Gleaning - 2nd Century Worship
Justin Martyr (2nd century) on Christian Sabbath Worship
"On the day that is called Sunday all who live in the cities or in rural areas gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read for as long as time allows. Then after the lector concludes, the president verbally instructs and exhorts us to imitate all these excellent things. Then all stand up together and offer prayers….
When we have concluded our prayer, bread is brought forward together with the wine and water. And the presider in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings according to his ability. The people give their consent, saying “Amen”; there is a distribution, and all share in the Eucharist. To those who are absent a portion is brought by the deacons. And those who are well-to-do and willing give as they choose, as each one so desires. The collection is then deposited with the presider who uses it on behalf of orphans, widows, those who are needy due to sickness or any other cause, prisoners, strangers who are traveling; in short, he assists all who are in need."
Martyr is describing the Sunday version of Christian worship, and one assumes it is an extension of the pattern established by daily worship in places other than where they are now gathered. In reading Martyr's description, it is hard to imagine that Thomas Cranmer was not very familiar with it.
The service is bifurcated, and the second part can NOT happen without the first.
- The first part is roughly equivalent to our regular Morning or Evening Prayer which also has a definite ending ("Here endeth the Order of Morning Prayer throughout the year").
- A "lector" under authority of a "president" is leading worship, but content of the service is provided by readings and remembrances of the congregation's members (even as it would be in daily prayer at home). The lector's principal job is to orchestrate "according to his ability". Meanwhile the "president" provides "instruction and exhortation" which may or may not be so elaborate as to be called a "sermon." Following this part of the service, all members of the gathering participate in general prayers which we would call "common prayer." Consistent with the pattern of Morning and Evening Prayer, there is no collection in this part of the service.
- The second part is similar to our Order of Holy Communion, including the collection of alms but otherwise beginning with the "Comfortable Words."
- Once the readings, instruction, exhortation and prayers are done, there is a specific Eucharistic sharing of both Bread and Wine and of the "collection." The leader of this second part is the "president". Lectors cannot preside over the Eucharist. Again "according to his ability" (authority) the president assumes personal responsibility over specific prayers and thanksgivings. One may assume that a "president" is carefully chosen, and if there is no such qualified person then this second part of the service does not take place.