Ministry to the Dying, Dead, and Bereaved
Part 2 History

Chapter f22 The Patristic Period [400-799 CE]

Secular History

Church History

Ministry to the Dead and Bereaved

Secular History

With the "conversion" of Constantine and the Edict of Milan, Christianity becomes emancipated and Christianity becomes a "public" religion, the Church of the masses.

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Church History

The Church becomes a civil power:  Rituals become public ceremony.  Liturgical ceremonies become more elaborate, often adopting elements from Constantine's court.  Rites become fixed and are written down and prescribed. 

"Order"   Some of the baptized who exercised leadership ministerial positions begin to form into an "order" -- a distinctive group (for tax purposes etc) -- modeled on the Roman Order of Senators, the Order of Governors, and form:  the Order of Overseers (Bishops), the Order of Elders (Presbyters), etc.

Liturgical Rites:  Common ways of doing things develop around the major cultural centers of the time:  Rome (The Roman Rite); Constantinople / Byzantium (The Byzantine Rite);  Antioch in Syria (The Syrian / Syro-Malabar Rite); Alexandria in Egypt (The Coptic Rite).  Each of these develop their own ritual customs. 

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Ministry to the Dead and Bereaved

While belief in the resurrection continues to shape the Christian attitude toward death, during the patristic period [400-799 CE] the Church is freed to express these beliefs openly and public rituals begin to develop. Belief in the resurrection gives the Christian funeral practices a distinctive perspective of hope, and even joy.  Often the contemporary pagan customs were marked by despair.  For some, death was seen as the absolute end; other non-Christians hoped for something better after death. 

As most adults are now baptized, baptismal practice shifts to the baptism of infants (the only remaining candidates for baptism after all the adults are baptized).   As baptism incorporates us into Christ, thus removing sin, the question is asked "Why do infants need to be baptized as they have no sin to be removed?"  In this context "Original Sin" is formulated and taught.    The development of this doctrine by powerful and eloquent teachers such as Saint Augustine revives interest in Adam, his sin, the results of that sin, concupiscence, and death.   Death is seen as the result of (Adam's) sin.  Beginnings of a theory of purgatory.

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter.  All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 08/15/14.  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org