Separation of Seating by Sex at Mass
It seems that, in the early Church, men and women sat apart at Mass, in separate areas of the church building. The practice is noted in the Apostolic Tradition, attributed to Hippolytus of Rome and written around 215, wherein women are instructed to “pray in another place in the church, by themselves, whether faithful women or catechumen women.” Hippolytus also restricts the “kiss of peace” by sex, so that men were prohibited from the exchange of the greeting with women.
This should be of particular interest to the enthusiasts of the Novus Ordo, for one of the grounds for demoting the once untouchable Roman Canon and adding the new Eucharistic Prayers was to recover the “anaphora” prayer ascribed to Hippolytus, now set down as the ubiquitous Eucharistic Prayer II.
In addition, major Church Fathers Saints Augustine, Cyril of Jerusalem and John Chrysostom endorsed the separation of the sexes as fostering modesty and as a safeguard against impure thoughts creeping in during Mass. The ancient and enduring nature of the practice is evident from the fact that it was strongly commended in the 1917 Code of Canon Law. “It is desirable that, in harmony with ancient Church order, the women in church be separated from the men.” (Canon 1262, § 1)
Thus, since the separation of the sexes was a practice of the ancient Church, praised Church Fathers, and because many of the foundations of the Novus Ordo are rooted in the attempt to recover these early practices, it would make sense to study segregation by sex along with the study of the revival of the female diaconate.
Friday, August 19, 2016
Deaconesses and the Dangers of Antiquarianism by Christian Browne