A BIBLICAL STUDY OF THE
TEACHING OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES

[Didache ton dodeka apostolon]
An Instruction of the Lord given to the Heathen by the Twelve Apostles(1)
[Didache kyriou dia ton dodeka apostolon ethesin]
Lesson II

Holy Father,
We thank you, Lord, for the Sacraments of our faith through which Your divine life is dispensed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. From the birth of the Church on the Feast of Pentecost, You have graciously given us the visible sign of the hidden reality of our salvation in the Sacraments by which Your Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ the Head throughout the Church which is His Body. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us as we study the instructions for the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist to the early Church, and make us aware that the Church, in Christ, is itself like a sacrament-a sign and instrument that is of communion with You and the unity of faith among all who believe. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

+ + +

The conclusion of St. Peter's homily at Pentecost: 'For this reason the whole House of Israel can be certain that the Lord and Christ whom God has made is this Jesus whom you crucified.' Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'What are we to do, brothers?' 'You must repent,' Peter answered, 'and every one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'
Acts 2:37-38

And they devoted themselves to the Apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 2:42

The Didache Part II: Rituals

Instruction on Baptism

7. 1 Regarding baptism. Baptize as follows: after first explaining all these points, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19), in running water. 2 But if you have no running water, baptize in other water; and if you cannot in cold, then in warm. 3 But if you have neither, pour water on the head three times in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). 4 Before the baptism, let the baptizer and the candidate for baptism fast, as well as any others that are able. Require the candidate to fast one or two days previously.

____________Commentary and Questions____________

Preparing the candidates for baptism included instruction in the previous sections of the Didache, identifying the document as the earliest Catechism for catechumens. The baptismal formula is the same that Jesus gave (Mt 28:19) and the same that is practiced by the Church today. The reference to "running water" is literally "living water," a term Jesus used when He spoke to the woman of Samaria in the Gospel of John 4:10.

Question: What are the three valid ways of baptizing a candidate?
Answer:

  1. By full immersion in "living water"
  2. By infusion (standing in water and pouring water over the head and body)
  3. By aspersion (pouring water over the head)

It is interesting that baptism by infusion or aspersion is already recognized as valid when the Didache was written, pointing to the ancient origins of the practice of these forms of baptism that continues today.

The Catholic Church recognizes the rituals of baptism in Protestant churches so long as the formula baptismal statement given in the Gospel of Matthew and in the Didache and the approved procedure listed in the Didache is embraced.

Question: How many times may a person receive the Sacrament of Baptism? See Eph 4:5 and CCC 172, 866, 1272.
Answer: A valid baptism is to be received only once.

"Running water" means a freely running stream or river, as when St. John the Baptist baptized Jews and Israelites coming to him for a baptism of repentance and ritual purification in preparation for the coming of the Messiah (Mt 3:1-2, 5; Mk 1:4-5; Lk 4:1-3). Today "fasting" is limited to the hour before baptism for those whose baptismal ritual takes place within the Mass. See CCC 281, 403, 523, 720, 846, 1185, 1223-77.

Infant baptism is not mentioned, nor do the instructions indicate that the baptismal ritual is only intended for adults. Infant baptism was practiced since the earliest years of the Church, probably beginning with the baptism of Cornelius' entire household (Acts chapter 10). St. Hippolytus of Rome in c. 215 gave instructions for the baptism of children and infants in his catechetical instruction, Apostolic Tradition, 21, and Origen (185-253/54) wrote: ... the fact that in the Church, Baptism is given for the remission of sins; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given even to infants (Homily 8.3).

Instruction on Fasting and Prayer

8. 1 Our fasts should not coincide with those of the hypocrites (Mt 23:13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29). They fast on Mondays and Tuesdays; you should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. 2 And do not pray as the hypocrites do, but pray as the Lord has commanded in the Gospel:

Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be Thy name;
Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Mt 6:9-13);
For Thine is the power and the glory for evermore.

3 Say this prayer three times a day.

_____________Commentary and Questions_____________

The Didache establishes fast days that are different from the fast days of the Jews. This instruction may be an attempt to separate Jewish-Christians from practices and rituals of the Old Covenant.

Question: Why are the days Wednesday and Friday significant in the unfolding events of Jesus' Passion? Jn 12:1; Mt 26:2, 14-16; Mk 15:27, 34, 42. Note: the ancients counted without the concept of zero place-value therefore any series of days was counted with the first day in the sequence as day one (i.e., Jesus was in the tomb three days as the ancients counted from Friday to Sunday).
Answer: Jesus was first betrayed by Judas on Wednesday and was crucified on Friday. In memory of these two events, Christians were to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays.

In Matthew chapter 23 Jesus repeatedly called the Jewish leaders by the Greek word "hypocrites" (verses 13, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29), the same word used in Didache 8:1.

The Didache commands the three times daily repetition of the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples. The Old Covenant people of God were accustomed to reciting certain prayers morning and evening that corresponds to the Catholic Church's Lauds and Vespers. The Didache established the practice of praying three times a day, which Church Fathers St. Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian identified as at the third, sixth, and ninth hours (nine in the morning, noon, and three in the afternoon according to modern time).(3)

Question: What was significant for Christians concerning these times? See Mk 15:33-39.
Answer: The Christian prayer times reflect the hour Jesus was crucified (Mk 15:25), the hour of the eclipse that left Jerusalem in darkness, and the hour of His death.

Question: What is the name of the prayer recorded in the Didache, and where do you find it in the Bible? What is different about the prayer in the Didache? See Mt 6:7-13.
Answer: It is the Lord's Prayer, and it is found in the Gospel of Matthew near the end of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. The prayer in the Didache includes a doxology that is not found in Scripture.

The beautiful doxology that is included at the end of the Lord's Prayer in the Didache is the same doxology with which Christians have concluded the Lord's Prayer down through the centuries.

The Didache: Instructions on the Eucharist

The Eucharist ("Thanksgiving")

9. 1 Regarding the Eucharist. Give thanks as follows: 2 First, concerning the cup:

"We give Thee thanks, Our Father,
for the Holy Vine of David Thy servant,
which Thou hast made known to us
through Jesus, Thy Servant."
"To Thee be the glory for evermore."

3 Next, concerning the broken bread:

"We give Thee thanks, Our Father,
for the life and knowledge
which Thou hast made known to us
through Jesus, Thy servant."
"To Thee be the glory for evermore."

4 "As this broken bread was scattered over the hills

and then, when gathered, became one mass,
so may Thy Church be gathered
from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom."
"For Thine is the glory and the power
through Jesus Christ for evermore."

5 Let no one eat and drink of your Eucharist but those baptized in the name of the Lord; to this, too, the saying of the Lord is applicable: Do not give to dogs what is sacred (Mt 7:6).

10. 1 After you have taken your fill of food, give thanks as follows:

2 "We give Thee thanks, O Holy Father,
for Thy holy name which Thou hast enshrined in our hearts,
and for the knowledge and faith and immortality
which Thou hast made known to us
through Jesus, Thy Servant."
"To Thee be the glory for evermore."

 

3 "Thou, Lord Almighty,
hast created all things (Rev 4:11) for the sake of Thy name
and hast given food and drink for men to enjoy,
that they may give thanks to Thee;
but to us Thou hast vouchsafed spiritual food
and drink and eternal life
through (Jesus), Thy Servant.

4 Above all, we give Thee thanks
because Thou art mighty."
"To Thee be the glory for evermore."

 

5 "Remember, O Lord, Thy Church:
deliver her from all evil,
perfect her in Thy love,
and from the four winds assemble (Dt 30:4; Zec 2:10; Mt 24:31) her, the sanctified,
in Thy kingdom which Thou hast prepared for her."
"For Thine is the power and the glory for evermore."

6 "May Grace come, and this world pass away!
"Hosanna to the God of David!"(Mt 21:9)
"If anyone is holy, let him advance;
if anyone is not, let him be converted.
"Marana tha! (1 Cor 15:23; Rev 22:20) Amen."

7 But permit the prophets to give thanks as much as they desire.

 

____________Commentary and Questions____________

 

Didache chapters 9-10 are one unit. This is the Church's oldest recorded Eucharistic prayer that signals the beginning of the Eucharistic liturgy. The prayer is a responsorial prayer with the Presider of the worship service praying and then pausing for the congregation to respond with "To Thee be the glory for evermore" or "For Thine is the glory and the power for evermore" or with the addition "through Jesus Christ for evermore." The prayer is interrupted with instructions in verses 3, 5 and 7, and the Eucharistic prayer concludes with a final blessing in Didache 10:6 followed by the response "Amen!" from the community.

The instructions begin with the prayer before communion, announced as a prayer of "thanksgiving." This was a familiar term to Jewish-Christians. It was the name of the ritual of sacrifice and the sacred communion meal of the Old Covenant Church, known in Hebrew as the toda/todah, and to Greek speaking Jews as euchatistia (meaning "thanks/thanksgiving"). The Old Covenant toda communion sacrifice was a free-will offering of an unblemished male or female animal from the herd or flock in which the offerer made a sacrifice of praise over the animal before it was killed. The fat, kidneys, the lob of the liver and the fat of the tail (if the animal was a sheep) were burnt on the altar fire along with an offering of unleavened bread. The victim's blood was splashed against the altar and a libation of red wine was offered with the sacrifice. The rest of the meat of the animal was cooked and eaten along with unleavened bread and wine by the offerer, his family, other covenant members and the priest in a sacred meal of thanksgiving and praise within the Sanctuary (Lev 3:1-17; 7:1/11-5/15, 18/28-24/34; 19:5; 22:21; Num 15:7-10).

In his book, Feast of Faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) links the Old Covenant communion meal of the toda to the Eucharist; he quotes German scholar H. Gese's description of the toda: "The Thanksgiving sacrifice presupposes a particular situation. If a man is saved from death, from fatal illness or from those who seek his life, he celebrates this divine deliverance in a service of thanksgiving which marks an existential new start in his life. In it, he 'confesses' (jd[h]) God to be his deliverer by celebrating a thank-offering (toda). He invites his friends and associates, provides the sacrificial animal ... and celebrates ... together with his invited guests, the inauguration of his new existence .... In order to recall God's deliverance and give thanks for it, it is necessary to reflect on one's pilgrimage through suffering, to bring to mind the process of redemption.... The sacrifice cannot be misunderstood as a 'gift' to God; rather it is a way of 'honoring' the Deliverer. And the fact that the rescued man is able to celebrate 'life restored' in the sacred meal is itself the gift of God.... The toda is not restricted to a bloody sacrifice of flesh but also embraces the unbloody offering of bread .... Thus in the context of toda, bread and wine acquire a special significance; the one becomes part of the sacrifice itself, the other plays a constitute role in proclamation" (Ratzinger, Feast of Faith, pages 55-56). Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) sums up his argument linking the toda to the Eucharist by writing: "Anyone who takes account of these factors will not find it difficult to understand the origins of the Eucharist of Jesus Christ. Structurally speaking, the whole of Christology, indeed the whole of Eucharistic Christology, is present in the toda spiritually of the Old Testament. As Gese sums it up: 'The Lord's Supper is the toda of the Risen One'" (Ratzinger, Feast of Faith, page 57).

The meal of the community in the Didache is both a toda and a reenactment of the meal of the Last Supper prior to the giving of the Body and Blood of the Lord. The beginning of the prayer is in the tradition of the Jewish prayer before the meal. You will notice that the meal is concluded in Didache 10.1: "After you have taken your fill of food, give thanks as follows ...", which then offers the prayer after the meal and before receiving the Eucharist and the prayer concludes in 10:6 with the statement: "If anyone is holy, let him advance; if anyone is not, let him be converted ...;" this is the climax of the meal which is the invitation for covenant members to advance and receive the Eucharist.

The sacred meal of the Old Covenant toda was a sign of covenant union and of what was to come.

Question: How was the Old Covenant communion meal of the toda a promise of two future fulfillments for the Old Covenant Church: 1. of what was promised to come in the future for the Old Covenant Church and 2. of what was to come at the final "end of days" ? See Mt. 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-25; Lk 22:19-20; Rev 19:9.
Answer: The toda prefigured the first of many New Covenant Eucharistic meals, as well as the promise of the future heavenly banquet of the wedding feast of the Lamb and His Bride, the Church, at God's table in the heavenly Sanctuary (Rev 19:9).

In Feast of Faith, Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) mentions a rabbinic prophecy that when the Messiah came, all other Temple sacrifices would cease with the exception of the toda (Ratzinger, Feast of Faith, page 58). It is a prophecy that is repeated in the Jewish Publication Society's Torah Commentary on the Book of Leviticus: "The todah occupied a special position in the rabbinic tradition because it symbolized the pure expression of gratitude to God. It was not obligatory; nor was it occasioned by sinfulness or guilt, nor even by the motives that induced Israelites to pledge votive sacrifices when confronted by danger. According to rabbinic teaching, it would continue to be offered in the messianic era, when the rest of the sacrificial system was no longer operative" (JPS Torah Commentary: Leviticus, page 43; underlining added).

Question: Was the prophecy that the toda would continue in the Messianic era when all other sacrifices had ceased fulfilled? How?
Answer: Yes, this prophecy was perfectly fulfilled. When the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed in 70 AD all the sacrificial rites of the Old Covenant ceased, but the toda ("thanksgiving" sacred meal) continued in the Eucharistic sacred meal of the New Covenant people of God.

For Christians, this Old Covenant communion ritual of the sacred meal of the toda and the sacred communion meal of the Passover victim was fulfilled in the true sacrifice of Jesus Christ in which the congregation's offerings of bread and wine became the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, who is really and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine to become the true spiritual food of Holy Communion. The name of the Jewish toda was retained in the Greek because not only is this sacred meal of the New Covenant a fulfillment of the Old Covenant toda in which the covenant members "thank" God for restored life through Jesus our Savior but also because Scripture records that at the Last Supper Jesus "gave thanks" (Mt 26:26; Mk 14:22; Lk 22:17; 1 Cor 11:24) before offering Himself to His disciples. The repeated phase in the Didache's prayer, "We give Thee thanks," survives in the Ordinary of the Mass celebrated today and exemplifies the characterization of the whole Church as "a holy priesthood" of believers (1 Pt 2:5).

Instruction on the Eucharistic prayer begins in Didache 9:1-2 with: "Regarding the Eucharist. Give thanks as follows: 2 First, concerning the cup: 'We give Thee thanks, Our Father'"...

The prayer probably begins with the offering of the wine in 9:1 instead of the offering of the bread because this part of the meal is the Christian version of the sacred meal of the toda and the Last Supper-a complete meal that St. Ignatius referred to as an "agape" meal/"love" meal (Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, 8.2). It is possible that the early prayer in the Didache begins by mentioning the cup because a communal cup was passed in the "agape" meal prior to the Eucharist as in the description of the Last Supper in the Gospel of Luke which begins with the mention of a cup of wine in Luke 22:17 followed by mention of the bread which became Jesus Body in Luke 22:19 followed by the cup which became His Blood. Actually, in the sacred meal of the Passover victim, four communal cups of wine were passed during the meal. St. Paul tells us that the communal cup that became Jesus' Blood was the third cup, called "The Cup of Blessing" (1 Cor 10:16).

Compare this prayer and its description of the offering of the Eucharist with St. Justin Martyr's description of the celebration of the Eucharist in c. 155 AD in CCC 1345.

Question: What is the significance of the words "Holy Vine of David" in Didache 9:1? Who is the "Holy Vine of David"? See Ps 79/80:15 (lit. = protect what your own hand has planted, and on the son you strengthened); 2 Sam 7:16; 23:5; Is 11:1-5, 10; Ez 34:23-25; 37:25-28; Jn 15:1 (Jesus the True Vine); and Gen 49:8-12 and Sir 50:15/16 (where the literal translation is "blood of the grape").
Answer: These words make the connection to the prophecies that the Messiah will be a descendant of the great King David of the tribe of Judah and also identify Jesus as the "Holy Vine" who transforms the offering of the "blood of the grape" into His precious Blood.

Didache 9:3 "Next, concerning the broken bread..."

The "breaking of the bread" came to designate the celebration of the Mass and Holy Communion as the faith community celebrated the "breaking of the bread" just as Jesus broke the bread at the Last Supper before giving it to His disciples: Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the disciples, 'Take it and eat,' he said, 'this is my body' (Mt 26:26; also see Mk 14:22; Lk 22:19). At the same time the faithful who are present recognize that the Savior is present in the "breaking of the bread" like the disciples from Emmaus: Now while he was with them at table, he took the bread and said the blessing; then he broke it and handed it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him ... (Lk 24:29-30). Also see Acts 20:7: On the first day of the week we met for the breaking of bread ...

Didache 9:3 continues: 'We give Thee thanks, Our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy servant.'"

This teaching is consistent with the Church's teaching that the Eucharist gives "life," as Jesus taught in John 6:51 (see CCC 1324). There are also numerous references in the New Testament that identify "life and knowledge" as unique gifts of Christ to His Church (Lk 1:77; 2 Cor 4:6; Jn 3:15; 5:26; 6:68).

The giving of Jesus' Body and Blood for the salvation of His people was prophesied by Jesus in the Gospel of John (Jn 6:51-58) the day after the miracle of the feeding of the over five thousand men, women, and children (see Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:32-44; Lk 9:10-17; and Jn 6:1-15 where the word for "scraps" or "fragments" of bread is used in the singular in the Greek word klasmata). Some old Greek manuscripts have "meat" singular.

Question: Do you see a connection between the miracle of the feeding of the over five thousand and the wording of the prayer in Didache 9:3-4? See Jn 6:13 where the word "scraps" or "pieces" is klasmata, which in Greek is in the singular as it is the same word in Didache 9:4
Answer: In the feeding miracle, the crowds of people were spread across the hills. When they were finished, Jesus instructed the Apostles to collect the leftover pieces (singular in the Greek text of the New Testament) of bread spread across the hillsides. That the bread is expressed in the singular in the Gospels is explained in the Didache: "As this broken bread was scattered over the hills and then, when gathered, became one mass, so may Thy Church be gathered from the ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom." Christ gave His One Body to His Church who are also One Body in Christ.

St. Cyprian writes beautiful of the unity of Christ and His Church in the Eucharist using this same idea in Epistles, 39.5; 69.3-3; Epistle to Magnus 6, and Treatise I, 6-7:

Jewish-Christians were familiar with the concept of God's people being "scattered" and then "gathered" (see Dt 28:25; Ps 105/106:47; 146/147:2; Jer 34:17; Judith 5:23), and they would have seen this phrase in the Didache as defining the gathering of the faithful to participate in the sacrifice of Christ in the Eucharist as the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament prophets that one day there would be an ingathering of the lost tribes of Israel. These prophecies were fulfilled in the New Israel of the universal (catholic) Church of Jesus Christ (see CCC 1348; 751-52).

Didache 9:5 "Let no one eat and drink of your Eucharist but those baptized in the name of the Lord; to this, too, the saying of the Lord is applicable: Do not give to dogs what is sacred." This verse limits receiving the miracle of the Eucharist to those baptized into the New Covenant in Christ, just as in the Old Covenant eating of the sacred meal was limited to those who were members of the covenant and in a state of ritual purity (Ex 12:47-51); Lev 22:14-15; CCC 1355, 1415).

The epitaph "dogs" refers to non-believers (the dog was an unclean animal not fit for sacrifice just as the Gentiles were unfit to offer sacrifice. Sometime the word "pigs" also referred to Gentiles who ate pork, an "unclean" food forbidden for Jews. Jews used "dogs" as a term for pagan Gentiles as Jesus used the same term in Matthew 7:6 (also see Mt 7:6; 15:26; and Mk 7:26). Jesus used the same term with the Gentile woman from Sidon, but He softened it with the kinder term "little dogs" in Matthew 15:26 when speaking of his primary mission which was to bring salvation to the Jews so they could fulfill their destiny to carry the Gospel message of salvation to the Gentiles. It was a mission the faith communities instructed by the Didache were fulfilling.

Didache 10:1 "After you have taken your fill of food, give thanks as follows ..." This phrase has generated controversy. As previously mentioned, many scholars believe this phrase refers to the very early ritual of eating a meal, which Christians referred to as a "agape/love" meal, before receiving the Eucharist, just as Jesus and His disciples ate the sacred meal of the Passover sacrifice before He presented His Body and Blood as the Gospels note with the phrase "while they were eating" (Mt 26:21, 26; Mk 14:18, 22). It would appear that the regular meal was taken at the end of Didache 9:4, and in 9:5, at the end of the meal, the unbaptized are warned against taking part in the Eucharist, perhaps adjourning to another room (9:5). That would make the prayer prior to the Eucharist a prayer before the ordinary meal (9:2-4) and the prayer in Didache 10:2-5 the main body of the Eucharistic prayer that ends with the invitation to come forward in 10:6. 4

Question: What does St. Paul tell the Corinthians concerning the celebration of the Eucharist and the "agape" meal prior to receiving the Body and Blood of Christ? See 1 Cor 11:20-22, 33-34.
Answer: Paul instructs the Church at Corinth not to bring their food and eat together prior to receiving the "Lord's Supper" but to eat their normal meal at home before gathering to worship.

When St. Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthians (c. 54 AD), he discouraged the practice of the "agape" love-meal in association with the Eucharist because some Corinthians were abusing the "agape" meal. However, in St. Ignatius' letter to the Smyrnaeans, he writes: "Whenever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or celebrate a love (agape) feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid" (Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans, 8.2).

Didache 10:5 "... and from the four winds assemble (Dt 30:4; Zec 2:10; Mt 24:31) her, the sanctified, in Thy kingdom which Thou hast prepared for her."

Question: Who is "her" in this passage? What comparison can be made to Mary of Nazareth?
Answer: The Church, the Bride of Jesus Christ, is also imaged as the Mother of her Christian children just as the Virgin Mary is both fruitful mother and ever Virgin.

In Matthew 24:31 the passage literally reads: And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet to gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the heavens to their ends. Matthew 24:31 and passage 10:5 from the Didache is a composite formula from Deuteronomy 30:4 and Zechariah 2:10 that refers to the ingathering of the tribes of Israel from where they have been scattered across the face of the earth. Those who will be gathered and assembled into the Church and sanctified are the faithful remnant of Jews that God will rescue along with the Gentiles who will be invited as citizens of His earthly kingdom, the New Covenant Church.

Didache 10:6 "May Grace come, and this world pass away! "Hosanna to the God of David!"(Mt 21:9) "If anyone is holy, let him advance; if anyone is not, let him be converted.
Marana tha! (1 Cor 15:23; Rev 22:20) "Amen."

Question: What is the petition in the first line of Didache 10:6?
Answer: That Christ will return.

The petition is followed by the acclamation "Hosanna," hosiyah na in Hebrew, literally meaning "Save us Yah [Yahweh], we ask" (see Ps 118:25). Crying out "Hosanna" was an invocation of Yahweh in Old Covenant liturgy, especially at the Feast of Pentecost. In both the Old and in New Covenant liturgy it was an acclamation by the covenant people meant to signify the recognition of God's royal Messianic dignity and sovereignty. In the acclamation of the community as directed in the Didache, it is used to proclaim the saving power of Christ the King.

Question: When was this acclamation first directed to Jesus of Nazareth and what was the significance of the event? See Mt 21:9; Mk 11:9; Jn 12:13; Zech 9:9-11. How is the passage in Zechariah significant in light of Jesus' crucifixion on Friday?
Answer: It is the same acclamation made on Palm (Passion) Sunday when Jesus was acknowledged by the Jewish crowd as the Davidic King as He rode into Jerusalem in fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, a prophecy that also speaks of the "blood of your [the Davidic king's] covenant" in verse 11. It was a part of the Zechariah passage that was fulfilled in Jesus crucifixion when the New Covenant was established in the blood of the Lamb of God offered in sacrifice for the sins of mankind.

Question: The acclamation "Hosanna" should be familiar to you. When do you make this acclamation proclaiming the Triune God?
Answer: In the Sanctus of the Mass at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer after the Preface.

In the celebration of the Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer, which began with the Preface, is reserved for the priest until it is interrupted by the congregation's acclamation of the Sanctus in which the people sing with the entire heavenly community worshiping in the heavenly Sanctuary and gathered around the throne of God (Is 6:3 and Rev 4:8). To the "Holy, Holy, Holy" [Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus], which proclaims the holiness of the Triune God, we add an acclamation from the Psalms that is also an acclamation from the Jewish crowd on Palm Sunday: "Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest." In the Didache the congregation offers one petition in their "Hosanna," but in our "Hosanna," in the celebration of the Mass, we offer two petitions, saying twice "Hosanna ["save us Yahweh we ask'] in the highest."

Question: What are the two petitions and to whom are they offered?
Answer: First we offer a petition for our salvation that is addressed to God the Father, and then we offer a second petition to Jesus Christ our King and Savior.

Question: What stipulation is placed on those who are prepared to advance and receive the Eucharist in Didache 10:6?
Answer: They must be "holy" (free from sin and in a state of grace).

As in the Old Covenant, those who ate of the sacred food in the communion meal of the toda ("thanksgiving") or the other sacred meals, like the Passover meal on the first night of Unleavened Bread, had to be ritual "clean," meaning to be free of sin.

Question: What could happen to someone who ate sacred food in a state of sin? See Lev 7:10/20; 1 Cor 11:27-29).
Answer: In the Old Covenant, such a person faced the temporal judgment of being exiled from the community; however, in the New Covenant where judgments and blessings are eternal, according to St. Paul, that person who received the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ in sin was eating and drinking to his own condemnation and divine eternal judgment.

The final acclamation of the congregation is either "Amen" after the Presider calls out "Maranatha" or "Maranatha! Amen" is the congregation's final acclamation.

Question: What is the significance of the acclamation Maranatha? This Aramaic word is only found in two places in the New Testament. See 1 Cor 15:23; Rev 22:20 and consult a Bible dictionary for the literal meaning. Note: In the first century AD, Aramaic was the common tongue of the Jews and Hebrew the liturgical language of worship. Greek was the international language and therefore, the language of the New Testament.
Answer: Written maran atha the Aramaic word means "the Lord has come"' but if written marana tha, it means "Lord, come!"

Either meaning is appropriate. At the moment Christ appears on the altar, "the Lord has come," but the Presider may also be calling for the Parousia (Greek "coming" or "appearing") of the Lord in His promised Second Advent, as the word in used in Revelation 22:20.

The cry of the faithful in the early Church for Christ's return is the same longing of the faithful today: Though already present in his Church, Christ's reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled "with power and great glory" by the king's return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ's Passover. Until everything is subject to him, "until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God." That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ's return by saying to him: Marana tha! "Our Lord, come!" (CCC 671; containing references to Lk 21:27; Mt 25:31; 2 Thes 2:7; 2 Pt 3:11-13; Rom 8:19-22; 1 Cor 11:26; 15:28; 16:22; Rev 22:17, 20).

The final "Amen" in Didache 10:6 is a Hebrew word. It is used as an acclamation of agreement to indicate "I believe" or "it is true," or "so be it". However, that is not the literal meaning. The Jewish Talmud (Shabbat 119b) identifies "Amen" as an acrostic formed from the first letter of the three Hebrew words El Melech Ne'eman, which means "God is a trustworthy King." The Hebrew word "Amen" appears for the first time in Numbers 5:22. It is used a response by the congregation to a prayer (as in Ps 89:53) or as a declamation (as in the twelve covenant curses listed in Dt 27:15-26). When worship took place at the Jerusalem Temple, the response of the assembly to the blessings of the priests was "Blessed be His glorious Name forever and ever." After the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the accepted response of the congregation in Synagogue worship led by a rabbi (teacher) was instead "Amen" (Talmud: Tannit 16; The Jewish Book of Why, page 152).

Question: In the Letter to Laodicea in Revelation 3:14, who is "The Amen" and why is this title used?
Answer: Jesus Christ is identified by the title "The Amen" because He is God who is the trustworthy King, the meaning of the Hebrew words that form the acrostic "Amen."

Didache 10:7 "But permit the prophets to give thanks as much as they desire." This is the end of the service for participation by the faithful, but because of their spiritual gifts, prophets are not bound by the length of the normal worship service.

In the section on the Eucharist, the Didache does not declare that the bread offered literally becomes Jesus' Body and the wine becomes Jesus' Blood. It is not unusual for an explanation of the mysteries of the Eucharist to be absent from documents in this early period of Church history. New Christians only received instruction in the divine mysteries after baptism in the period of catechesis known as Mystegogia (revelation of the mysteries). The early Church took seriously Jesus' command not to "cast pearls before swine" (Mt 7:6) and that "the children's food should not be given to dogs" (Mt 7:6; 15:26; Mk 7:26; Didache 9:5), interpreting those passages to mean that the divine mysteries were not to be revealed to the heathen. In the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the faithful pray: O Son of God, bring me into communion today with your mystical supper. I shall not tell your enemies the secret, nor kiss you with Judas' kiss. But like the good thief I cry, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (CCC 1386).

The absence of the revelation of the mystery of the Eucharist may be another indication of the early date of the Didache. Later, however, the Church Fathers frequently wrote as defenders of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, for example men like St. Ignatius (d. 107), St. Justin (d. 155), St. Irenaeus, (d. 202), St. Cyprian (d. 258), St. Cyril (d. 386) and St. Ambrose (d. 397) to name a few. The testimonies of these early bishops clearly profess their faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. For example:

The Didache addresses instructions on the moral law, the ritual of Christian baptism, the summons to assemble for Mass, the celebration of Holy Communion, prayers of the faithful, and confession of sins prior to receiving the Eucharist as part of the regular worship service on the Lord's Day (Sunday). These are all elements of the faith that are familiar to the Church in the 21st century AD. The Didache does not explain the order of worship or the procedure for Sacraments like Baptism or the Eucharist since it is not an instruction manual for bishops and deacons but is instead instruction for Gentile converts.

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Endnotes (continued from Lesson 1):

  1. Tettullian, De or. 25; De ieium. 10; also see St. Clement of Alexandria, Strom. 7.7.40.3.
  2. It will become the practice of the Church to only allow catechumens to attend the Mass of the Catechumens (consisting of the first half of the worship service with prayers, hymns, the Scripture readings, and the homily), but for catechumens to leave before the second half of the Mass that began with the Eucharistic Prayer.
  3. For other references to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist from the writings of the Church Fathers, see Justin Martyr, First Apology, 66; St. Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 6.2; Letter to the Romans, 7.3; St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4.17.5 (quoting Malachi 1:11); 4.18.4; 5.2.2; Tertullian, Treatise on the Resurrection of the Dead, 8.2; etc.

Resources:

  1. Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 6, translations by James A. Kleist, S.J., PhD, "The Didache," pages 3-25, 151-66, The Newman Press, 1948.
  2. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, "Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions," pages 371-508, Hendrickson Publishers, second edition 1995.
  3. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, "Church History," Eusebius, Hendrickson Publishers, second edition 1995.
  4. The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1, William A. Jurgens, Liturgical Press, 1970.
  5. Catechism of the Catholic Church, United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Liberia Editrice Vaticana, second edition, 1997.
  6. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 7, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995 edition.
  7. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, Hendrickson Publishers, 1995 edition.
  8. The Teachings of the Church Fathers, edited by John R. Willis, S.J., Ignatius Press, 2002 edition.

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