Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter IV.—How to Conduct Ourselves at Feasts.
Chapter IV.—How to Conduct Ourselves at Feasts.
Let revelry keep away from our rational entertainments, and foolish vigils, too, that revel in intemperance. For revelry is an inebriating pipe, the chain 1400 of an amatory bridge, that is, of sorrow. And let love, and intoxication, and senseless passions, be removed from our choir. Burlesque singing is the boon companion of drunkenness. A night spent over drink invites drunkenness, rouses lust, and is audacious in deeds of shame. For if people occupy their time with pipes, and psalteries, and choirs, and dances, and Egyptian clapping of hands, and such disorderly frivolities, they become quite immodest and intractable, beat on cymbals and drums, and make a noise on instruments of delusion; for plainly such a banquet, as seems to me, is a theatre of drunkenness. For the apostle decrees that, “putting off the works of darkness, we should put on the armour of light, walking honestly as in the day, not spending our time in rioting and drunkenness, in chambering and wantonness.” 1401 Let the pipe be resigned to the shepherds, and the flute to the superstitious who are engrossed in idolatry. For, in truth, such instruments are to be banished from the temperate banquet, being more suitable to beasts than men, and the more irrational portion of mankind. For we have heard of stags being charmed by the pipe, and seduced by music into the toils, when hunted by the huntsmen. And when mares are being covered, a tune is played on the flute—a nuptial song, as it were. And every improper sight and sound, to speak in a word, and every shameful sensation of licentiousnes—which, in truth, is privation of sensation—must by all means be excluded; and we must be on our guard against whatever pleasure titillates eye and ear, and effeminates. For the various spells of the broken strains and plaintive numbers of the Carian muse corrupt mens morals, drawing to perturbation of mind, by the licentious and mischievous art of music. 1402
The Spirit, distinguishing from such revelry the divine service, sings, “Praise Him with the sound of trumpet;” for with sound of trumpet He shall raise the dead. “Praise Him on the psaltery;” for the tongue is the psaltery of the Lord. “And praise Him on the lyre.” 1403 By the lyre is meant the mouth struck by the Spirit, as it were by a plectrum. “Praise with the timbrel and the dance,” refers to the Church meditating on the resurrection of the dead in the resounding skin. “Praise Him on the chords and organ.” Our body He calls an organ, and its nerves are the strings, by which it has received harmonious tension, and when struck by the Spirit, it gives forth human voices. “Praise Him on the clashing cymbals.” He calls the tongue the cymbal of the mouth, which resounds with the pulsation of the lips. Therefore He cried to humanity, “Let every breath praise the Lord,” because He cares for every breathing thing which He hath made. For man is truly a pacific instrument; while other instruments, if you investigate, you will find to be warlike, inflaming to lusts, or kindling up amours, or rousing wrath.
In their wars, therefore, the Etruscans use the trumpet, the Arcadians the pipe, the Sicilians the p. 249 pectides, the Cretans the lyre, the Lacedæmonians the flute, the Thracians the horn, the Egyptians the drum, and the Arabians the cymbal. The one instrument of peace, the Word alone by which we honour God, is what we employ. We no longer employ the ancient psaltery, and trumpet, and timbrel, and flute, which those expert in war and contemners of the fear of God were wont to make use of also in the choruses at their festive assemblies; that by such strains they might raise their dejected minds. But let our genial feeling in drinking be twofold, in accordance with the law. For “if thou shalt love the Lord thy God,” and then “thy neighbour,” let its first manifestation be towards God in thanksgiving and psalmody, and the second toward our neighbour in decorous fellowship. For says the apostle, “Let the Word of the Lord dwell in you richly.” 1404 And this Word suits and conforms Himself to seasons, to persons, to places.
In the present instance He is a guest with us. For the apostle adds again, “Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your heart to God.” And again, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and His Father.” This is our thankful revelry. And even if you wish to sing and play to the harp or lyre, there is no blame. 1405 Thou shalt imitate the righteous Hebrew king in his thanksgiving to God. “Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous; praise is comely to the upright,” 1406 says the prophecy. “Confess to the Lord on the harp; play to Him on the psaltery of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song.” And does not the ten-stringed psaltery indicate the Word Jesus, who is manifested by the element of the decad? And as it is befitting, before partaking of food, that we should bless the Creator of all; so also in drinking it is suitable to praise Him on partaking of His creatures. 1407 For the psalm is a melodious and sober blessing. The apostle calls the psalm “a spiritual song.” 1408
Finally, before partaking of sleep, it is a sacred duty to give thanks to God, having enjoyed His grace and love, and so go straight to sleep. 1409 “And confess to Him in songs of the lips,” he says, “because in His command all His good pleasure is done, and there is no deficiency in His salvation.” 1410
Further, among the ancient Greeks, in their banquets over the brimming cups, a song was sung called a skolion, after the manner of the Hebrew psalms, all together raising the pæan with the voice, and sometimes also taking turns in the song while they drank healths round; while those that were more musical than the rest sang to the lyre. But let amatory songs be banished far away, and let our songs be hymns to God. “Let them praise,” it is said, “His name in the dance, and let them play to Him on the timbrel and psaltery.” 1411 And what is the choir which plays? The Spirit will show thee: “Let His praise be in the congregation (church) of the saints; let them be joyful in their King.” 1412 And again he adds, “The Lord will take pleasure in His people.” 1413 For temperate harmonies 1414 are to be admitted; but we are to banish as far as possible from our robust mind those liquid harmonies, which, through pernicious arts in the modulations of tones, train to effeminacy and scurrility. But grave and modest strains say farewell to the turbulence of drunkenness. 1415 Chromatic harmonies are therefore to be abandoned to immodest revels, and to florid and meretricious music.
The reading ἅλυσις is here adopted. The passage is obscure.248:1401
Rom. 13:12, 13.248:1402
[He distinguishes between the lewd music of Satanic odes (Tatian, cap. xxxiii. p. 79, supra), and another art of music of which he will soon speak.]248:1403
Ps. 50:3, 5.249:1404
Col. iii. 16.249:1405
[Here instrumental music is allowed, though he turns everything into a type.]249:1406
Ps. xxxiii. 1-3.249:1407
[Even the heathen had such forms. The Christian grace before and after meat is here recognised as a matter of course. 1 Tim. 4:3, 4.]249:1408
Eph. v. 19; Col. iii. 16.249:1409
[Besides the hymn on lighting the lamps, he notes completory prayer at bedtime.]249:1410
Wisd. Sirach (Ecclus.) xxxix. 15, 16.249:1411
Ps. cxlix. 3.249:1412
Ps. 49:1, 2.249:1413
Ps. clxix. 4.249:1414
[Observe the contrast between the modest harmonies he praises, and the operatic strains he censures. Yet modern Christians delight in these florid and meretricious compositions, and they have intruded into the solemnities of worship. In Europe, dramatic composers of a sensual school have taken possession of the Latin ceremonial.]249:1415
[On gluttony and drinking, our author borrows much from Plato. Kaye, p. 74.]
Next: Chapter V.—On Laughter.
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