Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Elucidations
(Pædagogue, book II. chap. 3, p. 247.)
This fine paragraph is in many ways interesting. The tourist who has visited the catacombs, is familiar, among tokens of the first rude art of Christians, with relics of various articles, realizing this idea of Clements, that even our furniture should be distinctively Christian. In Pompeii, one finds lamps and other vessels marked by heathenish devices, some of them gross and revolting. On the contrary, these Christian utensils bear the sacred monograms ΧΡ, ΑΩ, or the figure of the fish, conveying to the user, by the letters of the Greek word for a fish (ΙΧΘΥΣ), the initials of the words “Jesus Christ, Son of God, The Saviour.” Often we have the anchor, the palm-branch, or the cross itself. But I never looked at one of those Christian lamps without imagining its owner, singing, as it was lighted, the eventide hymn (of which see Elucidation III.), and reciting probably, therewith, the text, “Let your loins be girded, and your lamps burning,” etc. For a valuable elucidation of subjects illustrated by Christian art, see Testimony of the Catacombs, by the late Wharton B. Marriott (London, Hatchards, 1870).
(Book iii. Going to Church. p. 290, supra.)
Frequent references become necessary, at this point, to the ecclesiastical usages of the early Christians. These have been largely treated of by the great Anglican divines, whose works are recognised as part of the standard literature of Christendom; but the nature of this publication seems to impose on me the duty of choosing from external sources, rather than from authors who have been more or less associated with the controversies of our great “Anglo-Saxon” family. Happily the writings of the late Dr. Bunsen supply us with all that is requisite of this sort. In that very curious and characteristic medley, Hippolytus and His Age, he has gathered into a convenient form nearly every point which requires antiquarian elucidation, under the title of The Church and Home Book of the Ancient Christians. Its contents he professes to have rescued “from the rubbish in which they were enveloped for centuries, and disencumbered of the fraud and misunderstanding by which they are defaced.” Now, while by no means satisfied with this work myself, it affords an interesting specimen of the conclusions to which an earnest and scholarly mind has been brought, in the course of original and industrious research. It is the more interesting, as illustrating a conviction, which he expresses elsewhere, that, in shaping “the Church of the future,” all Christians must revert to these records of primitive antiquity, as of practical interest for our own times. The proverbial faults of its author are indeed conspicuous in this work, which, though the product of a mere inquirer, is presented to us with entire self-reliance, as if he were competent to pronounce upon all questions with something like pontifical infallibility. It is also greatly mixed up with his personal theories, which are always interesting, but rarely satisfactory to his readers. In spite of all this, he has brought together, in a condensed form, what is undoubtedly the result of patient investigation. It is the rather useful, because it is the work of a genuine disciple of Niebuhr, who doubts and questions at every step, and who always suspects a fraud. He is committed, by his religious persuasions, to no system whatever, with respect to such matters, and he professes to have produced a manual of Christian antiquity, entirely scientific; that is to say, wholly impartial, indifferent as to consequences, and following only the lead of truth p. 298 and evidence. In my references to Bunsen, therefore, let it be understood, that, without accepting him as my own master, I yet wish to respect his opinion and to commend his performance to the candid investigation of others.
The one ancient hymn, not strictly liturgical, which probably was not new even to Clement, and to which we have already made reference once or twice, is the following, which we give from Bunsen. He calls it “The Evening Hymn of the Greek Christians,” but it was not confined to the Greeks any more than was the Greek of the Gospels and the Creeds. Its proper name is “The Eventide Hymn,” or “The Hymn for the Lighting of the Lamps,” and was doubtless uttered in the family at “candlelight,” as we say a grace before meat. It is thus rendered:—
Hymn.Serene light of the Holy Glory
Of the Father Everlasting,
Having come to the setting of the sun,
And seeing the evening light,
We praise the Father and the Son,
And the Holy Spirit of God.
It behooveth to praise Thee,
At all times with holy songs,
Son of God, who hast given life;
Therefore the world glorifieth Thee.
The modern Italians, at sunset, recite the Ave Maria, which has been imposed upon them by mediæval Rome. Nothing but the coincidence of the hour reminds us of the ancient hymn which it has superseded; and a healthy mind, one would think, would note the contrast. This pure “hymn to Christ as God,” and to the Godhead in unity, gives place to an act of worship addressed to the creature, more than to the Creator. One might indeed call this Ave Maria the eventide hymn of modern Italy; but the scatter-brain processes of Dr. Bunsen come out in the strange reversal of thought, by which he would throw back the utterly incongruous title of its Italian substitute upon a primitive hymn to the Trinity,—“the Ave-Maria hymn, as we might call it from the present Italian custom,” etc. The strange confusion of ideas which constantly characterizes this author, whenever some association, however remote, strikes his fancy, is well illustrated by this instance. Let it serve as a caution in following his lead. See Hippolytus (vol. iii. pp. 68, 138, etc.) and also Routh (Reliquiæ, vol. iii. pp. 515–520). Concerning the morning hymn, Gloria in Excelsis, which Dr. Bunsen gives from the Alexandrian ms., and to which reference is made in his Analecta Ante-Nicæna (iii. 86), see Warrens Celtic Liturgy (p. 197, and index references. Ed. Oxford, 1881).
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