c. 61 (Hauler); "may well represent the practice of the third
century" (Swete).
u2Dict. of the Apostolic Church, I. 39b.
c" c. 148-7 (Bonnet, pp. 88-8).
24"Adv.Nationes, iv. 86.

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THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

elements, " we intreat God for the common peace of the


Church; for the tranquillity of the world; for kings; for
soldiers and allies; for the sick; the afflicted; and in a
word for all who stand in need of succour, we all supplicate and offer this Sacrifice. Next, we commemorate
also those who have fallen asleep aforetime---first, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs; that through their
prayers and intercessions God may receive our petitions. Then further, (we pray and offer] on behalf of
the holy fathers and bishops who have fallen asleep aforetime, and in a word for all of ours who in past years have
fallen asleep; believing that there will accrue the greatest
advantage to the souls for whom the supplication is presented, while that holy and most awful Sacrifice.is lying
before (us).""25 Cyril's theology does not now come up
for discussion. What we should here observe is that,
in the Greek-speaking Church of Jerusalem, in 348 A.D.,
the martyrs, while duly commemorated, are not prayed
for, but instead, their intercessions are desired for the
living; also, that the prayer for members of the Church
who have gone to their rest, is now not only an integral part of the Divine Liturgy, but comes at that
supreme moment in the service when, as a result of the
invocation, " the holy and most awful Sacrifice " is exposed on the altar. Nothing is said about any recital of
names, unless there be an allusion to some such custom
in what Cyril goes on to reply to the " many " who ask,
" what is the soul

profited . . . when commemorated

(mentioned) in the prayer ?" About a quarter of a century later, Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis, answered the
similar objection of Aerius, a presbyter in Pontus: " To
what purpose, after their death, do you [interceding]
name the names of the departed ?""

The earliest actual examples of Church prayer on behalf of the faithful dead are found in the Prayer-book of
15 Cat. Myst., v. 8, 9.
" Haer. lxxv. 3 (Migne, P.G., xlii.).

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an Egyptian bishop, the Sacramentary of Sarapion (350


A.D.)27;where also occurs the first clear mention of the
reading of the names.28 Here, immediately after the
consecration, there comes in rather awkwardly,"2as if
not in its original place, the following commemoration:
" We intercede, further, on behalf of all fallen asleep,
whose memorial we are making: (Recitation of the
names.) Sanctify these souls: for Thou knowest all
(souls). Sanctify all who have fallen asleep in the Lord,
and number them with all Thy holy powers, and give
unto them a place and mansion in Thy kingdom."3'
Among occasional prayers in this Sacramentary is a form
to be used for one who has died and is to be " carried
forth." "God, Who hast power over both life and death,
God of spirits and Lord of all flesh, God, Who killest
and makest alive, . .. .Who takest to Thyself the souls
of the saints and givest rest, . . . we beseech Thee for

the repose and rest of this Thy servant (or this Thine
handmaid): give rest to his soul, his spirit, in green
places, in chambers of rest, with Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, and all Thy saints; and raise up his body in the
day that Thou hast appointed, according to Thy pro.mises which cannot lie, that Thou mayest render to it,
also, the heritage whereof it is worthy in Thy holy pastures. Remember not his transgressions and sins; and
cause his going forth to be peaceable and blessed."
In the Apostolic Constitutions (Book viii.) is preserved
the " Clementine " Liturgy, which represents substantially the use of Antioch before the end of the fourth
27Funk, Didascalia et Apost. Const., ii. 176.
8 I.e., of the departed. The canons of the Council of Elvira
(305-6 A.D.) refer to the reading of the names of the living who
Srawley, Early History of the
brought oblations (cc. 28, 29).
Liturgy, p. 177.
29E.
Bishop, in Journ. of Theol. Studies, xiv. 28.
"aThe diptychs, or double-leafed tablets, recording the names of
the living offerers, and of the dead whom they commemorated, are
first spoken of by Cyril of Alexandria, at the beginning of the fifth
century.

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THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

210

century. Here, after consecration, there is a commemo.


ration of the saints,-among whom all the faithful departed seem to be included: " We offer unto Thee for
all the saints who have been well-pleasing to Thee from
the beginning of the world; patriarchs, prophets,
righteous men, apostles, martyrs, confessors, bishops,
priests, deacons, sub-deacons, readers, singers, virgins,
widows, laity, and all whose names Thou knowest."31
In the deacon's litany, which then follows, the usual distinction is made between the martyrs, and the dead in
Christ generally. " Let, us commemorate the holy
martyrs, that we may be deemed worthy to be partakers
of their contest. Let us pray for all those who have fallen
asleep in the faith."
Of almost greater interest (as based probably on earlier
materials) is the information afforded elsewhere in this
compilation. The first six Books are expanded from the
Didascalia. In the last of these (vi. 30) one direction
is worded thus: " Meet ye together in the cemeteries,
*.

. singing

. . . for all the saints . . . , and for your

brethren that are fallen asleep in the Lord; and offer the
acceptable eucharist . . . . both in your churches and

in the cemeteries; moreover, in the funeral processions


(lit. ' outgoings ') of the departed, accompany (or escort)
them with singing, if they be faithful in the Lord." The
eighth Book contains, besides the Liturgy, a form of intercession (perhaps part of the Prayers of the Faithful
said before the offertory)"3intended to be introduced by
the words, " For them that rest in Christ, let us pray."
1

Conversely, in Testamentum Domini, i. 28 (fourth or fifth


century), the faithful departed seem to include the saints:
"Remember those who have fallen asleep in the faith. And grant
us an inheritance with Thy saints, and bestow [upon us] the power
to please Thee as they also pleased Thee " (Cooper and Maclean,

p.75).

8 Like Justin
Martyr's "prayers in common," "for all everywhere"
(1 Apol., 65, 67). The development of these prayers is discussed

by Macleanin Encycl. of Ret. and Ethics, vii. 886f., art. on "Intercessions(Liturgical)."

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211

The deacon then 'bids' the congregation ask that the


Lover of mankind Who has received their brother's
soul lately departed, " may forgive him every sin . ..,

and give him his lot in the land of the pious." The
bishop, next, summing up or 'collecting,' prays as
follows: " O Thou that art by nature immortal, ....
the souls of all live unto Thee, and the spirits of the
righteous are in Thy hand, and there shall no torment
touch them; for they are sanctified under Thy hand:
regard now also this Thy servant, whom Thou hast
selected and received into another state, . . . and send
angels of mercy, and place him . . . where the righteous

are at rest, a land the inhabitants whereof see the glory


of Thy Christ." To the above are appended certain
directions relating to the offering of prayer and alms for
one deceased, on particular days after his death (the
third, ninth, fortieth, and the anniversary)." It is then
added, that " these things we enjoin concerning the
pious (dead); for as to the ungodly man (departed hence),
him thou wilt not benefit at all, no, not if thou give the
whole world to the poor. For when God has been a
man's enemy during life, it is certain that He will continue to be the same after death: for there is no unrighteousness with Him."
While Cyril of Jerusalem (whose lead was followed in
the Sacramentary of Sarapion, the " Clementine"
Liturgy, and the Testamentum Domini) regards the interval between consecration and reception as the natural
time for the commemoration of the dead, there was no
uniformity of practice on this point in the various Church
centres. As a matter of fact, the two earliest extant anaphoras (or formularies for celebrating the eucharist), that
of the Ethiopic Church Order, and that in the Verona
Latin Fragments (both dating-i.e., their originalss3The efficacy of alms offered for the benefit of the faithful
departed seems to have been universally taught; e.g., by Chrysostom
in the East, Augustine in the West.

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212

from the beginning of the fourth century), do not contain


any allusion whatsoever to the brethren at rest. In the
Arabic Didascalia (Egyptian;

circ. 400 A.D.)3' it is di-

rected that, after the Gospel, "they shall pray for the
sick and those abroad and those in distress, and for the
weather and for the fruits, and for the kings and them
that are in high places, and for them that are fallen
asleep..."

But,

within

the

anaphora

itself

(or

eucharist proper), there were no intercessions.


This want of agreement as to the correct part of the
service at which to introduce the remembrance of the
dead, is made still clearer when we turn to the standard
Liturgies, which began to take shape in the fifth century.
In the Liturgy of St. James (Jerusalem), the Great Intercession comes after the consecration; it includes these
words :3 " Vouchsafe to rememberfurther all the saints
that have been well-pleasing to Thee in their generation.
. . . Remember, O Lord of spirits and of all flesh,
those whom we have remembered and those whom we
have not remembered, who are of the true faith, from
righteous Abel unto this day; unto them do Thou Thyself give rest in the land of the living

whence

sorrow and pain and sighing are fled away, where the
light of Thy countenance visiteth and shineth for evermore."'
The same arrangement (viz., intercession coming
immediately after consecration) is adopted also in the
Byzantine rite represented by the Liturgies of St. Basil
and St. Chrysostom, both of which are in substance
several centuries earlier than their most ancient MS.
authority (ninth century).36 After the invocation of the
S
Brightman,
35
'

Liturgies Eastern and Western, App. K.


Brightman, 56f.
Writing about 400 A.D., Chrysostom said-" Not vainly was it
ordained by the apostles that there should be a commemoration of
the departed in the awful mysteries

. when the tremendous

sacrifice is lying before (us). . . . This, however, is for as many


as have departed in the faith " (Hom. iii. 4, in Phil.).

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THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

218

Holy Spirit upon the elements, there comes immediately,


in the Liturgy of St. Basil,37 a petition " that we may
find mercy and grace with all the saints

., through

whose intercessions do Thou look upon us, O God.


. 4 ..And remember all those who have fallen asleep
in the hope of the resurrection to life eternal, and give
them rest where the light of Thy countenance visiteth."
The Liturgy of the Armenians, which belongs to the
same " family," was regarded by Dr. Neale as being
" of the five great living rites, for dignity and majesty,
by far the first." 38 The priest, keeping his eyes fixed
on the consecrated gifts, prays thus privately::
" Through this (sacrifice)give rest to all those who aforetime have fallen asleep in Christ, to our forefathers, to
the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, bishops,
. . . and to all laity, men and women, who have died
in the faith." Then the deacons, passing to the right
side of the table, proclaim with clasped hands: " We
beseech Thee that in this holy sacrifice remembrancebe
made of all the faithful in general, men and women, old
men and children, and all of every age who are fallen
asleep in Christ in faith and holiness."
In the Liturgy of St. Mark (Alexandria), on the other
hand, the commemoration of the dead precedes the
Sanctus, forming part of the Preface.40 " Give rest,
O Lord, our God, to the souls of our fathers and brethren
who have fallen asleep in the faith of Christ, remembering our forefathers of old, . . . apostles, martyrs,
confessors . . . and every soul perfected in the
.
. (The deacon here reads the
faith of Christ. .

diptychs of the dead.) And give rest, O Sovereign


Lord, our God, to the souls of all these in the tabernacles
of Thy saints in Thy Kingdom, graciously bestowing
upon them the good things of Thy promises, which eye
3 Brightman, 330-2.
38Essays on Liturgiology and Church History, p. 194.
"9Brightman, 439.42.
"oibid., 128f.

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214

THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into
the heart of men, the things which Thou, O God, hast
prepared for them that love Thy holy name."
The East Syrian Church, in like manner, did not
follow the lead of Jerusalem and Antioch with regard to
the position of the Great Intercession. In the Persian
(Nestorian) rite, embodying the ancient Anaphora of
SS. Addai and Mari (probably earlier than 431 A.D.),
the " book of the dead" is recited before the commencement of the eucharist proper.4' In this rite (as in the
Armenian), the distinction between martyrs and the
ordinary dead in Christ, is strongly marked. While
mentioned separately, the same language is used in
regard to both. " Let us pray and beseech God, the
Lord of all, that this oblation be accepted for all the just
.
.
and righteous fathers .
And for the memorial
of mart Maryam .
.
.
And of Peter and Paul
. And
. . . and of mar Addai and mar Mari. .

of all them that in a true faith departed from this world,


of whom our Lord [alone] knoweth the names, that
Elohim crown thent in the resurrectionof the dead."
According to Narsai (of Nisibis in Mesopotamia; end
of fifth century) the offertory was followed by the petition :42 " On behalf of all orders deceased from Holy
Church, and for those who are deemed worthy of this
oblation: on behalf of these and Thy servants in every
place, receive, Lord, this oblation which Thy servant
hath offered." The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy of pseudoDionysius may represent the neighbouring church of
Edessa, and be dated about 500 A.D. In this work the

recital of the sacred diptychs is made to take place "after


the Peace," " that is, immediately before the eucharist
proper begins. An account is given of the ceremonies
" observed by us for those who have fallen asleep holily.
I"ibid., 275-81.
42Liturgical Homilies, ed. Connolly, p. 10; and App. iii. by E.

Bishop,,p. 112.
0 de Eccles. Hier., iii. 3 y9 (Migne, P.G., iii.).

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THE PRAYERSOF THE ANCIENTCHURCH.

215

For there is nothing in common between the holy and the


unholy." " Wherefore, for the unholy dead these prayers
are not offered."4' At the funeral, the friends of the
deceased man " pronounce him blessed (as indeed he
is), because that conformably to his desire he hath
reached a victorious close; and they send up hymns of
thanksgiving to the Author of that victory; praying
withal for themselves that they may attain unto the like
consummation." The body received a kind of crowning
at the hands of the bishop, who offered a prayer " requesting the Divine goodness to forgive the departed
one all the sins that through human frailty he hath committed, and to translate him into the light and the land
of the living." " The bishop knoweth that these things
are promised by the true oracles; he therefore prayeth
that they may accordingly come to pass, and that the
sacred rewards may be granted to those that have lived
holily.'""'4
Throughout the greater part of the West-namely, in
the Gallican, Celtic, Mozarabic, and Ambrosian rites
(all of which are intimately related to each other, and
cannot be considered apart)-the intercessions were connected, not with the consecration (as in the Antiochene
and Byzantine Liturgies), but with the offertory; hence
they came before, not within, the Canon of the Mass.
Such may have been the case also in North Africa."4 Of
the primitive " people's offering," some semblance is retained in the Ambrosian Liturgy, still surviving at
Milan. Two old men and as many old women bring
bread and wine to the deacon, who with great ceremony
delivers the same unto the priest. The latter, standing
at the altar, prays as follows:" "Accept, O Holy
Trinity, this oblation which we offer unto Thee for the
" "ibid.,vii. 1 i1; 3 f7.
a ibid., vii. 1 e3; 3 m4;3 q7.
"W.
"W.C. Bishop, "The African Rite," Journ. of Theol. Studies,
xiii. 253, 272-4.
"7Hammond, Liturgies Eastern and Western, p. 812.

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216

THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

salvation . . . of all faithful Christians, both living and

departed: that by Thy mercy, through faithfully persevering in Thy praises, they may deserve to obtain the
forgiveness of all sins and the rewards of eternal blessedness."
From the pen of St. Germanus of Paris, in the sixth
century, we have a description of the Gallican solemn
mass of that period."8 When placed upon the altar at
the first oblation, the unconsecrated elements were
covered with a veil. On the removal of this, there came
next a recital of the names of the dead. A form of the
diptychs has been preserved in the "Rule of Aurelianus," bishop of Arles (sixth century).4" In this, the
fathers and founders of the Church of Aries, together
with all God's faithful servants, " departed in the peace
of the Church," are prayed for " through the merits and
intercession of, Thy saints "-among whom St. Martin's
name comes last but one.
To some such form of the diptychs Adamnan is supposed (by Reeves and other authorities) to have been
referring when he relates how St. Columba ordered that,
in " the customary prayer commemorating the name of
St. Martin," the cantors, " when they come to the place
of that name," should " chant to-day for bishop St.
Columbanus," whose soul, having just passed from
earth, " ascends beyond the starry spaces to Paradise."'5
But, quite possibly, what is here intended may be, not
merely the addition of St. Columbanus Mocu Loigse to
the number of those interceding for the dead, but a
prayer or offering for the bishop's own soul: even as,
when the greater Columbanus passed to the "joys of
Paradise," St. Gall at once gave directions that "the saca

Ep. i., Migne, P.L.,


Duchesne, op. cit., p. 206.
* Hammond, op. cit., txxii;
p. 317f.
- Vita S. Col., iii. 12.

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THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

217

rifice of salvation should be offered for his repose, for the


commemoration of the blessed Columbanus."'1"
The diptychs of the Mozarabic rite actually mention
St. Martin himself, with other confessors, as being
among those " for " whom the Church makes her offering.52 In this rite, after the offertory (or first oblation),
the celebrant is directed to say :" " Our priests [i.e.,
the bishops of Spain] offer the oblation to the Lord God;
the pope of Rome also, and the other bishops offer for
themselves and for all the clergy and people of the
Church committed unto them, and for the whole brotherhood; likewise all the presbyters, deacons, clerks, and
surrounding people offer in honour of the saints, for
themselves and for the whole brotherhood. Choir. They
offer for themselves and for the whole brotherhood. Priest.
Making commemoration of the most blessed apostles
and martyrs; the glorious Saint Mary the Virgin,
Zacharias, John, the Innocents. ... . Choir. And of
all martyrs. Priest. Also [offering] for the spirits of
them that rest: Hilary, Athanasius, Martin. . . Choir.
And of all them that rest."
Again, the Irish (Romanized) Stowe Missal gives
St. Martin's name first among the saintly bishops
who, with apostles and martyrs, are apparently
Inserted here
prayed for, as well as commemorated."'
in the middle of the Memento of the dead (see below) is
a long list of names, perhaps originally recited at the
offertory: old Hebrew worthies (e.g., the Maccabees),
New Testament saints, martyrs (as St. Cyprian), hermits
of the Egyptian desert, bishops (with St. Martin at their
head), priests (including St. Columba); " and all that are
at rest who have gone before us in the Lord's peace, from
Adam even unto this day, whose (names) God hath named
51Strabo's Life of St. Gall, d. 26 (qu. by Warren, Liturgy and
Ritual of the Celtic Church, p. 105).
"A mark of antiquity pointed out by Duchesne, op. cit., p. 209.
53Liturgia Mozarabica, Migne, P.L., lxxv. 111-2.
.6 The Stowe
Mi.ssal, ed. Sir G. F. Warner, vol. ii., pp.. 14.16.
D

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218

THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

and knoweth. To them and to all that rest in Christ,


grant," etc."5
In the Gallican and kindred rites, the commemoration
of the' faithful departed came, as we have seen, after the
offertory. St. Isidore of Seville, writing in 6xo A.D.,
explains56 that, of the seven prayers before reception (of
which the Illatio, our Preface, was the fifth), the third in
order, known as the prayer post nomina, " is sent up for
the offerers, or for the faithful dead, that through the
same sacrifice they may obtain pardon." An example of
this prayer may be taken from the Missale Gothicum,rt
drawn up for the Church of Autun in the eighth century.
" Hear, O Lord, the prayers of the offerers, accept their
desires, forgive their sins. By the intercession of Thy
saints, grant also to our dear ones who have fallen
in Christ, refreshment in the land of the living." asleep.
In the
the
Mozarabic rite,
prayer post nomina always ended
thus "
Amen. Priest. Because Thou art the Life of
the living, the Health of the sick, and the Repose of all
the faithful departed, throughout eternal ages of ages."
The Memento etiamnof the Roman rite has now become
an integral and essential part of the Canon (where it follows after, whereas the intercessions for the living pre" Remember also, O Lord, Thy
cede, consecration).
servants and handmaids, N. and N., who have gone before us with the sign of faith, and (now) repose in the
sleep of peace: to them, O Lord, and to all that rest in
Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment,
55Written in a later hand is a litany beginning, "6St. Stephen,
pray for us, St. Martin, pray for us." The Irish (Roman) Drummond Missal adds St. Martin's name to the list of saints (in the
Commnunicantes)on whose "merits and prayers " reliance is placed.
To this day some French dioceses insert, in the same list, St. Hilary
and St. Martin.
6 de Eccles. officiis (Migne, P.L., lxxxiii.); Duchesne, p. 211.
67Muratori, Liturgia Romana Vetus, ii. 653 (Venice, 1748).
"
Liturgia Mozarabica, col. 112, and passim.

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THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

219

light, and peace.""5 But, in Rome itself, even as late as


the ninth century, although this prayer had long previously been said at private masses, there was no
memento of the dead in' the ordinary public mass on the
Lord's Day."0
The most ancient Western prayers for the departed are
found in the Leonian Sacramentary (sixth century), an
unofficial selection of liturgical matter composed for the
local church of Rome. The following collect, derived
thence, is for use at a special memorial mass:"
" Almighty and everlasting God, Who hast bestowed
upon Thy faithful people the means of obtaining life
after death; graciously and mercifully grant, we beseech
Thee, that tile soul of Thy servant N., being purified
from all sins, may rest in the inheritance of Thy salvation: through Jesus Christ our Lord." The more.complete and authoritative Gelasian Sacramentary, " while
as a whole, a Roman book,"62 is marked by distinct
Gallican features. The earliest extant MS. was written
about 700 A.D., " evidently for use in some church in the

Frankish dominions, possibly for the Abbey of St.


Denis."' 3 WVeselect for quotation the concluding portion of a prayer appointed to be said after a death."'
" Receive, O Lord, Thy servant N. into the eternal
mansion, and give him rest and a kingdom, even the
heavenly Jerusalem; that in the bosom of our forefathers
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Thou mayest vouchsafe to
grant him a place: may he have a part in the first resurrection, rise again with them that rise, and receive his
body among them that at the Last Day receive their
59 On the primitive character of the language, see Adrian Fortescue, The Mass (1914), p. 355 ("Westminster Library ").
a E. Bishop, in Journ. of Theol. Studies, xiv. 44f (and earlier
articles); Atchley, Ordo Romanus Primus, p. 101.
61Muratori, i. 451.
63Duchesne, p. 134.
6sH. A. Wilson, The Gelasian Sacramentary, p. xvii.
T ibid., p. 297.

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THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

220

bodies: may he come, with the blessed ones that come


to the right hand of God; and may he possess, among
them that gain possession of eternal life: through Jesus
Christ our Lord."
The Gregorian Sacramentary was sent to Charlemagne
by Pope Hadrian between the years 784 and 791 A.D. For
our present purpose, the supplements, added in France
about the same time (it is thought by Alcuin),65 are of
more importance on account of their greater wealth of
devotional matter for use in the chamber of death, at
burials, and in commemorative services. What we now
give is taken from this supplementary part, and not from
the Gregorian Sacramentary proper. Form to be used
when the soul leaves the body :6 " O0Lord, we beseech
Thee, show this mercy unto Thy departed servant N.,
that he who, in his desires, kept Thy will, may not be recompensed with the punishment due to his deeds, but that
even as, here, he was associated by a true belief with the
company of the faithful, so, there, by Thy compassion
he may be united to the fellowship of the angelic choir."
Then are directed to be said the five sentences following,
of which the last is the earliest appearance of the wellknown introit (its first clause only) sung at every mass
6" The righteous shall be had
Pro Fidelibus Defunctis:67
in everlasting remembrance.-Deliver not unto the beasts
the souls of them that confess Thee.-Precious in the
sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.-Enter not
into judgement with Thy servant, O Lord.-Requiem
aeternam dona ei, Domine." The Irish thirteenth-century Corpus Missal, mainly Roman and Sarum in its
contents, has the complete form:- ""Pray ye, brethren,
for the faithful departed. Choir. Eternal rest grant
" See J.

Wordsworth,Ministryof Grace,p. 74.

"H. A. Wilson, The Gregorian Sacramentary, p. 210 (Henry


Bradshaw Society, 1915).
67 Dict.

of Christian Antiquities,

art. on "Obsequies."

" Warren, Missale Fetus Hibernicum, p. 74.

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THE PRAYERS OF THE ANCIENT CHURCH.

221

them, O Lord; and may light perpetual shine upon


them."
By the side of these Western prayers, fairly representative of the general style of Latin devotions for the dead
in Christ, there may now be set for purposes of comparison a few extracts from the equally characteristic Offices
of the Departed in the Orthodox Greek communion.
When the priest has been summoned to the deathchamber, the Lord's Prayer is said; and the following
petitions are thereupon chanted

:69

" With the


just spirits

made perfect grant rest, O Saviour, to the soul of Thy


servant, guarding it unto the blessed life which is from
Thee, O Lover of mankind.-In the resting-place where
all Thy saints rest, grant rest also to the soul of Thy
servant; for Thou alone art the Lover of mankind." The
Burial Office for laymen (there is a separate service for
women, and another for children), opens with the
"
words : "

He that dwelleth under the defence of the

Most High. Alleluia.--O Christ, Who art the Life of


the living, yea, verily, and the Resurrection of the dead;
to the believer, departed hence in hope, grant eternal
life.--O Compassionate One,,Who hast received Thy
faithful servant unto Thyself, cause him to share in the
divine delights of Paradise, and to have his part in the
blessed work and intercourseof the Angels."
G. F.
69Goar,
Euchologion,

o ibid., p. 583.

HAMILTON.

p. 515 (Paris, 1647).

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