Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Reformation. Revised and Updated ed. Vol. 1. New York: HarperCollins, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Ch. 11, “Christian Life” Loc. 2044-2285.
Gonzalez reminds the reader that the issues of doctrine, persecution and conflicts within the church were not all-consuming. We do not have much written evidence about the lives of the earliest Christians. According to the cultural standards of imperial Rome, Christians were not considered erudite. They had relatively few wise and intellectual leaders (Gonzalez 2010, Loc. 2055). Gonzalez cites some of the miracle accounts found in apocryphal writings as opposed to the more ethereal views of Jesus articulated in Clement of Alexandria.
While the common life may have been divergent, the worship life was not (Ibid., Loc. 2081). The Church gathered for the eucharist on the first day of the week, celebrating the resurrection. Gonzalez emphasizes the celebratory nature of worship (Ibid., Loc. 2104), including readings, prayers, and communion (Ibid., Loc. 2118). The tradition of Christian worship in catacombs stems from the fact that burial societies were legal and Christians could worship more freely in their cemetery (Ibid., Loc. 2135). More often, worship was in private homes (Ibid., Loc. 2145). The growth of a church year began around Easter (Ibid., Loc. 2156) and gradually added Lent, Pentecost, then Epiphany. Gonzalez assumes December 25 as a pagan festival date taken over by Christians (Ibid., Loc. 2174). Aside from communion, baptism was a high point in Christian celebration (Ibid., Loc. 2174), normally celebrated on Easter Sunday. The church was organized by the early second century with bishop, elder, and deacon (Ibid., Loc. 2195). There is some debate about when the offices emerged in a hierarchy. Gonzalez explores the ill-defined roles of women briefly (Ibid., Loc. 2207), concluding that they were important and some were in positions of importance. The role of the church and marriage was tenuous. It was not a legal function but could serve to recognize union within the church (Ibid., Loc. 2227). The church worship was centered on communion, never on evangelistic outreach (Ibid., Loc. 2233). The growth was largely due to the witness of individuals in homes and businesses. Christian artwork was slow to arise, probably due to the practice of worship in homes (Ibid., Loc. 2261). Symbolism such as fish and bread does appear after some time.