Thursday, November 22, 2018
“1 Now on the first day of the week, when the members of the Catacomb assembly came together to break bread, 2 Timothy spoke to them and continued his message until after midnight.”
Rome had become a hostile city to Christians. Paul had recently been executed. Christians were being arrested with families separated, never to see one another again. Assemblies continued, but convened in safe,secret places that the average citizen would not frequent. Accessing these places were done carefully. One was careful, making sure no stranger was following him. Keep the speaking and singing low key. Soldiers are not known for their kindness when they discover one of these gatherings. If found, members are impaled upon spears. Soldiers delight in driving their blades deep into human flesh. Wounds bleed from large openings that guarantees a lingering and painful death. The fortunate are herded into filthy, pest infected, dark and damp cells to await punishment. That date arrives sooner than expected. Saints are turned into performers to see how long they can remain alive when wild beast are set upon them. To the chagrin of the entertained audience,no one performs in the arena for any length of time.
The catacombs are not a pleasant place. There is the smell of rotting flesh. Some areas are well cared for, but these are bypassed for the more inaccessible places. Discovery means death. Better to smell it than suffer it. The deeper into the catacombs, the better for these Christian assemblies which are hardly for the public. Each first day of the week finds these individuals carefully making their way to the evening gathering. Those who can, bring a container of wine and the unleavened bread to partake and share. Some may have small rolls of first covenant scriptures, but the group depends upon the memory of those who have had the privilege of hearing an inspired prophet or prophetess. Psalms are quoted and chanted by those who know them. Those who have, share with the have not as they pray and partake. Passages are given from memory and the group discusses what has been cited. A prayer is offered, and the assembly begins to evaporate.
Where they assemble is void of comfort. There are no chairs. Dirt floors may contain vermin. Light is supplied by those who bring candles. It is not a place for the elderly, sick, or small children and babies. Rats are constant companions. The smell has already been mentioned. Death announces itself in many ways to those who venture into the depths of that sanctum. Each saint appreciates the safety offered by those ways. If it keeps snooping soldiers away, it serves their purpose. Worship does not depend upon furniture, bright lights, perfume scented areas, special clothing, nor creature comforts. Learning God’s word is not based upon “preaching,” but study is their mainstay.
Those in attendance do not leave in groups. Such demonstrations would invite curiosity, followed by unwanted questions and then unappreciated investigation. Strangers are not invited since they may be pro-Rome rather than pro-Jesus. Those who attend are careful to not betray their weekly evening visits to their neighbors, co-workers, or masters. Some, who do not have a change of clothing,take a nightly dip in the river to rid skin and cloth of any telltale smells.
Do they share their faith? Carefully. Despite the persecution, threat of imprisonment or death, members slowly and carefully feel out their pagan neighbors for glimmers of curiosity or search for something spiritually superior to what they believe and practice.
From time to time,news filters through about the death of an apostle or known prophet. Pagans and government hate both Jews and Christians for their narrow views and refusal to worship the emperor. Yet, the body of Christ continues to grow and now there are two catacomb assemblies that meet in two different locales.
Would such assemblies be of interest to anyone today?