Gnostic Doctrine

Monday, 16 December 2019

Orthodox Church Service vs Valentinian Church Service

Orthodox Church Service vs Valentinian Church Service

The Biblical view: 

“All you are brothers,” Jesus had said to his disciples. “Your Leader is one, the Christ.” (Matt. 23:8, 10) So there was no clergy class within Christian congregations of the first century.  As to organization, each congregation was supervised by a body of overseers, or spiritual elders. All the elders had equal authority, and not one of them was authorized to ‘lord it over’ the flock in their care. (Acts 20:17; Phil. 1:1; 1 Pet. 5:2, 3) However, as the apostasy unfolded, things began to change—quickly.
Clergy and Laity
Among the earliest deviations was a separation between the terms “overseer” (Gr., episkopos sometimes translated Bishop) and “elder” (Gr., presbyteros ), so that they were no longer used to refer to the same position of responsibility. Just a decade or so after the death of the apostle John, Ignatius, “bishop” of Antioch, in his letter to the Smyrnaeans, wrote: “See that you all follow the bishop [overseer], as Jesus Christ follows the Father, and the presbytery [body of elders] as if it were the Apostles.” Ignatius thus advocated that each congregation be supervised by one bishop, or overseer, who was to be recognized as distinct from, and having greater authority than, the presbyters.

The English word “priest” derives from presbyteros (“elder”) as follows: from Middle English pre(e)st, from Old English preost, from Vulgar Latin prester, contracted from Late Latin presbyter, from Greek pre·sby´te·ros.
So the orthodox Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, defines the church in terms of the bishop, who represents that system:

Let no one do anything pertaining to the church without the bishop. Let that be considered a valid eucharist which is celebrated by the bishop, or by the person whom he appoints . . . Wherever the bishop offers [the eucharist], let the congregation be present, just as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the catholic church. Ignatius, Smyrneans 8.1-2.

Lest any "heretic" suggest that Christ may be present even when the bishop is absent, Ignatius sets him straight:

It is not legitimate either to baptize or to hold an agape [eucharist, breaking or bread a meal] without the bishop . . . To join with the bishop is to join the church; to separate oneself from the bishop is to separate oneself not only from the church, but from God himself. Ignatius, Smyrneans 8.1-2.

Apart from the church hierarchy, he insists, "there is nothing that can be called a church."Trallians 3.1.

The groundwork was thus laid for a clergy class gradually to emerge. About a century later, Cyprian, “bishop” of Carthage, North Africa, was a strong advocate of authority of the bishops—as a group separate from the presbyters (later known as priests), the deacons, and the laity. But he did not favor the primacy of one bishop over the others.

As bishops and presbyters ascended the hierarchical ladder, they left below it the rest of the believers in the congregation. This resulted in a separation between clergy (those taking the lead) and laity (the passive body of believers). 

In time the bishop of Rome, claiming to be a successor of Peter, was thought of as the supreme bishop and pope
Valentinian Church Service
The community would meet on Sundays (whether before sunrise or in the evening—or both—we do not know). 

Valentinian initiates took turns performing the various liturgical tasks ensuring a high degree of participation by the membership. According to Tertullian, "Today one man is bishop and tomorrow another; the person who is a deacon today, tomorrow is a reader; the one who is a priest is a layman tomorrow. For even on the laity they impose the functions of priesthood." ( Tertullian Against the Valentinians 1) He goes on to relate that even women could take the role of bishop, much to his horror.

Only the elementary Valentinian teachings were available at such public meetings. Initiates were expected to discern the newcomer's level of spiritual development and act accordingly. This discussed in the parable of appropriate diets in the Gospel of Philip: "Bodily forms will not deceive them, rather they consider the condition of each person's soul and they speak to that person accordingly. In the world there are many animals that have human form. If the disciples of God recognize that they are hogs, they feed them acorns; if cattle, barley chaff and fodder; if dogs, bones; if slaves, a first course; if children, a complete meal" (Gospel of Philip 81:3-13 cf. Hebrews 5:12-14). If a person was considered to be at a material level of development (i.e. "an animal") they received the nothing more than the teaching available at the public meeting ("acorns", "chaff" and "bones").

If the person was considered to be at an animate level (i.e. "a slave") they would be invited to private classes. In these classes they recived elementary teachings ( "a first course") in order to determine if were worthy of further instruction. Valentinians saw most Christians as fitting into this category. Pupils assigned to this category had the potential to move on to the next level. If the person had progressed to the highest spiritual level and become a "child," they were invited to join an advanced class where they would receive the complete teaching. According to Tertullian, complete instruction could last as long as five years and involved rigorous self-discipline. It should be noted that all who received the private instruction were bound by the "duty of Silence" not to disclose it to non-initiates (cf. Tertullian Against the Valentinians 1).

Full initiates acted as the person's spiritual guide towards the ultimate goal of gnosis. Eventual initiation was dependent on evidence of gnosis. To become an initiate one had to "no longer believe from human testimony but from the Truth itself." (Fragments of Herakleon 39). To this end, much of the training at the advanced stage of instruction would have likely focused on meditation techniques. One the person had completed the training and demonstrated evidence of gnosis, they would be initiated by receiving the Valentinian baptism. 

Spirituals and psychics worshipped together for the first part of the service, which comprised a confession, a collection and the singing of a “hymn of the humble,” and praying for redemption. Perhaps both groups listened together to a sermon. Baptism of new members may have taken place at this point. The second part of the service was for the spirituals only, i.e., the baptized. It included the singing of psalms from Valentinus’ psalm-book. The congregation sang in an enthusiastic mode, seeking communion with the transcendent aeons.

After that, a senior member of the congregation delivered a sermon. Then followed a Eucharistic meal, with bread and wine mixed with water, or just water. The elements were consecrated by means of an invocation for the presence of spiritual power and eaten as a prefiguration of the eschatological wedding feast of the bridal chamber. During the meal, individual church members stood up to prophesy, conveying messages from the aeonic world, perhaps speaking in tongues.

The ritual sequence as a whole shows a certain family resemblance to second century Christian Sunday worship as described in Justin, 1 Apology 67, though the enthusiastic aspects are clearly more prominent than in Justin’s account. Our general knowledge about the structure of Christian services during this period is in any case very scant. In a broad perspective, the Valentinian version of regular Christian worship, with its communal style of psalm singing and its general character as a service of the word, seems to owe more to Jewish and Christian traditions of congregation ritual than to the conventional forms of Greco-Roman cult.

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