Dix, Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. 2nd ed. London:Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005 (republished from 1945 original edition).
Chapter 11, “The Sanctification of Time” pp. 303-396.
Dix observes that the fourth century and the sixteenth century served as important pivot points in the worship life of the Christian church (Dix 2005, 303). In this chapter he focuses on the changes of the fourth century. The first major shift he traces is from private to public worship (Dix 205, 304). As persecution declined and the church took on more uniformity in liturgy, the general content of worship remained consistent but there were important theoretical changes. It became more public and accepted, as well as taking on a greater emphasis on the historic redemption rather than the eschaton (Dix 2005, 305).
Once the church was made more free under Constantine, not only were there buildings built and furnished, many by the emperor and other officials, but the new sense of freedom led to numerous actions in the worship (Dix 2005, 309-310). Dix observes in regard to building s and furnishings that the roots of the splendor went back prior to the fourth century. He observes that asceticism and avoidance of sensuous beauty does not originate in primitive Christianity (Dix 2005, 312). Dix rather ties the simplicity to practices of private prayer, while more elaborate ceremonies were tied to public worship (Dix 2005, 317). The monastic movement was also important in worship developments, primarily because it gathered people for frequent worship (Dix 2005, 320). After a few years the liturgical hours of the monastery began to be adopted by some important churches (Dix 2005, 328). During the 4th century the liturgical calendar also expanded a great deal (Dix 2005, 333). The overall calendar changes tended to come from the bishops while the daily offices emerged from the monastic orders (Dix 2005, 334). Dix goes on to discuss the development of the Pascha (Dix 2005, 338), Pentecost (Dix 2005, 341), and other additional days which gave shape to the year. This development continued apace after Nicea in 325 (Dix 2005, 347). Even the six week Lenten season seems to have been present by the mid 4th century (Dix 2005, 355).
Dix next turns his attention to the “propers” of the service, those items which change from day to day (Dix 2005, 360). Though readings for the major feasts of the Church were recognized fairly early, in the 2nd century, selections for every Sunday do not become codified until about the fourth century (Dix 2005, 361), and more likely coming into more concrete form by the 7th century (Dix 2005, 362).
Also in the 4th century commemorations of saints began to be associated not with their death, which had been seen as their birth into eternity, but with their burial, shifting the focus from a heavenly to an earthly action (Dix 2005, 369). Dix speaks in some detail about a number of the celebrations.
By the end of the fourth century both liturgy and the church year had essentially the shape they have retained to the present time.