Attending an Ancient Nestorian Worship Service
(Communion Service) from before 431 A.D.
We discovered this article on a Christian satire/humor website and post it here because of the insight it might provide into the earliest Church decoration and Liturgy. During times of great persecution, it was not possible to even have dedicated church buildings. "The Edict of Milan" made Christianity legal in 313 A.D. Before this, Christians had often been forced to meet secretly in homes and in underground cemetery catacombs. (Following the article, find information on "Nestorius" and "Nestorianism".) ___________________________________________
The Church: Cathedral of the Assyrian
Church of the East, Trichor, South India.
The Building: Built in 1814, the church has an oriental look. The interior is quite plain, with no icons or images (the Church believes that images break the second commandment), but with a host of globe lamps and a great chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
At the back is a high gallery,
and at the side a grotesque pulpit, some 25 ft. in height and elaborately
carved in dark teak, issuing from the sharp-toothed mouth of an Assyrian
lion at floor level. Beyond a floor-to-ceiling curtain at the front
is the 'chancel' area – a barrel vault, the ceiling painted with
sky and clouds.
The church stands in a compound which includes the present Archbishop's palace and the tomb of the last Archbishop (Mar Abimelek Timotheus), who is still revered as a man of prayer. His tomb is practically a pilgrimage centre, visited by large numbers of people.
The Cast: Father Raphael, assisted by a deacon. __________________
What was the name of
Above Article by: Mystery Worshipper, Nick O'Demus. © Ship of Fools 2006. Re-printed by permission. The following is posted per the terms of permission for re-printing:
The Mystery Worshipper project, which produced this report, is run by shipoffools.com, the online magazine of Christian unrest. The project has volunteer reporters who visit churches of all denominations worldwide, leaving only a calling card in the collection plate. For further reports, visit the Mystery Worshipper at: http://www.ship-of-fools.com/mystery/1998/027Mystery.html ___________________________________________________________
* Some Background on Nestorius and "Nestorianism"
Or: Why many Protestants feel that after Emperor Constantine, it was "all downhill from there"!
This is a much more complicated matter, both historically and Theologically, than can adequately be covered in a short summary. However, briefly...
Some argue that Nestorius' beliefs were misrepresented intentionally for reasons of Church politics (in modern parlance, that he was "framed" and "railroaded" on "trumped up charges" in an unfair and technically illegal "show trial"), so that he could be exiled by his powerful ecclesiastical enemies, one of whom subsequently took over his office as Bishop of Constantinople.
In 431 A.D., Celestine I, Bishop of Rome, commissioned Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, to conduct proceedings against Bishop Nestorius of Constantinople, his longtime adversary... When the Eastern bishops who were more sympathetic to Nestorius arrived and learned that the council summoned by Emperor Theodosius II had been started without them, they set up a rival synod. Those Bishops who participated in this Synod, and declared Nestorius innocent of any heresy, would also all be excommunicated with their entire flocks, and thereby was created the "Nestorian" Church.
What is commonly known as "the Nestorian heresy" which has been rejected by Christian orthodoxy throughout history, is the teaching that Christ was composed of two distinct persons, one human, one divine.
Oddly, the Nestorian Churches do not actually hold this view. Some scholars think that neither did Nestorius himself, and that the Schism might have been caused by a misunderstanding of terms in translation, or perhaps even an intentional "misunderstanding".
Historic accepted Christian teaching holds that Christ was and is one person (of the Trinity) with two natures: that He was at once both both fully man, and fully divinity.
Another issue: a sore point with both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches then and now: the Nestorians refused to call Mary "the mother of God" ("Theotokos"), saying that she should instead be referred to as "the mother of Christ" ("Christotokos").
Later, during the Protestant Reformation, when some groups denied the doctrine of the Real Presence and the communication of attributes between the two natures, they were accused by the Roman Catholic hierarchy of "reviving the heresy of Nestorius". _______________________________________________________
(Except article text and article photos) © 2007 S.G.P. All rights reserved.
Photo of Skellig Michael Copyright © Irish Tourist Board.
Notes by The Prayer Foundation ™. Points of Interest:
No Icons or Images...Chancel painted with sky and clouds.
Pulpit for sermon during Sunday Service.
Prayer regarded highly, and in being "a man of prayer".
Communion Service held daily.
No pews...standing during service.
Shoes removed before entering Sanctuary. This was observed in all Christian Churches until the 800's A.D.
Service opens with a "Gloria" ("Glory to God") followed immediately by The Lord's Prayer...both sung.
Service memorized by most, probably without trying, just from lifelong familiarity.
No musical instruments.
Much Congregational participation...by singing.
Men and women on separate sides. This is still a common custom in many different parts of the world...Russia, Mexico, the Middle East, India, and elsewhere.
Congregational Responses...also sung.
No sermon during daily Communion Service.
Open Communion. Offered to all Christians, and in both kinds, Bread and Wine separately.