The Development Of The Cultus

The Church's cultus and sacramental system developed rapidly in the third

century. The beginnings of the administration of the sacraments according

to prescribed forms are to be traced to the Didache and Justin Martyr (see

above, §§ 13, 14). At the beginning of the third century baptism was

already accompanied by a series of subsidiary rites, and the eucharist was

regarded as a sacrifice, the benefit of which might be directed to

specific ends. The further development was chiefly in connection with the

eucharist, which effected in turn the conception of the hierarchy (see

below, § 50). Baptism was regarded as conferring complete remission of

previous sins; subsequent sins were atoned for in the penitential

discipline (see above, § 42). As for the eucharist, the conception of the

sacrifice which appears in the Didache, an offering of praise and

thanksgiving, gradually gives place to a sacrifice which in some way

partakes of the nature of Christ's sacrificial death upon the cross. At

the same time, the elements are more and more completely identified with

the body and blood of Christ, and the nature of the presence of Christ is

conceived under quasi-physical categories. As representatives of the lines

of development, Tertullian, at the beginning of the century, and Cyprian,

at the middle, may be taken. That a similar development took place in the

East is evident, not only from the references to the same in the writings

of Origen and others, but also from the appearance in the next century of

elaborate services, or liturgies, as well as the doctrinal statements of

writers generally.

(a) Tertullian, De Corona, 3. (MSL, 2:98.)

The ceremonies connected with baptism.

And how long shall we draw the saw to and fro through this line when we

have an ancient practice which by anticipation has settled the state of

the question? If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly

custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For

how can anything come into use if it has not first been handed down? Even

in pleading tradition written authority, you say, must be demanded. Let us

inquire, therefore, whether tradition, unless it be written, should not be

admitted. Certainly we shall say that it ought not to be admitted if no

cases of other practices which, without any written instrument, we

maintain on the ground of tradition alone, and the countenance thereafter

of custom, affords us any precedent. To deal with this matter briefly, I

shall begin with baptism. When we are going to enter the water, but a

little before, in the church and under the hand of the president, we

solemnly profess that we renounce the devil, and his pomp, and his angels.

Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the

Lord has appointed in the Gospel. Then, when we are taken up (as new-born

children), we taste first of all a mixture of milk and honey; and from

that day we refrain from the daily bath for a whole week. We take also in

congregations, before daybreak, and from the hands of none but the

presidents, the sacrament of the eucharist, which the Lord both commanded

to be eaten at meal-times, and by all. On the anniversary day we make

offerings for the dead as birthday honors. We consider fasting on the

Lord's Day to be unlawful, as also to worship kneeling. We rejoice in the

same privilege from Easter to Pentecost. We feel pained should any wine or

bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground. At every forward step

and movement, at every going in and going out, when we put on our shoes,

at the bath, at table, on lighting the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all

the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign

[i.e., of the cross].

(b) Tertullian, De Baptismo, 5-8. (MSL, 1:1314.)

The whole passage should be read as showing clearly that

Tertullian recognized the similarity between Christian baptism and

heathen purifying washings, but referred the effects of the

heathen rites to evil powers, quite in harmony with the Christian

admission of the reality of heathen divinities as evil powers and

heathen exorcisms as wrought by the aid of evil spirits.

Ch. 5. Thus man will be restored by God to His likeness, for he formerly

had been after the image of God; the image is counted being in His form

[in effigie], the likeness in His eternity [in aeternitate]. For he

receives that Spirit of God which he had then received from His afflatus,

but afterward lost through sin.

Ch. 6. Not that in the waters we obtain the Holy Spirit, but in the water,

under (the witness of angels) we are cleansed and prepared for the Holy


Ch. 7. After this, when we have issued from the font, we are thoroughly

anointed with a blessed unction according to the ancient discipline,

wherein on entering the priesthood men were accustomed to be anointed with

oil from a horn, wherefore Aaron was anointed by Moses. Thus, too, in our

case the unction runs carnally, but profits spiritually; in the same way

as the act of baptism itself is carnal, in that we are plunged in the

water, but the effect spiritual, in that we are freed from sins.

Ch. 8. In the next place, the hand is laid upon us, invoking and inviting

the Holy Spirit through benediction. But this, as well as the former, is

derived from the old sacramental rite in which Jacob blessed his grandsons

born of Joseph, Ephraim, and Manasses; with his hands laid on them and

interchanged, and indeed so transversely slanted the one over the other

that, by delineating Christ, they even portended the future benediction in

Christ. [Cf. Gen. 48:13 f.]

(c) Cyprian, Ep. ad Caecilium, Ep. 63, 13-17. (MSL, 4:395.)

The eucharist.

Thascius Caecilius Cyprianus, bishop of Carthage, was born about

200, and became bishop in 248 or 249. His doctrinal position is a

development of that of Tertullian, beside whom he may be placed as

one of the founders of the characteristic theology of North

Africa. His discussion of the place and authority of the bishop in

the ecclesiastical system was of fundamental importance in the

development of the theory of the hierarchy, though it may be

questioned whether his particular theory of the relation of the

bishops to each other ever was realized in the Church. For his

course during the Decian persecution see §§ 45, 46. He died about

258, in the persecution under Valerian.

In the epistle from which the following extract is taken Cyprian

writes to Caecilius to point out that it is wrong to use merely

water in the eucharist, and that wine mixed with water should be

used, for in all respects we do exactly what Christ did at the

Last Supper when he instituted the eucharist. In the course of the

letter, which is of some length, Cyprian takes occasion to set

forth his conception of the eucharistic sacrifice, which is a

distinct advance upon Tertullian. The date of the letter is about


Ch. 13. Because Christ bore us all, in that He also bore our sins, we see

that in the water is understood the people, but in the wine is showed the

blood of Christ. But when in the cup the water is mingled with the wine

the people is made one with Christ, and the assembly of believers is

associated and conjoined with Him on whom it believes; which association

and conjunction of water and wine is so mingled in the Lord's cup that

that mixture cannot be separated any more. Whence, moreover, nothing can

separate the Church--that is, the people established in the Church,

faithfully and firmly continuing in that in which they have believed--from

Christ in such a way as to prevent their undivided love from always

abiding and adhering. Thus, therefore, in consecrating the cup water alone

should not be offered to the Lord, even as wine alone should not be

offered. For if wine only is offered, the blood of Christ begins to be

without us.(77) But if the water alone be offered, the people begin to be

without Christ, but when both are mingled and are joined to each other by

an intermixed union, then the spiritual and heavenly sacrament is

completed. Thus the cup of the Lord is not, indeed, water alone, nor wine

alone, nor unless each be mingled with the other; just as, on the other

hand, the body of the Lord cannot be flour alone or water alone, nor

unless both should be united and joined together and compacted into the

mass of one bread: in which sacrament our people are shown to be one; so

that in like manner as many grains are collected and ground and mixed

together into one mass and made one bread, so in Christ, who is the

heavenly bread, we may know that there is one body with which our number

is joined and united.

Ch. 14. There is, then, no reason, dearest brother, for any one to think

that the custom of certain persons is to be followed, who in times past

have thought that water alone should be offered in the cup of the Lord.

For we must inquire whom they themselves have followed. For if in the

sacrifice which Christ offered none is to be followed but Christ, we ought

certainly to obey and do what Christ did, and what He commanded to be

done, since He himself says in the Gospel: "If ye do whatsoever I command

you, henceforth I call you not servants, but friends" [John 15:14 f.].

If Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, is Himself the chief priest of God the

Father, and has first offered Himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has

commanded this to be done in commemoration of Himself, certainly that

priest truly acts in the place of Christ who imitates what Christ did; and

he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church of God to God the

Father when he proceeds to offer it according to what he sees Christ

himself to have offered.

Ch. 15. But the discipline of all religion and truth is overturned unless

what is spiritually prescribed be faithfully observed; unless, indeed, any

one should fear in the morning sacrifices lest the taste of wine should be

redolent of the blood of Christ.(78) Therefore, thus the brotherhood is

beginning to be kept back from the passion of Christ in persecutions by

learning in the offerings to be disturbed concerning His blood and His

blood-shedding. But how can we shed our blood for Christ who blush to

drink the blood of Christ?

Ch. 16. Does any one perchance flatter himself with this reflection--that,

although in the morning water alone is seen to be offered, yet when we

come to supper we offer the mingled cup? But when we sup, we cannot call

the people together for our banquet that we may celebrate the truth of the

sacrament in the presence of the entire brotherhood. But still it was not

in the morning, but after supper that the Lord offered the mingled cup.

Ought we, then, to celebrate the Lord's cup after supper, that so by

continual repetition of the Lord's Supper we may offer the mingled cup? It

was necessary that Christ should offer about the evening of the day, that

the very hour of sacrifice might show the setting and the evening of the

world as it is written in Exodus: "And all the people of the synagogue of

the children of Israel shall kill it in the evening."(79) And again in the

Psalms: "Let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice."(80) But

we celebrate the resurrection of the Lord in the morning.

Ch. 17. And because we make mention of His passion in all sacrifices (for

the Lord's passion is the sacrifice which we offer), we ought to do

nothing else than what He did. For the Scripture says: "For as often as ye

eat this bread and drink this cup, ye do show forth the Lord's death till

He come."(81) As often, therefore, as we offer the cup in commemoration of

the Lord and His passion, let us do what it is known the Lord did.