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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. II: The Ecclesiastical History of Sozomen.: A List Worthy of Study, Given by the Historian, of Customs among Different Nations and Churches.

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Chapter XIX.—A List Worthy of Study, Given by the Historian, of Customs among Different Nations and Churches.

p. 390 We have now described the various usages that prevailed in the celebration of the Passover. 1557 It appears to me that Victor, bishop of Rome, and Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, came to a very wise decision on the controversy that had arisen between them. 1558 For as the bishops of the West did not deem it necessary to dishonor the tradition handed down to them by Peter and by Paul, and as, on the other hand, the Asiatic bishops persisted in following the rules laid down by John the evangelist, they unanimously agreed to continue in the observance of the festival according to their respective customs, without separation from communion with each other. They faithfully and justly assumed, that those who accorded in the essentials of worship ought not to separate from one another on account of customs. For exactly similar traditions on every point are to be found in all the churches, even though they hold the same opinions. There are, for instance, many cities in Scythia, and yet they all have but one bishop; whereas, in other nations a bishop serves as priest even over a village, as I have myself observed in Arabia, and in Cyprus, and among the Novatians and Montanists of Phrygia. Again, there are even now but seven deacons at Rome, answering precisely to the number ordained by the apostles, of whom Stephen was the first martyr; whereas, in other churches, the number of deacons is a matter of indifference. At Rome hallelujah is sung once annually, namely, on the first day of the festival of the Passover; so that it is a common thing among the Romans to swear by the fact of hearing or singing this hymn. In that city the people are not taught by the bishop, nor by any one in the Church. At Alexandria the bishop of the city alone teaches the people, and it is said that this custom has prevailed there ever since the days of Arius, who, though but a presbyter, broached a new doctrine. Another strange custom also prevails at Alexandria which I have never witnessed nor heard of elsewhere, and this is, that when the Gospel is read the bishop does not rise from his seat. The archdeacon alone reads the Gospel in this city, whereas in some places it is read by the deacons, and in many churches only by the priests; while on noted days it is read by the bishops, as, for instance, at Constantinople, on the first day of the festival of the resurrection. 1559 In some churches the interval called Quadragesima, which occurs before this festival, and is devoted by the people to fasting, is made to consist of six weeks; and this is the case in Illyria and the Western regions, in Libya, throughout Egypt, and in Palestine; whereas it is made to comprise seven weeks at Constantinople, and in the neighboring provinces as far as Phœnicia. In some churches the people fast three alternate weeks, during the space of six or seven weeks, whereas in others they fast continuously during the three weeks immediately preceding the festival. Some people, as the Montanists, only fast two weeks. Assemblies are not held in all churches on the same time or manner. The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria. There are several cities and villages in Egypt where, contrary to the usage established elsewhere, the people meet together on Sabbath evenings, and, although they have dined previously, partake of the mysteries. The same prayers and psalms are not recited nor the same lections read on the same occasions in all churches. Thus the book entitled “The Apocalypse of Peter,” which was considered altogether spurious by the ancients, is still read in some of the churches of Palestine, on the day of preparation, when the people observe a fast in memory of the passion of the Saviour. So the work entitled “The Apocalypse of the Apostle Paul,” though unrecognized by the ancients, is still esteemed by most of the monks. Some persons affirm that the book was found during this reign, by Divine revelation, in a marble box, buried beneath the soil in the house of Paul at Tarsus in Cilicia. I have been informed that this report is false by Cilix, a presbyter of the church in Tarsus, a man of very advanced age, as is indicated by his gray hairs, who says that no such occurrence is known among them, and wonders if the heretics did not invent the story. What I have said upon this subject must now suffice. Many other customs are still to be observed in cities and villages; and those who have been brought up in their observance would, from respect to the great men who instituted and perpetuated these customs, consider it wrong to abolish them. Similar motives must be attributed to those who observe different practices in the celebration of the feast which has led us into this long digression.



Soc. v. 22. Soz. has much new matter of his own.


Eus. H. E. iv. 14 (from Irenæus). Not Victor, but Anicetus; the conflict of Victor was with Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus. Eus. H. E. v. 24.


Nicephorus (xii. 34) declares that this custom lasted down to his own day; and that it was practiced also on the 1st of January, as well as at Easter.

Next: Extension of our Doctrines, and Complete Demolition of Idolatrous Temples. Inundation of the Nile.

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