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image of Vigiliae Christianae

The principal purpose of this paper is to describe the ordination rites of third century Africa. Beside describing these rites, we shall seek to understand their historical growth through observing the manner in which their social context both represents a wider social reality and constructs a new social world within the church. This social world may be described as "contra-cultural", in that it depends on the norms of the wider society for its existence, whilst inverting the values of that society. The social world of the African church has already been recognized as discrete and separate, and church order has already been understood within contra-cultural categories. This article explores one facet of this phenomenon within the society of the African church, namely the manner in which patronage both supplies a social norm and is inverted within the church, and explores the manner in which ritual may contribute to the construction of this society.


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