committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

 

SECTION VII.

A BOGOMIL CONGREGATION AND ITS WORSHIP.—MOSTAR, ON THE N NARENTA.

BUT let us picture to ourselves (and we have ample authority for the picture) a Bogomilian assembly at the close of the tenth century. We will choose for our location the ancient town of Mostar, in the Herzegovina, which was one of the principal seats of the new doctrine. Along its streets on the Lord's Day a company of plainly-dressed Bosniacs wend their way toward one of the narrow side streets of the town. They are met at every turn by gayly-dressed men and women, who are on their way either to the Greek church or to the theatre, and who are laughing, shouting, and apparently in the highest spirits; yet they move forward deliberately but determinedly across Trajan's beautiful bridge, which spans with a single arch of stone the swift and rocky channel of the Narenta, toward a plain, barnlike structure, whose rude stone walls and thatched roof give no indication that it is a temple for the worship of the Most High. They all enter, and the spacious room, with its bare walls and its rude benches, is soon filled. No pillars sustain the comparatively low ceiling; no pictures, bas-reliefs, or sculptures adorn the walls or attract the attention of the worshippers There is no altar radiant with gold and color, no screen for the choir, no pulpit even for the officiating minister; but at the rear of the room a plain table covered with a white linen cloth, and having upon it a manuscript copy of the New Testament, and a roll on which are inscribed some of the grand and inspiring hymns of the apostolic church, furnish the only. indications of the place of the leader of the congregation. By the side of the table sits an old man whose white locks fall upon his shoulders. His plain dress—that of the Bosniac farmer of that time—does not differ from that of the other men in the congregation. His fine intellectual face is hidden by his hand, and his attitude and manner indicate that he is engaged in silent prayer. Presently he rises from his seat, kneels reverently—his example being followed by all the congregation—and utters with evident sincerity and fervor a brief prayer full of feeling and evincing a spirit of devotion which shows that he at least is worthy of the name of Bogomil—"the man who prays."

At the conclusion of the prayer the whole congregation join him in reciting the Lord's Prayer, closing with an audible "Amen." He next commences chanting, in a voice of wonderful melody, some one of those hymns of the early church with which Bunsen, in his Hippolytus, has made us so familiar—hymns doubtless sung by the apostles, and believers of their time. He then reads a portion of the New Testament history. Laying down the precious manuscript, he proceeds to unfold to his eager hearers the character and life of the incarnate Jesus. He tells of his poverty, his sufferings, his rejection by men, his crucifixion, his reappearance in a more glorious beauty and with a more manifest power; of his six weeks' stay upon earth in this semi-glorified condition, and of his return to heaven amid a throng of attendant angels and saints; and as he portrays him as the Redeemer, the Abolisher of death, and the Conqueror over the Spirit of evil, his eye grows brighter, his tall and commanding form is raised to its full height, and, gazing upward as if, like Stephen, he saw the heavens opened, he breaks forth in that sublime chant of the twenty-fourth Psalm: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in." The congregation, deeply moved, chant in the same tones the response, "Who is this King of glory?" and the elder, again taking up the strain, replies, "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your leads, O ye gates, even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in;" and as the congregation again respond, "Who is this King of glory?" he answers, in sweet but powerful tones, "The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory." Returning, after this episode, to his discourse, the elder describes in such glowing terms the bliss and glory of the heavenly state, the joys of the redeemed, the worthlessness of all earthly honors or comforts, and the insignificance of the trials and persecutions of the present life in comparison with the glory that shall follow, that his hearers are quite lifted above all earthly cares or disquietudes. In all this there is no appeal to the sensuous element; the heaven he describes is not Mohammed's paradise—not even the glowing and radiant "city of our God" which Chrysostom so eloquently portrayed—but a heaven so spiritual, so pure, and so holy that none but the pure in heart can ever hope to attain unto it. With another fervent repetition of the Lord's Prayer, in which all the congregation join, adding their earnest "Amens," the people disperse. In the after-part of the day, as the sun declines to the West, they again assemble for worship and prayer, many of the congregation, and among them some of the older women, participating in the prayers. The reverent repetition of the Lord's Prayer (the presbyter Cosmas says five times on each Lord's Day) constituted an important feature of their services.[10]

 
 
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