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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I had been looking forward to reading the 2nd edition of Mike Aquilina's The Mass of the Early Christians and I certainly was not disappointed. This is absolutely a great book and I believe required reading for anybody who wants to read on the early form and development of the Mass.

Mike Aquilina takes us sequentially through history using documented sources to give us a good idea of how the Mass was originally celebrated. We of course have some idea of this from the New Testament and the book goes thoroughly through both Old and New Testament sources in reference to the Mass and we see over and over again how the Church Fathers did the same. Part of the development of the Mass is shrouded in history, especially concerning the Eucharistic celebration. Early Christians kept the Eucharistic celebration secret and seekers and catechumen were required to leave prior to the Eucharistic celebration. Early writers pretty much kept to this tradition and so often we only have oblique references to this and it only becomes more explicit after the Edict of Milan. I think this practice is a good thing to meditate on in how sacred the early Christians viewed this celebration and how cavalier we can think of it.

Despite this lack of openness regarding the liturgy there are still a lot of good clues to give us an insight into these early celebrations and we of course find that they are not much different in structured compared to our current celebrations. Part II - The Testimony of Witnesses is the largest part of the book and starts with the New Testament, the Didache and then then chapters focusing on individuals such as Church Fathers and other historical sources including some Pagan and Gnostic ones. I really like how he laid out the book because instead of getting brief texts from multiple sources we get much fuller texts from these authors when they reference the liturgy. This book is not a listing of all the texts available on the early church, but does contain a prominent sampling of them. As Mike Aquilina mentions including all of them would have made the book twice as large and I think he came up with a great compromise. I much prefer the fuller texts along with full scriptural texts.

I found some of the Pagan sources quite fascinating along with some of the early accusations made against the Christians. I had of course heard of the cannibalism charges, but some of the other charges made makes Church reporting by the modern media quite tame in contrast. The best part those are of the Church's witnesses and the insights they had towards the Mass and the view they give us of the early liturgies. This book can be used both for apologetics purposes and for spiritual reading. What I found most fascinating though was the texts from the Mass that still exist and the variety of them from the various geographical liturgies.

The last section of the book gives us a short and imaginative look at what it would have been like to go to a Mass in North Africa and a good idea of what it would have been like to go to one of these house Churches during the time the Church was being heavily persecuted.

Highly recommended for anybody.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Stunningly Informative Book, Very Highly Documented by Quoting First 3 Centuries Early Church Fathers. Documents How the "New Mass" of Vatican II Is Reconstructed Last Supper Feast of First 2 Centuries > Major Biblical Congregation Participation, Prayers and Responses As Described in New Testament, And Early Documents. The Center of Early Church was the 'Last Supper Feast', And Real Presence Eucharist, As Our Lord Told The 12 Apostles to do, In His Remembrance, 1 Corr 11:21-27. Book Explains Only the Apostles Could do Last Supper Feast, Consecration, Because of Our Lord's Instructions/Powers. The Priesthood and Deacons were Aded as Much Needed Assistants, By THe Apostles > Page 26-27, Until Priests were Given Apostolic Sacramental Powers By Laying on of Hands by Apostles, First Bishops. Remarkeably Informative Book, Profound Insight into Church of First 3 Centuries > Liturgy, Real Presence Eucharist From Mass as Done Today, And Teaching WAS The Early Church, As it is Today.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is a must read for anyone who thinks that the Catholic Mass is not scriptural or follows the teachings of Jesus. The book clearly lays out and ties together the Mass of the Catholic Church with the teachings of Paul and the traditions Christ himself followed as a faithful Jew. The section of the Church Fathers, which documents the teachings of the first generation of teachers who where taught by the Apostles, clearly shows what the early Christian Church, before the reformation, believed and professed concerning the celebration of regular liturgy and Communion. An excellent resource for Ministers and lay teachers along with The Teachings of the Church Fathers
The Fathers of the Church, Expanded Edition
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book is sneaky; it starts out as readable but not engrossing. But by the time I read the final chapter, I found myself "living" within the events. Weeks after I finished reading it, it comes up in my thoughts as I attend Mass, as I participate in Adoration, as I perform my Bible study and attend the group discussions. My wife is not Catholic and as I attend services in her congregation, I feel such empathy for the missing richness they lose when they hold their communion service once a month. The words of today's Mass trace so closely and so directly back to the first and second century of the Church. You feel such a strong link to Christ and the message he left for the earliest Christians.

This text should be required reading for all teenage Catholics to buffer them as they begin to drift from the Church and face the assaults of the secular world on our faith. And if you have drifted away and embraced the claims that Catholics only believe in rites and rituals, I recommend that you seek reunion through these pages.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2009
Format: Paperback
Fr. Joseph Linck, in the foreword, comments that this book "is an excellent compendium of documents testifying to [the] earliest belief and practice" of the liturgical witness (11). I wholeheartedly agree.

An introductory section gives Old Testament background to Christian liturgical practices and then discusses how Jesus used these practices in establishing a new liturgy.

The meat of the book contains original writings from the New Testament through the fourth century. Short introductions provide valuable background on the early authors and the context of the excerpts. Some of the writings are lengthy, but this is appreciated -- an unedited passage or section is preferred to a lot of interspersed commentary by a contemporary author. Development of understanding and the form of liturgy is clearly apparent, but the basic elements of the Mass are seen from the very earliest Christian writings (including the New Testament).

As one would expect from a solidly Catholic author, an emphasis on development of the understanding of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is prominent in this work as well. This is the "taste" I liked so much.

Finally, the book ends with a chapter describing in vivid detail what an early liturgical gathering in a hostile political environment must have been like. I have never read anything like this before. It will provide much opportunity for reflection: gratefulness for being able to celebrate our faith without fear of persecution but also highlighting the courage and zeal (not often seen today - at least in predominantly Christian nations) of early Christians under persecution. This last chapter is worth the price of the book.

This is a great work for Catholics (and Orthodox) who want to understand the development of the Mass (or Divine Liturgy) from the earliest days of Christianity. For the newcomer to the Fathers of the Church, it is a great introduction and will likely have him looking for more writings from these men. For one better versed in early writings, the convenience of having these texts on the liturgy in one compact package will be much appreciated. Additionally, any study of the Mass (by oneself or in a group) would benefit from making this book a part of the curriculum.

It is a book very accessible to the average reader. It is also a wonderful tool for those who want to better defend the Church in the face of charges that the Mass is an innovation or unbiblical. For Protestants this book is an opportunity to work through evidence from the Bible and early authors, one a disciple (Ignatius of Antioch) of an apostle (John), of the biblical origins, faithful transmission, and valid development of Catholic and Orthodox liturgical practices. Interested non-Christians who have an interest in the early development of the Church would also benefit from a look at the sources of the Church's liturgical practice.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
Every Christian should read this - it is heartening to know what we celebrate at Mass today is as it was in the early Church
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
Very readable. Can be used for either devotional or light scholarly reading. Good sources.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2012
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Excellent book on the Teaching of the Early Church concerning what Christians actually believed concerning the "Eucharist" or "Lord's Supper" or what was soon after called "The Mass"... (Prolly within 300 years of Early Christianity). Highly Recommend it !!! There are no loose ends in this book. Mr. Aqualina does a stellar job simply putting forth the basis in quotations of what the Patrisitc Teaching of The early Christians from the time of the Apostles really believed in this topic. And one cannot leave this reading without a clear and concise conclusion. The Eucharist is Jesus Christ. Period. Exclamation Point! Read it for yourself. The quotes are only 2000 years old.. ;-)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Reluctantly, I must say that this book was somewhat disappointing. On the positive side, it is a convenient reference for the documentation of the origins and development of the Mass. However, it lacked any scholarly depth. The introductions to the documents are more like poor quality Wikipedia articles rather than in depth analyses. What the book lacks is a section summarizing and analyzing the documentary content.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I attend Mass regularly. I love reading the history of the early Church.
Unfortunately, it was too general and I didn't learn much.
If you have no experience studying the early church, then it will be informative.
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