Jungmann, Josef A., S.J. "Chapter Eleven: The Impact of Paganism on Christian Worship." The Early Liturgy to the Time of Gregory the Great. (translated by Francis A. Brunner, C.S.S. R., Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1959, pp. 122-151.
With the fourth century Christianity took on a new challenge. Jungmann asserts that, "As a result of the 'Constantinian Peace,' there began a great mass-movement of people from all classes towards Christianity. Among these new converts were not only people of a deeply religious nature, but also the timid and the weak who wished to join because it was now an advantage to be a Christian" (Jungmann 1959, 122). With the emperor apparently being supportive of Christianity the Church and the secular culture, which entertained pagan ideas, were forced into close contact.
The place of worship, now constructed more like a public building than previously, gradually took on more of the trappings of the royal building implied by the name "basilica" (Jungmann 1959, 123). Rather than being an elaborate and oranate structure, it tended to be a large, inviting, and peaceful place.
Music and singing were also held in contrast to the culture as a whole (Jungmann 1959, 124). The pagan offerings would always be accompanied by music and especially singing. Christian worship, in comparison, was not oriented around extensive singing, and instruments were not used (Jungmann 1959, 124). Jungmann does observe that various early authors discussed different modes of singing. Some were simpler than others (Jungmann 1959, 125).
Services in churches took place mainly in the native language of the area or using a language common to all groups in the area. In Rome they were Latin. In many other parts of the Empire, they would be conducted in Greek, since most churches were in areas colonized by Greeks (Jungmann 1959, 125). By the fourth century the Latin influence grew. Jungmann also sees elements of prayers and philosophical statements from the non-Christian world entering into Christian worship (Jungmann 1959, 126). The motifs found in artwork, too, suggest elements common to pagan art, especially depictions of natural elements, but also mythic characters standing in relation to Christian symbolism (Jungmann 1959, 127).
The traditional greeting of a kiss seems to have come into Christianity from the pagan culture (Jungmann 1959, 128). Jungmann notes in Chirstian practice it expanded to a kiss from the priest to the altar and to other holy objects. Likewise, the dismissal, "ite, missa est," was a common way to dismiss a group (Jungmann 1959, 129).
The imperial court customs also had an influence on Christian practice. In the period before Constantine Christians would be very careful not to acknowledge Caesar in any way in speech or action. However, in Constantine's time, bishops would be given honors similar to judges. They were seen as high officials (Jungmann 1959, 131). Honorifics were then accorded to bishops, in a way Jungmann finds very similar to those given to secular authorities (Jungmann 1959, 131). The use of lights and incense are also carried over from the Roman imperial court, which preserved the practice from the senate and the consul. Jungmann traces its use in kingly courts even to the 1930s (Jungmann 1959, 132).
Jungmann finds pagan religious elements in Christian worship as well. It was no surprise to see cultural customs which may have had few hints of religious significance. However, the Church had always avoided any elements of pagan religion. Jungmann's conclusion is that "either these were made at a time when paganism no longer held sway and the danger of a pagan interpretation was either eliminated or minimized; or else they involved border-line cases, matters touching only on the external organization of worshiop, or formalities capable of different interpretation and of becoming vehicles of Christian ideas" (Jungmann 1959, 134).
Christians typically have turned toward the east while praying. Jungmann observes that virtually every civilization does so, normally because the rising sun brings life and is seen as a sign of divinity (Jungmann 1959, 134). Jews historically turned toward Jerusalem. However, Christians did not do so, because the second coming of Christ is understood to be from the east (Jungmann 1959, 135). Further, Christ is the light of the world, so is seen as the rising sun. When Romans took on the concept of the emperor as the "unconquered sun" the Christians reaffirmed that Jesus is the unconquered one, rising like the sun (Jungmann 1959, 136). This led, in time, to the actual orientation of church buildings, with the congregation facing an altar at the east. In cases of a church not oriented this way, the prayers would still be made facing east (Jungmann 1959, 137).
Christians continued theRoman practice of giving a baby milk and honey as a sign of acceptance and nurture. They also provided a drink of milk and honey to newly baptized Christians before the reception of communion. The symbolism, however, was that of bringing the convert into a land flowing with milk and honey (Jungmann 1959, 139).
In the Eastern Church, a bride and groom wear a wreath of flowers. While in paganism the wreath was to ward off evil spirits, Christians repurposed it as a sign of victory over impurity (Jungmann 1959, 140). The sign has changed, now normally being a crown in the east and disappearing in the west, but it was retained at least to the 9th century.
A pagan burial included a sacrifice for the dead as well as a ceremonial meal. While in Christian tradition there is no concept that the dead participates or that there is a sacrifice to a pagan god, but the sacrament is often celebrated, along with a meal for the living at which they remember the dead (Jungmann 1959, 140-141).
The calendar of Christianity, according to Jungmann, has some traces of paganism. Some social and civic forms were certainly retained as Christianity became dominant. For instance, pre-Christian traditions often included the third, the seventh or ninth, and the thirtieth or fortieth day after death for special commemorations (Jungmann 1959, 142). Christians have often done the same. The cultural concept was strong enough that it was retained, though not for theological reasons. After early attempst to teach against the customs, most Christians kept the cultural rhythm, while rejecting the original cultural reasons (Jungmann 1959, 144). Likewise, a number of days of special praers occur on dates and for purposes similar to those of Roman paganism, but with distinctive Christian prayer. The date and the recurring concern was retained but the act of worship takes place from a Christian perspective (Jungmann 1959, 145).
Jungmann does include in these festivals December 25, which was brought into Roman observance as the day of "Sol Invictus" by the emperor Aurelian after 274. Jungmann finds the first indication of December 25 as Christ's birthday in 354 (Jungmann 1959, 148). He does, however, note that the concept of Christ as the light of the world was related, and that there is some evidence for a celebration before 312. Epiphany, he says, may also have been related to a solstice observance which eventually settled on Januay 6.