Last week, I began to talk about how shared Christian history of liturgy, music, and worship, beginning with the earliest generation of the Church. The time between those first Christian communities and the time of Constantine (roughly 100 to 313 CE) can be described as “the Domestic Church” because so much of Christian life occurred in the context of people’s homes.
One of the biggest cultural shifts during this time was the complete expulsion of Christians from the Jewish community, assisted by outside Gentile cultures growing increasing anti-Semitic after two Jewish revolts against the Roman Empire. Christians began to dedicate space within their homes for communal worship, often located in courtyards or interior rooms where worshipers could be shielded from outside noise and critical gazes. The focus on new Christian traditions meant that dedicated Eucharistic vessels were not being created, including those made out of precious metals.
This era also saw the creation of specific Christian hymnody and Scripture, although the consistency of a “New Testament” had yet to be established. In addition to the books that we are familiar with, there were literally dozens of other apocryphal letters, Gospels, and other stories in circulation. One fascinating aspect of this period regarding music is that there is some evidence that many Christian communities found the use of instruments to be overly pagan and instead insisted on using the “God given gift” of human voice alone.
At the end of this period, two major architectural developments occurred, both in conjunction with a growing public acceptance of Christianity. The first were dedicated catacombs in which Christians would bury their dead (and later become sanctuaries during times of heightened oppression. The second was the whole buildings set aside for worship—the first churches.
But since that is more emblematic of the next period, I’ll go into more detail then. See you next week!
Yours in Christ,