History of the christian church



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The language of the mass was Greek in the Eastern, Latin in the Western church. The Latin was an unknown tongue to the barbarian races of Europe. It gradually went out of use among the descendants of the Romans, and gave place to the Romanic languages. But the papal church, sacrificing the interests of the people to the priesthood, and rational or spiritual worship9to external unity, retained the Latin language in the celebration of the mass to this day, as the sacred language of the church. The Council of Trent went so far as to put even the uninspired Latin Vulgate practically on an equality with the inspired Hebrew and Greek Scriptures .430


§ 93. The Sermon.

As the chief part of divine service was unintelligible to the people, it was all the more important to supplement it by preaching and catechetical instruction in the vernacular tongues. But this is the weak spot in the church of the middle ages.1

Pope Gregory I. preached occasionally with great earnestness, but few popes followed his example. It was the duty of bishops to preach, but they often neglected it. The Council of Clovesho, near London, which met in 747 under Cuthbert, archbishop of Canterbury, for the reformation of abuses, decreed that the bishops should annually visit their parishes, instruct and exhort the abbots and monks, and that all presbyters should be able to explain the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the mass, and the office of baptism to the people in the vernacular.2 A Synod of Tours, held in the year 813, and a Synod of Mainz, held under Rabanus Maurus in 847, decreed that every bishop should have a collection of homilies and translate them clearly "in rusticam Romanam linguam aut Theotiscam, i.e. into French (Romance) or German," "in order that all may understand them." 433

The great majority of priests were too ignorant to prepare a sermon, and barely understood the Latin liturgical forms. A Synod of Aix, 802, prescribed that they should learn the Athanasian and Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer with exposition, the Sacramentarium or canon of the mass, the formula of exorcism, the commendatio animae, the Penitential, the Calendar and the Roman cantus; they should learn to understand the homilies for Sundays and holy days as models of preaching, and read the pastoral theology of Pope Gregory. This was the sum and substance of clerical learning.4 The study of the Greek Testament and the Hebrew Scriptures was out of the question, and there was hardly a Western bishop or pope in the middle ages who was able to study the divine oracles in the original.

The best, therefore, that the priests and deacons, and even most of the bishops could do was to read the sermons of the fathers. Augustin had given this advice to those who were not skilled in composition. It became a recognized practice in France and England. Hence the collection of homilies, called Homiliaria, for the Gospels and Epistles of Sundays and holy days. They are mostly patristic compilations. Bede’s collection, called Homilice de Tempore, contains thirty-three homilies for the summer, fifteen for the winter, twenty-two for Lent, besides sermons on saints’ days. Charlemagne commissioned Paulus Diaconus or Paul Warnefrid (a monk of Monte Cassino and one of his chaplains, the historian of the Lombards, and writer of poems on saints) to prepare a Homiliarium (or Omiliarius) about a.d. 780, and recommended it for adoption in the churches of France. It follows the order of Sundays and festivals, is based on the text of the Vulgate, and continued in use more or less for several centuries. 435 Other collections were made in later times, and even the Reformed church of England under Edward VI. and Queen Elizabeth found it necessary to provide ignorant clergymen with two Books of Homilies adapted to the doctrines of the Reformation.

In this connection we must allude again to the poetic reproductions of the Bible history, namely, the divine epos of Caedmon, the Northumbrian monk (680), the Saxon Heliand" (Heiland, i.e. Saviour, about 880), and the "Christ" or Gospel Harmony of Otfrid (a pupil of Rabanus Maurus, about 870). These works were effective popular sermons on the history of redemption, and are at the same time the most valuable remains of the Anglo-Saxon and old high German dialects of the Teutonic language. 436

It was, however, not till the Reformation of the sixteenth century that the sermon and the didactic element were restored and fully recognized in their dignity and importance as regular and essential parts of public worship. I say, worship, for to expound the oracles of God, and devoutly to listen to such exposition is or ought to be worship both on the part of the preacher and on the part of the hearer, as well as praying and singing.
§ 94. Church Poetry. Greek Hymns and Hymnists.
See the Lit. in vol. III. § 113 (p. 575 sq.) and § 114 (p. 578), and add the following:

Cardinal Pitra: Hymnographie de l’église grecque. Rome 1867. By the same: Analecta Sacra Spicilegio Solesmensi parata, T. I. Par. 1876.



Wilhelm Christ et M. Paranikas: Anthologia Graeca carminum Christianorum. Lips. 1871. CXLIV and 268 pages. The Greek text with learned Prolegomena in Latin. Christ was aided by Paranikas, a member of the Greek church. Comp. Christ: Beiträge zur kirchlichen Literatur der Byzantiner. München 1870.

[?]. L. Jacobi (Prof. of Church Hist. in Halle): Zur Geschichte der griechischen Kirchenliedes (a review of Pitra’s Analecta), in Brieger’s "Zeitschrift für Kirchengesch., "vol. V. Heft 2, p. 177–250 (Gotha 1881).

For a small selection of Greek hymns in the original see the third volume of Daniel’s Thesaurus Hymnologicus (1855), and Bässler’s Auswahl altchristlicher Lieder (1858), p. 153–166.

For English versions see especially J. M. Neale: Hymns of the Eastern Church (Lond. 1862, third ed. 1866, 159 pages; new ed. 1876, in larger print 250 pages); also Schaff: Christ in Song (1869), which gives versions of 14 Greek (and 73 Latin) hymns. German translations in Bässler, l.c. p. 3–25.

[Syrian Hymnology. To the lit. mentioned vol. III. 580 add: Gust. Bickell: S. Ephraemi Syri Carmina Nisibena, additis prolegomenis et supplemento lexicorum syriacorum edidit, vertit, explicavit. Lips.] 1866. Carl Macke: Hymnen aus dem Zweiströmeland. Dichtungen des heil. Ephrem des Syrers aus dem syr. Urtext in’s Deutsche übertragen, etc. Mainz 1882. 270 pages. Macke is a pupil of Bickell and a successor of Zingerle as translator of Syrian church poetry.]

The general church histories mostly neglect or ignore hymnology, which is the best reflection of Christian life and worship.


The classical period of Greek church poetry extends from about 650 to 820, and nearly coincides with the iconoclastic controversy. The enthusiasm for the worship of saints and images kindled a poetic inspiration, and the chief advocates of that worship were also the chief hymnists.7 Their memory is kept sacred in the Eastern church. Their works are incorporated in the ritual books, especially the Menaea, which contain in twelve volumes (one for each month) the daily devotions and correspond to the Latin Breviary. 438 Many are still unpublished and preserved in convent libraries. They celebrate the holy Trinity and the Incarnation, the great festivals, and especially also the Virgin Mary, the saints and martyrs, and sacred icons.

The Greek church poetry is not metrical and rhymed, but written in rhythmical prose for chanting, like the Psalms, the hymns of the New Testament, the Gloria in Excelsis and the Te Deum. The older hymnists were also melodists and composed the music. 439 The stanzas are called troparia; 440the first troparion is named hirmos, because it strikes the tune and draws the others after it. 441 Three or more stanzas form an ode; three little odes are a triodion; nine odes or three triodia form a canon. The odes usually end with a doxology (doxa) and a stanza in praise of Mary the Mother of God (theotokion). 442 A hymn with a tune of its own is called an idiomelon. 443

This poetry fills, according to Neale, more than nine tenths or four fifths of the Greek service books. It has been heretofore very little known and appreciated in the West, but is now made accessible.4 It contains some precious gems of genuine Christian hymns, buried in a vast mass of monotonous, bombastic and tasteless laudations of unknown confessors and martyrs, and wonder-working images. 445

The Greek church poetry begins properly with the anonymous but universally accepted and truly immortal Gloria in Excelsis of the third century.6 The poems of Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 390), and Synesius of Cyrene (d. about 414), who used the ordinary classical measures, are not adapted and were not intended for public worship. 447

The first hymnist of the Byzantine period, is Anatolius patriarch of Constantinople (d. about 458). He struck out the new path of harmonious prose, and may be compared to Venantius Fortunatus in the West.8

We now proceed to the classical period of Greek church poetry.

In the front rank of Greek hymnists stands St. John Of Damascus, surnamed Mansur (d. in extreme old age about 780). He is the greatest systematic theologian of the Eastern church and chief champion of image-worship against iconoclasm under the reigns of Leo the Isaurian (717–741), and Constantinus Copronymus (741–775). He spent a part of his life in the convent of Mar Sâba (or St. Sabas) in the desolate valley of the Kedron, between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.9 He was thought to have been especially inspired by the Virgin Mary, the patron of that Convent, to consecrate his muse to the praise of Christ. He wrote a great part of the Octoechus, which contains the Sunday services of the Eastern church. His canon for Easter Day is called "the golden Canon" or "the queen of Canons," and is sung at midnight before Easter, beginning with the shout of joy, "Christ is risen," and the response, "Christ is risen indeed." His memory is celebrated December 4. 450

Next to him, and as melodist even above him in the estimation of the Byzantine writers, is St. Cosmas Of Jerusalem, called the Melodist. He is, as Neale says, "the most learned of the Greek poets, and the Oriental Adam of St. Victor." Cosmas and John of Damascus were foster-brothers, friends and fellow-monks at Mar Sâba, and corrected each other’s compositions. Cosmas was against his will consecrated bishop of Maiuma near Gaza in Southern Palestine, by John, patriarch of Jerusalem. He died about 760 and is commemorated on the 14th of October. The stichos prefixed to his life says:


"Where perfect sweetness dwells, is Cosmas gone;

But his sweet lays to cheer the church live on."1


The third rank is occupied by St. Theophanes, surnamed the Branded,2one of the most fruitful poets. He attended the second Council of Nicaea (787). During the reign of Leo the Arminian (813) he suffered imprisonment, banishment and mutilation for his devotion to the Icons, and died about 820. His "Chronography" is one of the chief sources for the history of the image-controversy. 453

The following specimen from Adam’s lament of his fall is interesting:


"Adam sat right against the Eastern gate,

By many a storm of sad remembrance tost:

O me! so ruined by the serpent’s hate!

O me! so glorious once, and now so lost!

So mad that bitter lot to choose!

Beguil’d of all I had to lose!

Must I then, gladness of my eyes, —

Must I then leave thee, Paradise,

And as an exile go?

And must I never cease to grieve

How once my God, at cool of eve,

Came down to walk below?

O Merciful! on Thee I call:

O Pitiful! forgive my fall!"


The other Byzantine hymnists who preceded or succeeded those three masters, are the following. Their chronology is mostly uncertain or disputed.

Sergius, patriarch of Constantinople in the reign of Heracleus (610–641), figures in the beginning of the Monotheletic controversy, and probably suggested the union formula to that emperor. He is supposed by Christ to be the author of a famous and favorite hymn Akathistos, in praise of Mary as the deliverer of Constantinople from the siege of the Persians (630), but it is usually ascribed to Georgius Pisida.4

Sophronius, patriarch of Jerusalem (629), celebrated in Anacreontic metres the praises of Christ, the apostles, and martyrs, and wrote idiomela with music for the church service 5

Maximus The Confessor (580–662), the leader and martyr of the orthodox dyotheletic doctrine in the Monotheletic controversy, one of the profoundest divines and mystics of the Eastern Church, wrote a few hymns.6

Germanus (634–734), bishop of Cyzicus, then patriarch of Constantinople (715), was deposed, 730, for refusing to comply with the iconoclastic edicts of the Emperor Leo the Isaurian (717–741), and died in private life, aged about one hundred years. He is "regarded by the Greeks as one of their most glorious Confessors" (Neale). Among his few poetical compositions are stanzas on Symeon the Stylite, on the prophet Elijah, on the Decollation of John the Baptist, and a canon on the wonder-working Image in Edessa.7

Andrew Of Crete (660–732) was born at Damascus, became monk at Jerusalem, deacon at Constantinople, archbishop of Crete, took part in the Monotheletic Synod of 712, but afterwards returned to orthodoxy. In view of this change and his advocacy of the images, he was numbered among the saints. He is regarded as the inventor of the Canons. His "Great Canon" is sung right through on the Thursday of Mid-Lent week, which is called from that hymn. It is a confession of sin and an invocation of divine mercy. It contains no less than two hundred and fifty (Neale says, three hundred) stanzas.8

John of Damascus reduced the unreasonable length of the canons.

Another Andrew, called jAndreva" Puro" or Purrov", is credited with eight idiomela in the Menaea, from which Christ has selected the praise of Peter and Paul as the best.9

Stephen The Sabaite (725–794) was a nephew of John of Damascus, and spent fifty-nine years in the convent of Mar Sâba, which is pitched, like an eagle’s nest, on the wild rocks of the Kedron valley. He is commemorated on the 13th of July. He struck the key-note of Neale’s exquisite hymn of comfort, "Art thou weary," which is found in some editions of the Octoechus. He is the inspirer rather than the author of that hymn, which is worthy of a place in every book of devotional poetry.0

Romanus, deacon in Berytus, afterwards priest in Constantinople, is one of the most original and fruitful among the older poets. Petra ascribes to him twenty-five hymns. He assigned him to the reign of Anastasius I. (491–518), but Christ to the reign of Anastasius II. (713–719), and Jacobi with greater probability to the time of Constantinus Pogonatus (681–685).1

Theodore Of The Studium (a celebrated convent near Constantinople) is distinguished for his sufferings in the iconoclastic controversy, and died in exile, 826, on the eleventh of November. He wrote canons for Lent and odes for the festivals of saints. The spirited canon on Sunday of Orthodoxy in celebration of the final triumph of image-worship in 842, is ascribed to him, but must be of later date as he died before that victory.2

Joseph Of The Studium, a brother of Theodore, and monk of that convent, afterwards Archbishop of Thessalonica (hence also called Thessalonicensis), died in prison in consequence of tortures inflicted on him by order of the Emperor Theophilus (829–842). He is sometimes confounded (even by Neale) with Joseph Hymnographus; but they are distinguished by Nicephorus and commemorated on different days.3

Theoctistus Of The Studium (about 890) is the author of a "Suppliant Canon to Jesus," the only thing known of him, but the sweetest Jesus-hymn of the Greek Church.4

Joseph, called Hymnographus (880), is the most prolific, most bombastic, and most tedious of Greek hymn-writers. He was a Sicilian by birth, at last superintendent of sacred vessels in a church at Constantinople. He was a friend of Photius, and followed him into exile. He is credited with a very large number of canons in the Mencaea and the Octoechus.5

Tarasius, patriarch of Constantinople (784), was the chief mover in the restoration of Icons and the second Council of Nicaea (787). He died Feb. 25, 806. His hymns are Unimportant.6

EUTHYMIUS, usually known as Syngelus or Syncellus (died about 910), is the author of a penitential canon to the Virgin Mary, which is much esteemed in the East.7



Elias, bishop of Jerusalem about 761, and Orestes, bishop of the same city, 996–1012, have been brought to light as poets by the researches of Pitra from the libraries of Grotta Ferrata, and other convents.

In addition to these may be mentioned Methodius (846)8Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 891), Metrophanes of Smyrna (900), Leo VI., or the Philosopher, who troubled the Eastern Church by a fourth marriage (886–917), Symeon Metaphrastes (Secretary and Chancellor of the Imperial Court at Constantinople, about 900), Kasias, Nilus Xanthopulus, Joannes Geometra, and Mauropus (1060). With the last the Greek hymnody well nigh ceased. A considerable number of hymns cannot be traced to a known author. 469

We give in conclusion the best specimens of Greek hymnody as reproduced and adapted to modern use by Dr. Neale.
Tis the Day of Resurrection.
( jAnastavsew" hJmevra.)
By St. John of Damascus.
’Tis the Day of Resurrection,
Earth, tell it out abroad!

The Passover of gladness,


The Passover of God!

From death to life eternal,


From earth unto the sky,

Our Christ hath brought us over,


With hymns of victory.
Our hearts be pure from evil,
That we may see aright

The Lord in rays eternal


Of resurrection light:

And, listening to His accents,


May hear, so calm and plain,

His own "All hail!"—and hearing,


May raise the victor strain.
Now let the heavens be!
Let earth her song begin!

Let the round world keep triumph,


And all that is therein:

In grateful exultation


Their notes let all things blend,

For Christ the Lord hath risen,


Our joy that hath no end.
––––––––––
Jesu, name all names above.

Ihsou' glukuvtate.)


By St. Theoctistus of the Studium.
Jesu, name all names above,
Jesu, best and dearest,

Jesu, Fount of perfect love,


Holiest, tenderest, nearest!

Jesu, source of grace completest,

Jesu truest, Jesu sweetest,
Jesu, Well of power divine,
Make me, keep me, seal me Thine!

Jesu, open me the gate


Which the sinner entered,

Who in his last dying state


Wholly on Thee ventured.

Thou whose wounds are ever pleading,

And Thy passion interceding,
From my misery let me rise
To a home in Paradise!
Thou didst call the prodigal;
Thou didst pardon Mary:

Thou whose words can never fall


Love can never vary,

Lord, amidst my lost condition

Give—for Thou canst give—contrition!
Thou canst pardon all mine ill
If Thou wilt: O say, "I will!"
Woe, that I have turned aside
After fleshly pleasure!

Woe, that I have never tried


For the heavenly treasure!

Treasure, safe in homes supernal;

Incorruptible, eternal!
Treasure no less price hath won
Than the Passion of the Son!
Jesu, crowned with thorns for me,
Scourged for my transgression!

Witnessing, through agony,


That Thy good confession;

Jesu, clad in purple raiment,

For my evils making payment;
Let not all thy woe and pain,
Let not Calvary be in vain!
When I reach Death’s bitter sea,
And its waves roll higher,

Help the more forsaking me,


As the storm draws nigher:

Jesu, leave me not to languish,

Helpless, hopeless, full of anguish!
Tell me,—"Verily, I say,
Thou shalt be with me to-day!"

Art thou weary?

(Kovpon te kai; kavmaton.)


By St. Stephen The Sabaite.
Art thou weary, art thou languid,
Art thou sore distrest?

"Come to me"—saith One—"and coming


Be at rest!"
Hath He marks to lead me to Him,
If He be my Guide?

"In His feet and hands are wound-prints,


And His side."
Is there diadem, as Monarch,
That His brow adorns?

"Yea, a crown in very surety,


But of thorns!"
If I find Him, if I follow,
What His guerdon here?

"Many a sorrow, many a labor,


Many a tear."
If I still hold closely to Him,
What hath He at last?

Sorrow vanquished, labor ended,


Jordan past!"
If I ask Him to receive me,
Will He say me nay?

Not till earth, and not till heaven


Pass away!"
Finding, following, keeping, struggling
Is He sure to bless?

Angels, martyrs, prophets, virgins,


Answer, Yes!"

§ 95. Latin Hymnody. Literature.
See vol. III. 585 sqq. The following list covers the whole mediaeval period of Latin hymnody.
I. Latin Collections.

The Breviaries and Missals. The hymnological collections of Clichtovaeus (Paris 1515, Bas. 1517 and 1519.), Cassander (Col. 1556), Ellinger (Frankf. a. M. 1578), Georg Fabricius (Poetarum Veterum ecclesiasticorum Opera, Bas. 1564). See the full titles of Breviaries and these older collections in Daniel, vol. I. XIII-XXII. and vol. II. VIII-XIV.

Cardinal Jos. Maria Thomasius (Tomasi, 1649–1713, one of the chief expounders of the liturgy and ceremonies of the Roman church): Opera Omnia. Rom. 1741 sqq., 7 vols. The second volume, p. 351–403, contains the Hymnarium de anni circulo, etc., for which he compared the oldest Vatican and other Italian MSS. of hymns down to the eighth century. The same vol. includes the Breviarium Psalterii. The fourth (1749) contains the Responsorialia et antiphonaria Romanae ecclesia, and the sixth vol. (1751) a collection of Missals. Thomasius is still very valuable. Daniel calls his book "fons primarius."

Aug. Jak. Rambach (Luth. Pastor in Hamburg, b. 1777, d. 1851): Anthologie christlicher Gesänge aus alien Jahrh. der christl. Kirche. Altona and Leipzig 1817–1833, 6 vols. The first vol. contains Latin hymns with German translations and notes. The other volumes contain only German hymns, especially since the Reformation. Rambach was a pioneer in hymnology.

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