The New Testament does not prescribe any definite ritual for the observance of the Lord’s Supper. When instituting the ordinance, our Saviour simply said “This do,” which cannot be fairly pressed to mean anything more than, “Eat this bread and drink this cup.” The apostle Paul had evidently given to the Corinthian church full instructions regarding the proper mode of celebration, for he says: “I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you.” But what follows is too brief to furnish an adequate directory to the whole ordinance. We gather merely that it is to be observed in a reverent manner, after penitential self examination, and with the use of the words of our Lord when appointing the sacrament. But we cannot say that the ipsissima verbaare essential, for the expressions vary in the several narratives, and in Luke’s account some of the most familiar words are connected with the distribution of a cup preceding the breaking of the bread, which cup is also “blessed.” It is needless to say that the apostolic norm cannot now be discovered. It may be the skeleton on which all the primitive liturgies are built; but had ritual exactitude been considered material to the validity of the sacrament, we should not have been thus left in the dark.
The rite appears to have been observed, at least at first, every Lord’s day, perhaps daily (Acts 2:46). The elements were administered in both kinds; but while it is almost certain that the bread used at the institution of the ordinance was unleavened, and probable that the cup contained water mingled with the wine, these features are not emphasised, nor is the attitude of the partakers alluded to. We may therefore consider these points as indifferent.
Without entering into the much-debated question of the date at which liturgies were first committed to writing, it is quite improbable that any existed in manuscript anterior to the First Council of Nicaea (AD 325). The eucharistic prayers were extemporeat first, and offered according to the discretion and ability of the celebrant. In as much as the hearty “Amen” of the people was a marked feature of primitive worship and commended by the apostles, the prayers would tend to assume a regular form, so that the congregation, remembering them, might know when to respond. Hence there came to be a general agreement both as to order and language, so that when written sacramentaries came into existence they were all upon one general plan. Even the words of the most sacred part of the service are the same, whether they are found at Alexandria, or Ephesus, or Jerusalem, or Rome. For three centuries they must have been preserved by oral tradition, and their exact similarity points to a common source. What that source was we are not called upon to say in this connection. It is, however, to be noted that they are of a highly artificial arrangement, showing that much thought has been bestowed upon their composition. They cannot be a spontaneous enlargement of a simple and informal ritual.
Disregarding minor variations, the eucharistic office, which was originally the sole liturgy of the church, was divided into two parts: all preceding the words “Lift up your hearts” (the “Sursum Corda”) was called the “Proanaphora,” and all after them the “Anaphora,” or communion service proper. The “Proanaphora” varied much according to local usage, and its aim was mainly instruction. The Scripture readings, to which the sermon is an appendix, may be preceded by introit, salutation, confession, etc., and followed by suitable responsories; but the inspired Word of God holds the central place of honor. At the close of the prayers following the sermon the catechumens were dismissed and the service of the faithful began. I translate the word missa by “service,” because the usual term, “mass,” conveys to our prejudiced minds an idea which missa did not to those who used it of old. To the second part of the “Proanaphora” belong the “General Intercession,” the “Offertory,” the “Kiss of Peace,” and, later, the Creed. This portion also varies much. When, however, we examine the “Anaphora,” we find a striking identity among all the primitive liturgies. The eucharistic prayer is substantially the same, always and everywhere. We find the “Sursum Corda,” the “Vere Dignum;” the “Commemoration” of creation, of redemption, and of the institution; the “Triumphal Hymn;” the “Anamnesis,” or calling to remembrance of our Saviour’s death; the “Invocation of the Holy Spirit;” and the “Great Intercession;” followed by the Lord’s Prayer without the doxology or the “Amen;” the “Embolismus,” or intercalated prayer founded upon the sixth petition, “Deliver us from evil;” and the “Prayer of Humble Access;” the whole closing with the words “Sancta sanctis,” “holy things to the holy.” Then follow communion in both kinds, the prayer of thanksgiving, and the dismissal with the benediction.
The communion office of the ancient church of the Scots conformed completely to the type just described. The rite was observed every Lord’s day immediately after the office of Terce, or morning prayers; i. e., within three hours after sunrise; but in large churches it was celebrated every day. The officiating clergyman was robed in the vestments then universally worn on such occasions the tunic and girdle, the maniples, and over all a large square or oval cloth having a hole in the center through which the head passed. This was striped or checkered with eight colours one more than a king might wear, to show the superiority of the ministerial office to the highest earthly dignity. As he passed the chancel rails on his way to the altar, the celebrant removed his shoes, in imitation of Moses at the burning bush, and placed himself with bared feet, behind the altar, facing the people. This is the position assumed by the pope when he celebrates in St. Peter’s, and we know that it was the position of the celebrant in the Celtic church by the frequent references to the play of emotion seen on his face by persons in the congregation.
Having made the sign of the cross, he began the service with the words, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” to which the people responded “Amen.” This was followed by a general confession, in which all the congregation joined; after which the elements were laid upon the altar with much ceremony. Water had already been poured into the chalice before leaving the vestry, and now the wine was :added. The mystical meaning of the various parts of the service is given in a Gaelic tract published, with a translation and notes by Duncan Macgregor. From it we learn that the whole sacrament is a drama of the incarnation. The church building stands for the overshadowing wings of the Almighty. The altar is a memorial of the sufferings of Christ and his people. The chalice represents the church founded upon the martyrs. Incidentally it appears that the words upon which Rome builds so much, “On this rock will I build my church,” are taken to refer, not to Peter personally, but to the soundness of the faith of the martyrs. Such was also St. Patrick’s view of their sense. The Celtic church knew nothing of the papal pretensions to universal primacy. The water first poured into the cup represents humanity into which the wine of Deity was infused when the Son of God was made man. The service up to the bigradual psalm is symbolical of the dim vision of the coming Saviour vouchsafed to the patriarchs. The first covering is then removed from the elements to indicate that in the prophets the Christ was “declared,” although not yet born.
While these proceedings were going on at the altar, the choir was engaged in singing the introit, or introductory psalm, followed, on festive occasions, by the “Angelic Hymn,” or “Gloria in Excelsis.” In this, as in all parts of the musical service, the congregation joined. The Celtic church was pre-eminently a psalm singing church. The service proper began with the collect for the day, suitably prefaced by a few invitatory words, and followed by the “Augment,” or prayers belonging to any lesser festival which might happen to fall upon the same date. To these and all prayers the people were required to respond “Amen.” In those days church discipline was sternly exercised. Anyone who failed to give the response was punished with thirty lashes (percussa). The prayers were followed by the epistle for the day, and they in turn by the “Anthem,” or “Bigradual Psalm,” so called because the deacon stood, while singing the verses, not on the upper step of the ambo, or reading-desk, but on the second one. The response was sung by all to each verse. It is said that Athanasius led in thus singing the Psalm 136 while five thousand of his enemies surrounded the church. The reiterated response, “For his mercy endureth forever,” was faith’s defiance to its foes.
The sacred vessels were covered with two veils, or napkins, the inner one of pure white linen, and the outer of checkered silk.
The gospel for the day was then read, followed immediately by a blessing, the exact words of which we do not know; but such expressions of devout thankfulness for the Word of Life are found in all liturgies. Even Protestant ministers close the reading of Scripture by saying: “May God bless to us the reading of his Holy Word, and to his name be the glory and praise.”
The reading of the gospel was followed by the sermon, which was usually an exposition of the gospel for the day, and was commonly constructed on a stereotyped plan. There was first the literal meaning of the text; second, its mystical or spiritual meaning; and third, its ethical meaning. Sometimes a fourth was added, the anagogical (elevated, mysterious) meaning; that is, its reference to Christ and the church in heaven. It need hardly be said that among the poetical and imaginative Celts preachers were popular in proportion to their originality in dealing with the second head. Some wrote and read their sermons, and others not only preached extempore, but impromptu. All, however, regarded the duty as a very solemn one, requiring the help of the Holy Spirit in an eminent degree. Macgregor gives the following anecdote in illustration of this: On one occasion Kenneth was at Iona and preached a most admirable sermon. When he was done, Columba said: “Kenneth, who taught you that sense in the gospel?” “The Son of the Virgin knows,” replied Kenneth, “that when I was on an island in Lough Cree, the Lord Jesus Christ himself came to me and taught me that sense in the gospel.” Columba himself had many similar experiences. One cannot but be deeply impressed with the vivid sense of the supernatural which these Celtic saints possessed. A superficial judgment sets it down to the credit of natural temperament, but seers have always been “mystics” to a cold and purblind church. The sermon was concluded with an ascription of praise, and a short extempore prayer to which there was a choral response, and for this the cue was given by some familiar phrase, such as “in secula seculorum,” or “per Christum Dominum nostrum.” In later times, but not until the eighth century, the Nicene Creed was sung after the sermon, on special occasions, but without the “filioque” clause. This was added still later when Romanising influences ultimately prevailed.
The part of the service called the “Offertory” followed the sermon. This is the point at which, in most liturgies, the elements are brought in. In the Eastern church the ceremony is one of much pomp and magnificence, and is called the “Great Entrance.” The “Little Entrance” is the procession at the beginning of the service when the gospels are laid on the altar. We have both still, but the “Little Entrance” is a very small one indeed the sexton has it all to himself usually, while in America at least we have abandoned the old Scottish custom of the minister and elders bringing in the elements after the sermon, while a psalm is being sung. The first act of the “Offertory” was the removal of the second veil from the elements, because it was said that now the gospels had been read, Christ was “born;” he was now fully revealed as incarnate, and the officiating presbyter took the chalice and paten in his hands and lifted them up to God, while the choir sang the “Sono,” a brief anthem on the words, “Offer unto God the sacrifice of thanksgiving,” with probably more of the same psalm. The act was evidently an expression of thanksgiving for the gift of Christ and the privilege of commemorating his incarnation. It also fulfilled the ritual of the institution in “taking” the elements, and so setting them apart to the sacred use intended. This first part of “the Action” has been preserved in the Church of Scotland with scrupulous care by those who perceived its significance. A rubric in the Book of Common Order enjoined it, and although it is not mentioned in our present Directory, it was always performed by the ministers of the Westminster period. Boston and others held that it represented the Father setting apart the Son to the office of Mediator. Sprott has a most interesting paragraph on this subject in his Worship and Offices of the Church of Scotland. He says that the custom began to be discontinued in the churches of Edinburgh about 1740, but has never entirely disappeared. I have seen a minister of the old school holding the cup and the bread in his hands during the consecration prayer, which was one way in which the primitive ritual was honoured. Those who cast contempt upon ancient customs because they are mingled in the Roman mass with unscriptural error, ought to remember that this action is entirely according to the “warrant” given us in the Epistle to the Corinthians.
The “Sono” is followed immediately by a “Hymn of Names,” in which the cantores recited the names of all entitled to communicate, of those for whom intercession was made, and of those of the faithful dead whom it was desired to commemorate. This was sung standing, for it was the act of the whole congregation. It indicates the view held in regard to the priestly functions of the laity. In this ordinance all were “priests,” and the “offering” was the corporate act of the congregation. The minister at the altar was a priest only because all God’s people were priests. He was but “first among equals.” His office derived its validity from the fact that it represented that of the whole church. At a synod convened by St. Patrick it was ordered that a bishop in the diocese of another shall “on the Lord’s day offer only by partaking,” i. e., as one of a company of “priests.” On one occasion Columba stopped the singers and ordered them to add the name of his old friend and classmate, Colman, of whose death in Ireland at that moment he had been supernaturally informed.
The “Offertory” was followed by the silent prayer of the celebrant and the collect “Ad pacem,” after which the people saluted each other, the sexes seated apart, with the “Kiss of peace,” or the ⳩”Pax.” This has a place in every ancient liturgy, and is founded upon the apostolic injunction, “Salute one another with a holy kiss;” but it is now replaced by a less oriental mode of expressing friendship. In the Roman order it is confined to the celebrant and assistant clergy. In the Anglican office it is omitted altogether. Other liturgies direct the communicants to bow to one another, or to clasp hands, and some are content with the versicle and response, “The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all;” “Amen.”
The ⳩ “Pax” was followed by the “Immolation,” or, as it is still called, “the Action,” i. e., actio gratiarum, or Eucharist. Amid absolute stillness and with the deepest reverence, the voice of the celebrant often trembling with emotion, the “Sursum Corda” was uttered in the usual form; “Up with your hearts.” ℟ “We hold them to the Lord.” ℣: “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” ℟ “It is meet and right.” Bede tells us in his life of St. Cuthbert that “while in the appointed order he was celebrating the mysteries of the Lord’s passion, he himself would imitate what he was doing, namely by sacrificing himself to God, in contrition of heart, and by raising his heart rather than his voice, by groaning rather than by singing, he would admonish the people present to hold up their hearts (Sursum Corda habere) and to give thanks to the Lord our God.” In the life of St. Kentigern it is said that he seemed to take “upon himself something divine and wholly superhuman,” and “while, with hands lifted up in the fashion of a cross, he said ‘Up with your hearts,’ as he admonished others to do, he held up his own to the Lord. The “Sursum Corda” is introduced at this point in all ancient liturgies, and is designed to draw away the thoughts of the worshipers from the material elements to the Redeemer in heaven, so that they may not think he is otherwise present than by the grace of his glorified humanity. It is a standing proof that the early church did not believe in a material and corporeal presence. The Reformers pressed this argument with unanswerable force, thus showing from the mass itself that transubstantiation was neither an apostolic nor a primitive belief.
The “Sursum Corda” was followed by the “Vere Dignum,” a general thanksgiving beginning with the words, “Verily it is meet and right that we should here, everywhere and always, give thanks unto Thee, O Lord,” and containing a detailed expression of the various blessings for which it was desired to show gratitude, passing, by a suitable reference to the heavenly host, into the “Ter Sanctus,” or, as it was called, “The Apocalypse.” This was always sung by the whole congregation, and the words are the same as are still in use, except that the word “whole” is introduced before “earth”-“the whole earth” is “full of thy glory.” As it closed the celebrant caught up and repeated its ascription of praise in such words as we find in the ” Stowe Missal”: “Truly holy, truly blessed, truly wonderful amongst his saints, our God Jesus Christ will himself give virtue and strength to his people; blessed be God whom we bless with his apostles and all his saints who were well pleasing to him from the first of time, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who the day before he suffered, etc.;” continuing the formula of consecration, probably in words similar to those in other usages. The prayer of consecration being ended, the celebrant took three steps backward, bowing thrice in token of the three ways in which man sins namely, in –thought, in word, and in deed– and as he does this the “Miserere” (Psalm 51) is sung by all kneeling, followed by absolute silence. This was strictly enjoined throughout the service, because it was necessary that the mind of the celebrant should be undisturbed. Not only was he guilty of “violating the spiritual order and of being unacceptable to God,” but the sharp discipline of the church awaited him, if he stammered, or inadvertently misplaced or mispronounced a word. Fifty lashes was the punishment for the first offense, a hundred for the second, and imprisonment on bread and water for the third. It is no wonder that he took care to write on the margin of his book opposite this prayer, doubtless in a bold hand and the blackest ink, the warning word “DANGER,”and called the passage “the perilous prayer.”
The supreme moment in the Roman mass is when the priest, having pronounced the mystic words, “Hoc est enim corpus meum,” elevates and adores the host. Then the congregation bows with a lowlier reverence, the great bell in the cathedral tower rings three times three, and all “good Catholics” within sound of it, making the sign of their faith, and repeat the “Angelus” prayer; for they believe that the miracle of the mass has again taken place and Christ has become incarnate on the altar. The Celtic church knew nothing of the doctrine of transubstantiation, and in it the central act was “the Great Oblation” which the minister, having returned to the altar, proceeded to offer. Taking in his hands the paten and chalice, now containing, of course in a sacramental sense, the body and blood of Christ, he elevates them toward God, and with face and eyes uplifted pleads on behalf of the church the merits of that atoning death therein set forth. “This,” says Macgregor, “was the culmination, and at once the most awful and the most joyful point of the liturgy. It was called immolating the Son to the Father, the outward act being the church’s expression of her trust in the Saviour as her only plea before God, and the supreme and all embracing mode of placing herself in line with Christ’s presentation in heaven of the sacrifice offered by him on the cross. While the solemn act was being performed, the doors of the temple above were opened, the invisible world became, as it were, visible to the worthy celebrant, the Holy Ghost in flames of spiritual fire fell upon the sacrifice, and floods of light, life, and blessing streamed into the souls of the believing people.” St. Patrick “very often became a contemplator of these sacred things of heaven, and beheld the Lord Jesus standing in the midst of a multitude of angels, and this he was privileged to see as often as he was immolating the Son to the Father or was devoutly singing the Apocalypse of John,” i. e., the “Ter Sanctus,” which preceded in the order of the office. Four brothers watching Columba celebrating at Iona saw a very luminous ball of fire over his head and a huge column of light streaming from it while he was performing the sacred mysteries. There are many references in Celtic writings to the play of emotion seen on the faces of those who officiated at “the Celebration.”
The consecrated elements were now prepared for distribution to the people. The method follows strikingly that of the Eastern church at the present day. The bread was broken into two parts (the “Fraction”), and, dipping the edge of one of them into the wine (the “Intinction”), the celebrant joined the two parts together (the “Conjunction”), and, while the choir sang an anthem (the “Confractorium”), he divided it into a number of parts, varying according to the occasion, and arranged them on the paten in the form of a Celtic cross, the upper part inclining, as in the Greek church, to the left, for it is said, “He bowed his head,” and tradition says that our Savior’s head rested on his right shoulder. The “Fraction” represented the “breaking” of Christ’s sacred body; the “Intinction,” the shedding of his blood upon the cross; the “Conjunction,” the restored perfection of his body after the resurrection.
The “Fraction” was followed by the Lord’s Prayer, prefaced by a brief collect and sung by all the people, but without the doxology or “Amen.” The celebrant followed the sixth petition immediately with the “Embolism,” or intercalated prayer for deliverance from the evil one, and all forms of evil. The wording of this prayer, like the similar one in eastern liturgies, varied very much. The general belief was that an unworthy minister would, to one who had sufficient spiritual discernment, betray his unfitness by the very tone of his voice. Says Macgregor, in his charming monograph on St. Columba:
On one of his tours of inspection, the saint came to Trevet. On the Lord’s day he and his company attended public worship in the church of that place. Listening attentively, he thought he detected something sinister in the tone or quality of the officiating clergyman’s voice. His suspicions deepened as the service proceeded, and at the end of the consecration prayer [when the celebrant says the “Sancta sanctis”] he startled the congregation by shouting, “Pure things with the impure are here seen to be conjoined, namely, the pure Mysteries of the Sacred Oblation handled by an impure man, who hides in his conscience a great crime.” All present were astonished at the severity of the judgment, for the priest was esteemed a very pious man, but the priest himself was so surprised and terrified that, falling on his knees, he confessed his wickedness.
The Lord’s Prayer was followed by the solemn sacramental benediction, “The peace and love of Jesus Christ our Lord and the communion of all his saints, be ever with you,” or some similar form, to which the people responded “Amen.” The benediction appears in various forms, and the response also changes. Immediately after the benediction a particle of the consecrated bread was placed in the chalice (the ” Commixtion “) with the words, as in the “Stowe Missal;” “The commixtion of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ our Lord be our salvation unto life everlasting;” “Amen.” The celebrant or, as he is called in the Gaelic tract referred to, the “Offerent” then partakes of the particle in the center of the cross, and distributes to the other communicants from the other parts according to a fixed rule. The upper part of the stem was given to bishops; the cross- beam on the left, to priests; the cross-beam on the right, to all subordinate grades; the lower stem, to anchorites; the portion of the circle in the upper left-hand angle, to true divinity students; the upper right-hand angle, to innocent children; the lower left-hand angle, to penitents; the lower right-hand angle, to married persons. It will be noticed that children were admitted to the communion. This was the primitive custom in the East, as seen by the Clementine Liturgy, but it also prevailed in Rome and Gaul. It was vehemently urged by St. Augustine as necessary to complete salvation. It was gradually discontinued. During “the Action,” a hymn was sung which still finds a place in modern hymnbooks:
Draw nigh and take the Body of the Lord,
And drink the holy Blood for you outpoured.
Understanding the terms in the sense intended by the Celtic church, a Presbyterian of today could sing the hymn with great delight. Its poetry and devotional fervour are of a high order. The “Agnus Dei” occupies this place in the Roman use, dating from the end of the seventh century. The sacrament was probably received standing, as in the Lutheran and German Reformed churches, and Warren says, in regard to the post- communion anthem found in the St. Gall MS and “Stowe Missal,” that “many of its expressions imply (perhaps simultaneous) communion in both kinds.” It is needless to mention that our modern practice of simultaneous communion seated in pews has no support from antiquity, where standing was the universal custom. During the administration appropriate anthems and psalms were sung, and devout persons were accustomed to breathe out fervent ejaculations such as the following, given by Macgregor from the life of St. Tressan:
Hail, our most blessed hope! Hail, our holy redemption! Hail, most holy Body of Christ! to me most precious, most dear above all gold and the topaz, and most sweet beyond honey and the honeycomb. Hail, most blessed Blood of Christ, given as the price of our redemption and in mercy poured forth for our sins. Hail, Jesu Christ, the Son of God! May thy power defend me from the snares of the old enemy; let not the prince of darkness meet me. I beseech thee that, as thy servant, I may appear the lowest in the rank of thy servants.
Written forms for such exercises were provided for the assistance of those who desired to use them by way of stirring up holy affections. A brief exhortation and prayer of thanksgiving followed, and the service closed with the benediction and the usual formula, “Missa acta est; ite in pace” (“Service is ended, depart in peace”).
There are several features in the worship of the Celtic church which are of peculiar interest to us as their spiritual children. It was not free from the incipient heresies of the time which afterwards became crystallised in the Roman “Missal” and “Breviary,” but it preserved, more than any other ancient national church, the spirit, the creed, and the ritual of sub-apostolic times. The doctrine of transubstantiation had not risen above the horizon of theological thought, hence the ingenuous and glowing language applied to the sacred elements must be taken altogether in a sacramental, and not a substantial or literal, sense. That the consecrated bread and wine were carried about, and sometimes were believed to act in a miraculous manner, arose from a heresy of Celtic imagination rather than one of theological dogma. The thought of the worshiper never rested upon the symbol, but “was lifted up to God.”
There is no special respect paid to the Virgin Mary. She ever retires behind the throne of her Son. In the calendar, January 18, was the commemoration of the “death of Jesus’ mother.” February 2 marked, not “the purification of the Virgin Mary,” but the “reception of Jesus into the temple.” On March 25 was celebrated “the incarnation of God instead of “the annunciation.” A prayer taken from one of the calendars that has survived is: “May the King, whom our sister bore, call us to the kingdom.” The “Ave Maria” was not used. Luke 1:28, 42, and 35 were sung as an antiphon to the “Magnificat,” but that is all. The heretical additions of the sixteenth century, in which the intercession of the Virgin is invoked, would not have been tolerated, for to our forefathers there was but “One Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus.”
The services were conducted with profound reverence and the worshipers took a hearty and intelligent part in them. The Gaelic tract which Macgregor has translated for us, and annotated with so much learning, was written for popular use, and shows that the Eucharist was to all a “reasonable” and eloquently edifying service. It exists in two manuscripts only, one dating from the end of the fourteenth century, and the other almost three hundred years earlier. A tract that was in circulation so long must have supplied a felt want very satisfactorily. We can rely upon it as reflecting the standard of popular theology. There is in it no trace of dead formalism, but every act of the service is shown to be instinct with living truth and calculated to illuminate the understanding and stir the affections. Woe to the Celtic worshiper who showed inattention to what was going on. His distraction was taken as a sure sign of his approaching end. He was marked as “a son of death.” Macgregor tells the following story from the life of St. Aid [ed. St. Aodhán]:
St. Aodhán privately informed Branduib king [ed. of the Uí Cheinnselaig of Leinster] then on a visit to him, that there was only one Son of Death (reprobate) in his congregation of 150 members, and that the unfortunate man would betray himself as usual, at the “celebration.” Accordingly after Terce, at the Lord’s Prayer, one man forgot to kneel. He had been driven from the chiefship of his clan some time previously, and now, on being interrogated, he excused his conduct by explaining that at the moment he had been thinking of his chiefship and of the probabilities of his restoration. Shortly afterwards he was actually restored to his former position, but he was strangled within a week, and so died unprepared for eternity.
It would be well if wandering thoughts were esteemed as great a sin still. The Celtic church was pre-eminently a praying church and loved to sing the inspired psalms. Its prayer-book was the Psalter. Singing psalms was believed to cleanse the soul, stir up faith that prevails with God, and bring the worshiper into a realising sense of his union with Christ. When St. Columba was about to pray for a divine interposition of an extra- ordinary character, he went down on his knees and recited the whole psalter three times. His prayer was answered as promptly as that of Daniel. St. Comgall was attacked by a horde of highland caterans, but, drawing his hood over his head, he sang, “O Lord, my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer” (likely Psalm 18), and his would-be murderers were not permitted to harm a hair of his head. “Something has just come into my heart,” said one of the labourers at Iona; “something has just now come into my heart. I know not what it is that makes me so glad that I do not feel the weight of the burden I am carrying.” “It is caused,” said another of the company, “by the prayers of our good pastor Columba, who, because he cannot be always with us in person, sends out his prayers to visit us with refreshment in the fields.”8 They were never weary with singing. By filling their minds with the thoughts of God they prepared themselves for the worship of the sanctuary.
Extempore prayer was freely employed. It, was quite permissible for the officiating clergyman to substitute a prayer of his own for that prescribed in the service-book, and the worth of prayer was gauged by the promptitude with which it was answered. It was dangerous for anyone to become drowsy or even to yawn in church. In a church founded by Finan the Leper (the Apostle of Deeside) anyone who became drowsy was “ducked in the waters of the neighbouring lake, because Finan said that his church was built for prayer, not for sleep.”9 The expression “to make a prayer” is common, and shows that devotions outside of the regular services of the church were quite spontaneous, and the gift of impromptu prayer had been cultivated.
The religion of our forefathers was full of exultant gladness over a completed redemption and a glorified Saviour. There was no prayer for the pope, and none to or for the dead, although the intercession of the saints in heaven was believed to be of great efficacy in sending down “showers of blessings.” Of purgatory they had never heard. They believed the blessed dead to be with Jesus, and awaiting the consummation of all things to enter into full and final blessedness. In a church so filled with evangelical piety and missionary zeal the eucharistic office was no mere form of words, but was promotive of the same exalted emotions as filled the soul of the pious Covenanter who ate the bread and drank the cup with simpler rites when in
“Wellwood’s dark moorland the standard of Zion.
All bloody and torn, ’mang the heather was lying.”
The following table will enable the reader to compare the Celtic liturgy with that of the primitive churches of European and African Christendom. The numbers correspond. The oriental characteristics of the Celtic ritual are probably due to the fact that all liturgical worship took its origin from Palestine and Asia Minor. Good authorities trace the genesis of the Scoto-Irish church from Egypt through Gaul.
|Plan of a Primitive Liturgy|| Order of the “Offering” |
in the Celtic Church
|—Service of the catechumens —|
|1. The preparatory prayers.|
2. The introit, or initial hymn.
3. The little entrance.
4. The trisagion.
5. The lections.
6. The prayers after gospels.
Dismissal of catechumens.
|8. Procession to the altar|
1. The confession.
Superposition and veiling
of the elements on the
2. The introit (“Gloria in
3. The prayers.
5. The lesson of the apostle.
The bigradual psalm.
The first unveiling.
5. The gospel, with sermon.
11. The Nicene Creed (after VII
7. The “Sono” and recitation
of the names.
The full unveiling.
9. The first elevation.
10. The kiss of peace.
|—Service of the faithful —||The Anaphora|
|7. The prayers for the faithful.|
8. The great entrance.
9. The offertory.
10. The kiss of peace.
11. The creed.
|12. The “Sursum Corda.” |
13. The “Dignum.”
14. The “Sanctus.”
15. The post-sanctus.
16. The “perilous” prayer.
18.} Jesus Christ
19. The Great Elevation.
28. The Confractorium.
24. The Lord’s Prayer.
25. The Embolismus.
27. The “Sancta sanctis.”
28. The Eucharistic
Benediction, and the
30. The Administration.
31. The post-communion, and
followed by the “Missa
acta est: ite in pace,” with
apostolic or other
|—The great eucharistic prayer—|
|12. The preface.|
13. The prayer of the Triumphal Hymn.
14. The Triumphal Hymn.
15. Commemoration of our Lord’s Life.
16. Commemoration of Institution.
|17. Words of Institution of the Bread.|
18. Words of Institution of the Wine.
19. Oblation of the Body and Blood.
20. Introductory prayer for the descent of the
21. Prayer for the sanctification of the
|—The great intercessory prayer—|
|22. General intercession for quick and dead.|
23. Prayer before the Lord’sPrayer.
24. The Lord’s Prayer.
25. The Embolismus.
|26. The prayer of inclination.|
27. The “Sancta sanctis.”
28. The Fraction, including Intinction,
Conjunction, and Arrangement.
29. The confession.
30. The communion.
31. The antidoron and prayer of
thanksgiving, followed by the dismissal.