Note, that the Collect appointed for every Sunday, or for any Holy-day that hath a Vigil or Eve, shall be said at the Evening Service next before.
THe Antiquity of Lent is plain by these Testimonies following. Chrysol. Ser. 11. Chrys. in Heb. 10. 9. Ethic. Cyril. Catech. 5. August. Ep. 119. [Vt quadraginta dies ante Pascha observenter Ecclesiae consuetudo roboravit, That forty days should be observed before Easter, the custome of the Church hath confirmed, Hieron. ad Marcellam. Nos unam quadragemam toto anno, tempore congruo jejunamus, secundum traditionem Apostolorum, &c. One Fast in the year of forty days we keep at a time convenient, according to the Tradition of the Apostles.]
Epiphanius adv. Aerium, tells us, that the Aerians were the most brain-sick Hereticks that ever were; for they held that Bishops and Priests were all one; that Presbyters might ordain Presbyters, besides, they held that they were not bound to keep Lent, and the holy week, as holy Churches laws required, but would then feast and drink drunk in spite, saying, that it was against Christian liberty to be tyed to Fast.
This forty days Fast of Lent was taken up by holy Church in imitation of Moses and Elias in the old Testament; but principally, in imitation of our Saviours Fast in the New Testament, Augustin. ep. 119. That we might, as far as we are able, conform to Christs practice, and suffer with him here, that we may reign with him hereafter.
But if this Fast were taken up in imitation of our Saviour; it may be asked, why we do not keep it at the same time that he did, who fasted immediately after his Baptism. S. Matt. 4. 1. which was at Epiphany; whereas our Fast begins not till some weeks after?
For answer of this, many reasons may be given, why now, rather than at that time we keep our Lent.
This Fast is called Lent from the time of the year in which it is kept, for Lent in the Saxon Language is Spring. The Spring-Fast, or Lent.
THough the Church be always militant while she is upon Earth, yet at this time (the time when Kings go out to battel, 2 Sam. 11.) she is more than ordinary militant, going out to fight against her avowed enemies, the World, the Flesh and the Devil, making it her especial business to get the mastery over them, so far, that they may not be able to prevail over her the year following. Now because (as S. Paul saith 1 Cor. 9. 25.) Every one that strives for mastery is temperate in all things; therefore at this time especially, when she is seeking the mastery over her Enemies, holy Church does more than ordinary addict her self to temperance, fasting and other works of Penance and Mortification: and accordingly she suits her Readings, not aiming to fit them to each particular day (this is to be expected only upon priviledged days, the subject matter of whose solemnity is more particularly recorded in holy Scripture) but to the Season in general and the Churches design at this time, commending to us Fasting, Repentance, Alms, Charity and Patience in undergoing such voluntary afflictions. And the Collects are suitable also to the Readings and the time, praying earnestly for those Graces and Vertues before mentioned, which are especially requisite to this her holy undertaking. And because she knows her own weakness and her Enemies both craft and strength, who will then be most active and busie to hurt when we thus set our selves to fight against them, therefore does she earnestly and frequently also in divers Collects pray for Gods protection and defence from those Enemies, for his strength and assistance whereby she may overcome them, That he would stretch forth the right hand of his Majesty, and by his power defend us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls, which of our selves have no power to help our selves. And in such prayers as these the Church continues, lifting up her hands (as Moses did his against the Amalekites) all the time of this spiritual conflict.
Instituted it was by Gregory the Great; the occasion this, Lent commencing, according to the former mode, on the Sunday after Quinquagesima, lasted six weeks, or forty days; from these subtract six Sundays which were never to be fasted, there remained thirty-six Lenten days, the just tenth of the year, abating the fraction of five days: for divide 360 by 10, the quotient will be 36. So then, God by this observation received from the Christians a tenth as well of their time as of their fruits ; this was one design of Lent’s original.
Now St. Gregory, that the Church’s practice might be more agreeable to the great exemplar of our Saviour’s forty days’ (the quotient observed by Moses and Elias) abstinence in the wilderness, added these four days to complete the number of forty days. But though by this rule the Church conformed nigher to the pattern of our Saviour, as to the number of forty, yet in the appointment of that time she varied from His copy, Christ fasting immediately after His baptism, she fasting before baptism: and great reason had she so to do: there were in those days many persons adult of full growth, who became converts to Christianity, and had besides original, many actual sins to account for: these could not be cleansed by the water of baptism, unless they were first rinsed in the water of contrition, therefore to these repentance was as necessary a requisite before baptism as faith ; for as St. Basil saith excellently, δεῖ τοῦς πιστεύοντας τῷ κυpl μετανοήσαι πρῶτον, “ repentance must lead the way to faith ;’ whereas our Saviour being without sin, had no need of repentance to precede His baptism. In this respect this quadragesimal fast (whose chief end is humiliation and repentance) was very aptly premised before Easter (the grand time designed for that Sacrament) as a preparation to it.
And not in this respect alone, but in several others, for at that great solemnity penitents were to be restored to a nearer communion with the faithful, did they shew any evident signs of godly sorrow or contrition, which the scleragogy, and hard treatment of so long a time of fasting and humiliation was most like to create. And as penitents were at that time to be reconciled to the faithful, so were the faithful then also more than ordinary to be reconciled to God, Easter being the most solemn time allotted for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper: whereof the Jewish passover was a type.
As for the first institution, uncertain it is from whom to derive it. St. Jerome ascends to Apostolical tradition; nos unam quadragesimam toto anno jejunamus secundum traditionem apostolicam: ‘we observe in the whole year one quadragesimal fast, according to Apostolical tradition.” Not strictly so, I conceive, but according to the latitude of the language or conception of those times, wherein the same Jerome tells us, wnagueque provincia precepta majorum leges apostolicas arbitratur : “every province accounts the precepts of their ancestors as Apostolical ordinances.” But though its derivation possibly will not reach so far, yet considering that Origen, Tertullian, and the council of Laodicea, mention it, it must be allowed for very ancient.
For the manner how it was in general observed, (leaving particular days to be spoken to in their proper order,) the council of Laodicea informs us of these four particulars. First, ὁτὶ οὐ δεῖ τῇ τεσσαρακοστῇ ἄρτον προσφέρειν, εἰ μὴ ἐν σαββάτῳ καὶ κυριακῇ μόνον : “that no consecration of the Sacrament be made in Lent, but only on the Sabbath and Lord’s day.” This was done upon this account : the consecration of the bread and wine was, as those fathers supposed, an action more properly allied to the nature of a festival than of a fast ; and it being the custom at that time to receive the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper every day, that there might be wherewith to supply the concernments of that service, and also for a viaticum to penitents and others in their fatal last, it was thought meet that upon the Sabbaths and Lord’s days there should be consecrated such a surplusage to be reserved as might be sufficient for those intents; which consecrated elements, so received, were called προηγιασμένα, “ fore-consecrated.” By this canon the different, nay contrary customs of the East and West, may be observed ; the first keeping the Sabbath as a festival, the second as a fast; yea, the Trullan council, magisterially enough, decreeth that the sixty-fifth canon of the Apostles, which is penal to all such as fast on the Sabbath day, shall be of force ἐν τῇ ‘Papalwv ἐκκλησίᾳβ ; “in the very Church of Rome herself.” For which cause, saith Balsamon, that Church doth disclaim this for an ecumenical council.
The second particular is', ὅτε δεῖ πᾶσαν τὴν τεσσαρᾳκοστὴν νηστεύειν ξηροφαγοῦντας, “that it is meet to fast all Lent, eating dry meats.”” These dry meats, we may safely presume, were bread, water, and salt, for so Epiphanius deciphereth them at the end of his Panarium ; if so, it may be positively concluded that wine, white-meats, oil, and fish, as well as flesh, were within the interdict of the ancient abstinence.
The third is, ὅτε ob δεῖ ἐν τεσσαρακοστῇ μαρτύρων γενέθλιον ἐπιτελεῖν, GANA τῶν ἁγίων μαρτύρων μνείαν ποιεῖν ἐν τοῖς σαββάτοις καὶ κυριακαῖς, “that the birthdays of the holy martyrs be not celebrated in Lent, but that their commemoration be transferred to the Sabbaths and Lord’s days ;” whether this was extended to all other festivals, as well as the birthdays of martyrs, I cannot say; sure I am, the day τοῦ εὐωγγελισμοῦ, “of the Annunciation,” which always falls in Lent, was observed under the sixth general! council.
The last, ὅτι οὐ δεῖ ἐν τεσσαρακοστῇ γάμους ἢ γενέθλια ἐπιτελεῖν, “that there must no marriages nor birthdays be celebrated during the time of Lent.”
At what hour this fast was to determine, and when the people were to take their repast, this synod hath no decree ; in which point I observe in the primitive Church a diversity between the Quadragesimal, the Lent fast, and that of Wednesdays and Fridays. The Lent, as all extraordinary and high fasts, were protended and reached to the evening thereof: eapectas vesperam ut cibum capias, saith Basil, of Lent fast; “thou waitest for the evening that thou mayest refresh thyself.” The weekly fast determined at the ninth hour, or three in the afternoon; δι’ ὅλου τοῦ ἔτους ἡ νηστεία φυλάττεται τετράδι Kal πρωσαββάτῳ ews ὥρας evvarhs, saith Epiphanius; “ all the year long, and Wednesdays and Fridays, they brake not their fasts until three in the afternoon.” But this distinction was not entertained in the Catholic Church, until after Tertullian’s time; for writing against the orthodox party as a Montanist, he tells them they continued their fasts but to the ninth hour, whereas his brethren of the discipline of Montanus protracted theirs to the evening.
THe Church begins her Lent this day to supply the Sundays in Lent, upon which it was not the Churches custome to fast, Sundays being high Festivals in memory of our Saviours joyful Resurrection. Now if you take out of the six weeks of Lent, Six Sundays, there will remain but thirty six Fasting-days; to which, these four of this week, being added, make the just number of forty.This was anciently call'd Caput jejunii, the Head of Lent, and was a day of extraordinary humiliation. Upon this day were Ashes sprinkled upon their heads, to mind them of their mortality and also to mind them what they had deserved to be, namely, burnt to Ashes.
Hence was it call'd [Dies cinerum,] ASH-WEDNESDAY: and upon this day they were wont to cloath themselves in Sackcloth. These rites are mentioned Esay 58. 5. as the usual rites of penitents. This was common to all penitents. But notorious sinners were this day put to open penance. Which godly discipline, saies our Church [in her office of Commination] it is much to be wished that it might be restored again. Now that we may know what it is the Church wishes there; it will not be amiss to set down in part the solemnity used upon those sinners at this time, which was ordered thus.
Let all notorious sinners who have been already, or are now to be enjoyned publick penance, this day present themselves before the Church doors to the Bishop of the place, cloathed in sackcloth, barefooted, with eyes cast down upon the ground, professing thus by their habit and countenance, their guilt. There must be present the Deans or Arch-Presbyters, and the publick penitentiaries, whose office is to examine the lives of these penitents, and according to the degree of their sin to apportion their penance, according to the usual degrees of penance. After this, let them bring the penitents into the Church, and, with all the Clergy present, let the Bishop sing the seven penitential Psalms, prostrate upon the ground, with tears for their Absolution. Then the Bishop arising from prayer, according to the Canons, let him lay his hand upon them (that is, to ratifie their penance, not to absolve them) let him sprinkle ashes upon their head, and cover them with sackcloth: and with frequent sighs and sobs, let him denounce to them; that as Adam was cast out of Paradise, so are they cast out of the Church for their sins. After this, let the Bishop command the Officers to drive them out of the Church-doors, the Clergy following them with this Respond, In the sweat of thy brows shalt thou eat thy bread: that these poor sinners seeing holy Church afflicted thus, and disquieted for their sins may be sensible of their penance, Gratian, dist. 50. c. 64.
I. Ash-Wednesday and Lent.] Ash-Wednesday hath in antiquity two names. First, it is called dies cinerum, in reference to the penitents (whereof more under the title of Commination) who were this day sprinkled with dust and ashes. Secondly, caput jejunii, ‘the top of the fast,” or first day of Lent.
This Collect is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.
The Epistle exhorts to patience in afflictions. The Gospel reads to us Christs victory over temptations, to keep us from despair of conquest, that we should be of good cheer and heart, since he our Captain hath overcome the world. S. John 16. v. last. The Collect for the day is another of those Collects wherein the Church directs her Petitions to Christ, thereby manifesting her belief that he is the true Son of God, for she prayes to none but God; in praying to him therefore she professes to believe him to be God, as it is in the close of the Collect; and this in opposition to the Tempter Satan and all his Adherents, who are still tempting Christ in his Members, to misbelief in that Article.
The Epistle perswades to temperance and abstinence from all uncleanness. The Gospel tells us how we may subdue that Devil, namely, by stedfast faith and fervent and importunate prayer.
The Epistle, as the time, calls for strictness of life. The Gospel commends perseverance shewing the danger of relapsing, For the end of that man is worse than the beginning.
This is called Dominica Refectionis. For the Gospel tells us of Christs miraculous feeding and satisfying the hungry souls, that hunger after him and his doctrine: and the Epistle tells us of a Ierusalem which is above, which is free, and a joyous place, to which, we as children, are heirs. Thus holy Church mixes joy and comfort without sorrows and afflictions.
This is called PASSION-SUNDAY. For now begins the commemoration of the Passion of our Lord, and after a long funeral pomp and train, the corps follows upon Good Friday.
The Epistle treats of the Passion. The Gospel, of our Lords being slandred by the bold malice of the Jews, who call him Samaritan, and tell him he hath a Devil, which must needs be a thorn in his side, and a part of his Passion.
This is PALM-SUNDAY on which CHRIST came from Bethany to Ierusalem, and was received with joy, some strewing their garments, others cutting down branches, and strewing them in the way; whose religion it is fit that we should imitate: Bernard [We should meet Christ by keeping innocency; bear Olive, by doing works of mercy; carry Palms, by conquering the Devil and our vices; green leaves and flowers we carry, if we be adorned with vertues; and we strew our garments in the way, when by mortification we put off the old man.]
This week was called of old, the GREAT-WEEK, because it hath a larger Service than any other Week, every day having a Second-service appointed. It was called also the Holy-week, because men gave over all worldly employments, and betook themselves wholly to devotion this week. The Courts were shut up, and civil affairs laid aside, and prisoners that were put in for small faults were freed. Chrys. Hom. 30. in 10. cap. Gen. Code. l. 1. tit. 4. 3.
It was also called the week of Fasts; Because fasting was then heightned and intended with watchings and prayers: for these six dayes were spent in lying upon the ground and afflicting the body, in prayers, watchings and fastings longer than ordinary. And when they did eat, their refreshing was only bread, fast and water. Epiphan. adv. Aerium. It will not be amiss to set down Epiphanius somewhat more at large: [Aerius and his disciples had flouted at the Catholick Christians severities at this time. Why, say they, do you keep Easter? why do you keep such a strict fast before it? it is Iewish thus to keep daies of fasting by a law: it is an enslaving your selves to a yoke of bondage: if I would determine to fast at all, I would fast what day I pleased, at mine own liberty. Upon this principle it is, saith that Father, that Aerius and his followers affect to fast on Sunday, and feast on Friday, and to spend this week of Religion and Devotion in jollity and sport, rising early to fill themselves with flesh and wine, with which being full stuft, they sport and scoff at the Catholick Christians folly in afflicting themselves with such severities. But who, says he, are the more fools; Aerius a silly fellow of yesterday still living with us, or we who observe this severe discipline which our Fathers delivered us, which they received from their Fathers, and they from theirs, and so from the Apostles?
The Epistles and Gospels of this week are concerning Christs Passion, to the contemplation of which this week is dedicated.
K. The Sunday before Easter.] This is called Palm Sunday; in Latin, Dominica in Ramis; in Greek, τὰ Baia; so Epiphanius and Johannes Euchaitensis; all upon one and the same account, because the people strewed boughs of palm in our Saviour’s passage to Jerusalem, a custom used by other nations upon their reception of kings and eminent persons. So did they of Cremona entertain Vitellius; auro rosisque viam constraverant, regium in morem : “they had strewed the way with bays and roses after a princely manner ;” and so the Roman Commodus, δαφνηφόροι τὲ καὶ πάντα ἐπιφερόμενοι ἄνθη τότε ἀκμάζοντα, “carrying bays and all sorts of flowers then in their prime.”
Isidorust, that lived about 630, tells us that this day the creed or summary of the Christian faith was wont to be delivered to the competents, or persons who desired to receive the seal of baptism; the like is affirmed by Alcuin; and perhaps it might be so, for St. Ambrose, speaking of his officiating upon this day, saith, post lectiones alque tractatum, dimissis catechumenis symbolum aliquibus competentibus in baptisteriis tradebam basilice: “ after the lessons and sermon, I delivered the creed to the competents, in the baptisteries of the church:” Durandus (their junior five hundred years) fixed this custom upon Maundy Thursday, but his word being traditur, may import that he only intended the practice of his present, not of the primitive times.
L. Monday before Easter.] This week had many appellations in antiquity: it was sometimes called Pasch, or Easter; so Epiphanius, παρατηρεῖται ἡ ἐκκλησία ἄγειν τὴν ἑορτὴν τοῦ Πάσχα, τουτέστι τὴν ἑβδόμαδα τὴν ὡρισμένην ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων, ἐν τῇ διατάξει, “the Church observeth to celebrate the feast of Easter, that is, the week defined by the Apostles’ Constitutions : and elsewhere he calls it ὅξ ἡμέρας τοῦ Πάσχα, “the six days of Easter.” So Augustine, ecce Pascha est, da nomen ad baptismum: “see it is now Easter, give in thy name for baptism.” Perhaps for that very cause it became to be styled also “ the great week ;” Easter being μεγάλη ἡ ἡμέρα, (as St. John calls it, xix. 31, and the councils after him,) “the grand festival ;” it was proportionable enough that this septimana Pasche, or the week preceding it, should be called the great week, or else, as St. Chrysostom in his Lenten sermons yields the reason, ἐπειδὴ μεγάλα τινὰ καὶ ἀπόῤῥητα τυγχάνει τὰ ὑπάρξαντα ἡμῖν ἐν αὐτῇ ἄγαθα, “because great and unutterable blessings,” as Christ’s passion, burial and resurrection, “ accrued to us this week :” it was styled also the holy week, because celebrated with devotion extraordinary.
This week had especial privileges; first, it. was a justitium, and vacation from civil pleadings, and by the edicts of Theodosius and other godly princes, all prisoners committed for debt or other petty crimes were then set at liberty. Sanctis diebus hebdomadis.ultime solebant debitorum laxari vincula, saith Ambrose4, “in the holy days of the last week the bonds of debtors were wont to be loosed. So of Theodosius, St. Chrysostom, that he commanded πανταχοῦ τῆς οἰκουμένης τοὺς TO δεσμωτήριον οἰκοῦντας ἀφεῖναι, “all the prisoners throughout the empire to be freed.”
In this week were penitents reconciled into the communion of the faithful. St. Jerome’s Fabiola, ante diem Pasche stabat in ordine poenitentium, “stood before Easter in the row of penitents,” whom he presently renders reconciled to the Church.
This week the competents gave in their names for baptism: Durandus, and others of later antiquity, apply this custom to the Wednesday after the fourth Sunday in Lent ; possibly it was so in their days, not so certainly in St. Augustine’s time, as is evident by his words above cited, and elsewhere: appropinquabat Pascha, dedit nomen inter alios competentes : Easter was at hand, he gave in his name amongst other competents.”
THis day holy Church keeps a most strict Fast; It is called GOOD-FRIDAY. For a good day it was for us, even the cause of all our good, and ground of all our joy: And so in respect of the effect of it, Christs Passion may be a Gospel for a Feast; and so it is upon Palm-Sunday. But if we consider that our sins were the cause of his Sufferings, and that it was we that crown'd his head with thorns, nail'd his hands and feet, and gored his side with a Spear; so his Passion considered in the cause of it, is matter of the greatest sorrow, and in this respect we keep it a Fast.
The Gospel is taken out of S. John rather than out of any other Evangelist; because he was present at the Passion, and stood by the Cross, when others fled; and therefore the Passion being represented as it were before our eyes this day; his Testimony is read, who saw it himself; and from whose example we may learn not to be ashamed, nor afraid of the Cross of Christ.
This day holy Church prayes expresly for all Jews, Turks and Infidels, Enemies of the Cross of Christ; for this day Christ both prayed and dyed for his Enemies; and as he exprest the height of his love this day, by dying for them; so does the Church her height of Charity in praying for them.
The Antiquity of this Holy day appears by Euseb. Hist. l. 2. c. 17. who there tells us, That it was an Holy-day in his time, and long before. That day of our Saviours Passion we are wont to celebrate, not only with fastings and watchings, but also with attentive hearing and reading of the holy Scriptures.
N. Good Friday.] This day, with the Saturday and Sunday following, St. Augustine calleth sacratissimum triduum crucifixi, sepulti, suscitati, “the most sacred three days of Christ crucified, buried, and raised again.” It was anciently of so high esteem, as Constantine entered it into the same edict wherein he commanded the observation of the Lord’s day. Augustine mentions passionem Domini, “the day of Christ’s passion,” amongst those which were of Catholic and universal observation. Nos non azymorum pascha celebramus, sed resurrectionis et crucis,, saith St. Jerome, “we do not observe the feast of unleavened bread, but the days of Christ’s resurrection and His passion.” . It was a day of general absolution to all the faithful: oportet hoc die indulgentiam criminum clara voce omnem populum postulare, saith the fourth council of Toledo, “ this day all the people are to expect absolution of their sins, declared with a loud voice by the priest.” And in the next canon it is ordained that none dissolve the fast (children, aged, and sick persons excepted) ante peractas indulgentie preces, “ before the absolution office be over.”
Why it is called Good Friday needs slender elucidation ; every ordinary pretender to Christianity is able to say, because it was the completory of our eternal redemption.
Upon this day the gospel is taken out of St. John, probably, as the rationalists inform us, because he was αὐτόπτης, ‘an eye-witness” of what he relateth. In the African Church, St. Augustine tells us, it was taken out of St. Matthew: passio quia uno die legitur, non solet legi nisi secundum Mattheum : “ because the gospel appointed for the passion is read but one day, it is wont to be taken out of St. Matthew.”
THis day the Gospel treats of Christs body ly in the Grave: the Epistle, of his Souls descent into Hell.
O. Easter Eve.] This was styled Sabbatum magnum, “the great Sabbath:” upon this day were the competents baptized, and this day, with the next Sabbath ensuing, called clausum Pasche, “the close of Easter,” and all the days within that inclosure, were called octo dies neophytorum, “ the eight days of the neophytes, or new-made Christians,” which wore white vestments all that time.
There was a tradition amongst the Jews, that Christ should come again upon Easter day at midnight, (about the hour of His resurrection,) upon which ground St. Jerome‘ conceived the tradition continued, ut in die vigiliarum Pasche, ante noctis medium populos dimittere non liceat expectantes adventum Christi, ‘that on Easter eve the people should not be dismissed before midnight, as waiting for Christ’s coming.” The like is attested by Theodorus Balsamon, limiting the practice to those only who were οἱ εὑλαβέστεροι, “ of the devoutest sort.” A relic of which custom remained in this Church until the first Reformation, implied in that ceremony of setting up the sepulture of Christ and watching of the sepulchre, frequently mentioned in the ritual monuments of those times.
Upon this day it was the custom for the bishop, in imitation of our Saviour, to wash the feet of the new-baptized persons ; ascendisti de fonte, quid secutum est ? succinctus est sacerdos (licet enim presbyteri fecerint, tamen exordium ministerii est a summo sacerdote) pedes tibi lavat, saith St. Ambrose: “thou didst arise out of the font, what was next? the chief priest being girt washed thy feet; for though the presbyter officiateth, yet the derivation of his power is from the chief priest ;’ where he seemeth to make this ceremony proper only to the bishop, as indeed so was all relating to baptism, according to the sense of antiquity. Οὐκ ἐξόν ἐστιν χωρὶς τοῦ ἐπισκόπου βαπτίζειν, saith Ignatius’: “it is not lawful to baptize without licence from the bishop.” Dandi baptismum jus habet summus sacerdos, dein presbyteri et diaconi, non tamen sine episcopi authoritate, so Tertullian’: “the chief priest hath power to administer baptism, so also have presbyters and deacons, but not without authority derived from the bishop.”