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10. Of the Responses – Amen, Hallelujah, Hosanna, etc.

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER X. Of the Prayers and Psalmody of the Church

10. Of the Responses – Amen, Hallelujah, Hosanna, etc. 

These were either short ejaculations to God, or exclamations designed to enkindle the devotions of believers, or an intimation that the prayer of the speaker was heard.

  1. Amen. This, in the phraseology of the church, is denominated orationis signaculum, or devotae concionis responsionem. the token for prayer – the response of the worshippers. It intimates that the prayer of the speaker is heard, and approved by him who gives this response. It is also used at the conclusion of a doxology. Rom. 9:5. Justin Martyr is the first of the fathers who speaks of the use of this response. In speaking of the sacrament he says, that at the close of the benediction and prayer, all the assembly respond, "Amen," which, in the Hebrew tongue is the same as, "So let it be." According to Tertullian, none but the faithful were permitted to join in the response. 

    In the celebration of the Lord's supper especially, each communicant was required to give this response in a tone of earnest devotion. Upon the reception, both of the bread, and of the wine, each uttered a loud 'Amen;' and, at the close of the consecration by the priest, all joined in shouting a loud 'Amen.' But the practice was discontinued after the sixth century.

    At the administration of baptism also, the witnesses and sponsors uttered this response in the same manner. In the Greek church, it was customary to repeat this response as follows: 'This servant of the Lord is baptized in the name of the Father, Amen; and of the Son, Amen; and of the Holy Ghost, Amen; both now and forever, world without end;' to which the people responded, 'Amen.' This usage is still observed by the Greek church in Russia. The repetitions were given thrice, with reference to the three persons of the Trinity.

  2. Hallelujah. This was adopted from the Jewish psalmody, particularly from those psalms (cxiiicxviii) which were sung at the passover, called the Great Hillel or Hallel. It was this that our Savior sang with his disciples at the institution of the sacrament. The word itself is an exhortation to praise God, and was so understood by Augustine, Isiodorus, and others. The use of this phrase was first adopted by the church at Jerusalem, and from this was received by other churches. But the use of it was restricted to the fifty days between Easter and Whitsunday. 

    In the Greek church it was expressive of grief, sorrow, and penitence. In the Latin, on the contrary, it denoted a joyful spirit – love, praise, thanksgiving, etc.

  3. Hosanna. The church, both ancient and modern, have concurred in ascribing to this word, contrary to its original import, a signification similar to that of Hallelujah. The true signification of it is, "Lord, save," Ps. 118:25, and was so understood by Origen, Jerome, and Theophylact, In their commentaries upon Matt. 21:15.

    Eusebius gives the first instance on record of its use, where, at the death of a certain martyr, the multitude are said to have shouted "Hosanna to the Son of David." The use of it is prescribed in the Apostolical Constitutions, lib. 8. c. 13, In connection with a doxology to Christ. The first mention of it in religious worship is found in the Apostolical Constitutions, 8. c. 13. It occurs also in the liturgy of Chrysostom. By the ancients it was uniformly regarded as a doxology.

  4. O Lord have mercy*. There are many authorities, both sacred and profane, from which this phrase may have been adopted. According to Augustine, Epist. 178, it was in use both in the Syriac, Armenian, and other Oriental languages. The council of Vaison, A. D. 492, can. 3, ordained that this response should be introduced into the morning and evening worship, and into the public religious service. Gregory the Great introduced a threefold form. 1. O Lord. 2. Lord have mercy. 3. Christ have mercy. And each it would seem was to be thrice repeated with reference to the sacred trinity. 
  5. Glory; Glory in the highest. This exclamation was in use on certain festive occasions in the fifth century; In the seventh, it had come into general use. According to Meratus, the bishops alone were allowed the use of this exclamation. 
  6. The Lord be with you; Peace be with you. The council of Braga, A. D. 561, ordained that this should be the uniform salutation both of bishops and presbyters, when addressing the people. The last mentioned salutation alone was in use in the Greek church. At first, this salutation was not allowed to excommunicated persons, or to penitents, or even to catechumens; but only to the faithful. Examples of the scrupulous observance of prescribed forms of salutation are cited in the index. 
  7. Let us pray; Lift up your hearts, etc.; oremus, * sursum corda. In the ancient service of the church, it was the duty of the deacon to summon each class of worshippers separately to engage in prayer by saying, 'Let us pray.' Whether they were to pray in silence or audibly, they received a similar intimation from the deacon. This was followed by another injunction to kneel; and at the conclusion, he also directed them to arise. There were various forms of announcing the time of prayer besides the one above mentioned, such as 'Give audience;' 'Attend;' 'Lift your hearts on high, pray, pray earnestly,' etc. To which the congregation replied, 'Our heart is unto the Lord,' etc. 

    Cyprian is the first who distinctly mentions this mode of announcing prayer, but he speaks of it as a familiar and established usage. Cyril of Jerusalem says, that at this awful summons, the whole soul should be fixed upon God, and no unworthy or earthly thought should be allowed to intrude. Much more to the same effect is said by him, and by the authors quoted in the index. During the middle ages, this custom was perverted to the maintenance of the doctrine of transubstantiation, – the elevation of the host, etc. In the English church, it continued unchanged until the seventeenth century. In the Lutheran church a similar usage remains to the present time.

    "The long prayer which, in the missa fidelium, the service designed for the faithful alone, usually followed the sermon, was introduced as follows. The deacon first commanded silence and attention by exclaiming, 'Let us pray;' the officiating minister then addressed the assembly in these words: 'The peace of God be with you all;' to which the assembly responded, 'And with thy spirit.' Then said the deacon, 'Salute ye one another with an holy kiss;' upon which the clergy saluted the bishop, and one another; and the laity of both sexes, saluted those of their own sex. During this time, some of the deacons, and subdeacons are occupied in preserving order. One of the latter brings water for the officiating minister to wash his hands in token of the purity of mind which is acceptable to God. The deacon then says, 'Let no catechumen, disciple, or unbeliever, or any of Caesar's party remain; all you who have attended the first service retire; mothers withdraw with your infant children; let no one cherish enmity in his heart towards another; let there be no hypocrisy in any; let us set our hearts with fear and trembling to bring our offerings.' "These offerings are then laid upon the altar by the deacon, while the minister, with the elders, stands before it praying for himself, and with a white cloth, crossing himself upon the breast. After this he says to the assembly, 'The grace of Almighty God, the love of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen;' to which the people respond, 'And with thy spirit.' He then says, 'Lift up your hearts on high.' "Our heart is unto the Lord." Let us bless the Lord, says the minister. "It is meet and right." He that leads their devotions then prays at great length, and the solemn service is closed by a doxology." 

J. A. Schmidt, De insignioribus veterum Chrisrianorum formulis. Ilelmst. 1696. 4: Jo. Ge. Walch, De formulis salutandi apostolicis. Jen. 1739. 4: S. ejusd. Miscellanea sacra. Amstel. 1744. 4. p. 436 seq.: Ge. Ermelii, De veterum Christianorum * dissert, histor. Lipsiae, 1684. 4: Ad. Rechenberg, De veterum Christianorum 5o|oilo//a. Lips. 1684. 4: S. Syntagma Dissertat. Roterod. 1690. 8.

Hilar, on Ps. 65: Chrysostom. Hom. 35. in 1 Cor.; Opp. torn. x. p. 325.

Apol. 1. § 65. 67: Comp. Augustin. contra Pelag.: Serm. defer, iv. Opp. tom. vi. p. 446.

De Spectaculis. c. 25.

Consiitut. Apost. lib. viii. c. 13: Cyril. Hierosol. Cateches. 23: mystag. v. p. 331, 32: Ambrose, in sacr. lib. iv. c. 10: Augustin. Contra Faustum. lib. xii. c. 10: Jerome, Epist. 39: Leon. M. Serm. 91.

Augustin. Ex. in Ev. S. Joan.: Serm. 151 de temp.: Isiodorus, Hispal. Orig. lib. vi. c. 17: De div. off. 142: Gregor. Nyss. Tractat. de inscr. Psalmon. c. 7.

Gregor. M. Epist. lib. ix. ep. 12. p. 940.

Augustin. Epist. 119. ad Jan. c. 17. 86. ad Casul.: Hieron. Praefat. in Ps. 50.

Wernsdorf. de form vet. eccl. psalmod. Hallelujah, p. 21. 25. 27: Augustin. in Ps. 118.

Hist. eccl. lib. ii. c. 23.

Is. 51. 1. 123. 3: Virg. iEneid.l2. 777: Comp. Bona, rer. liturg. lib. ii. c. 4. in Gavanti Thesaur. sacr. vit.

Epist. lib. vii. 12: lib. ii. 63.

Concil. Toletan. iv. c. 12.

Ad Guranti Thesaur. tom. i. p. 81.

Concil. i. can. 21: Harduin. tom. iii. p. 352.

TertuHian. De praescript. haeret. c. 41: Chrysostom. Ilomil. 3. in ep. ad Coloss.: Optat. Milevit. de schismate. Donat. lib. iii: Gurante, Thesaur. sacr. rit. torn. i. p. 77: Ambros. De dignat. sacerd. c. 5. 2.

Calvoer. rit. eccl. i. p. 472.

De Oratione Dornin. 0bp. torn. i. p. 384.

Cateches. mystagog. v. § 4: Chrysost. Homil. 24. in 1 Cor. 10:v Theophylact, Comment, in Coloss. 3d. Opp. torn, ii: Isidor. Pelus. Epist. lib. i. ep. 77. ad Dioscur. p. 23: Augustin. De vera relig. c. 3: De bono perseverantiae. c. 13.

Seigel, Alter. Vol. 11. Art. Gebet.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)


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