Our Worship and Christian worship from CE 150

Here is an excerpt from Justin Martyr’s “Apology” describing Christian worship in about CE 150. Justin was writing to the Roman Emperor, Antoninus Pius trying to convince him not to persecute Christians.

Agape feast from Fresco of a banquet at a tomb in the Catacomb of Saints Marcellinus and Peter, Via Labicana, Rome.

On the day called after the sun, all gather for a communal celebration. The memoirs of the apostles are read as long as time permits. Then the one presiding admonishes the hearers to practice these beautiful teachings. We say prayers in common for ourselves, for the newly baptized, and for all others through out the world. Then bread and wine are brought to the one who presides over the brothers and sisters. The presider gives praise and glory to the Father in the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and gives thanks at length for the gifts we have received from God. The whole crowd standing up cries out in agreement “Amen”. Amen is a Hebrew word which means “so may it be”. Then the bread and wine, over which the thanks has been offered, is distributed among those present. This food is known among us as the Eucharist. The deacon brings a portion to those who are absent. Those who are well-to-do give whatever they will. What is gathered is deposited with the one presiding who therewith helps orphans and widows.

Our worship is much like this. We gather on Sunday. We read scriptures, including from the apostles. There is a sermon that include admonishment. There are the Prayers of the Church. The bread and wine are brought forward along with financial offerings. The presider gives thanks for the bread and wine, although it is too short to be called “at length”. The people say Amen. The bread and wine is distributed to those gathered and the remaining bread and wine is taken to those who are unable to make it. We help widows and orphans in a sense, but it is not the presider who does it. We have agreed together where we direct our offering. In fact, GraceFeast is a kind of offering for any widows and orphans who care to come. Otherwise, it goes to the Synod office for distribution. Plus individuals give to a variety of agencies, like Lutheran Disaster Relief, Lutheran Social Services and Lutheran World Hunger.