The first great liturgical movement can be considered to have started with the liberalization of worship by the emperor Constantine in the 4th century(4). The liturgy was very much in movement when the Church emerged from persecution and its cult took over a great deal from the Roman secular and pagan world(5). We find evidence of Roman influence in liturgy in the Roman Canon (with its juridical language), the kissing of the altar and sacred images come from gestures of reverence in Roman culture, while prostrations, processions, and the use of incense and candles were all adapted from the ceremonials of the Roman Imperial Court(6). One very important result of the liberalization of worship was to move worship to magnificent edifices, some built with the aid of Emperors and members of his family(7). The change in venue inevitably resulted in more solemn liturgies. Another important change came as a result of bishops being viewed as imperial officials. Rites imitating gestures of the imperial court, such as bows and prostrations, were introduced. The clergy’s newfound status also led to the introduction of festive clothing such as stole, pallium, and maniple(8). Reviewing the history of this particular period in liturgical history, we can consider that many of the accretions to the Roman Rite came not from any theological necessity, but from cultural attachments of the time.
4. Barden, “Phases of the Liturgical Movement,” The Furrow Vol. 5, No. 11, pp. 667-675
6. Keith F. Pecklers, The Genius of the Roman Rite: on the Reception and Implementation of the New Missal p. 6.
7. Adolf Adam, Foundations of the Liturgy, an Introduction to Its History and Practice, p. 17.
8. Ibid., p. 18