We learn from early Christian worship not only because some want to “return” or “recover” the origins, but because the first churches brought into play what was inevitable to bring into play. They had to practice certain things because these were practices which expressed their faith. You could say that these practices were their faith.
In Andrew McGowan’s beautiful book, Ancient christian worship, we will meet six practices (meal, Word, music, initiation, prayer and time) and today we want to focus on the meal.
These Christian meals “were not simply a sacramental part of a community or a life of worship, but the central act around or in which others – reading and preaching, prayer and prophecy – were organized” ( 19-20). At the center of Christian worship, he argues, were meals. Meals must be understood in their old context.
Acts 2: 42-46 sets the tone for chp.
1.0 Eat the old-fashioned way
Banquets, a common term for early Christian meals, were common: “Groups linked by kinship and by professional, social, religious or ethnic ties together celebrated such meals to create and express their identity and beliefs when the need or opportunity for celebration arose ”(20). Thus, they are connected to collegiate but above all colloquiums. The early Christian meals then led to “after dinner conversations” – and this also happens with Jesus in Galilee – where apostolic teachings took place. This is the framework for early Christian instruction, and 1 Corinthians 14: 26-31 is a good example. Of course, Jewish meals are also featured here, especially Passover or feast meals celebrated in Jerusalem.
Most meals included bread and wine (the staple foods) with side dishes and, on rare occasions, meat. However, I would like to urge us to think that this location was important: if a person lived near a lake or body of water, say the Mediterranean, fish would be common in meals.
The first Christian meals have a common pattern: take bread, bless it and give thanks to God. For example, Luke 24:30.
All of this naturally leads to the Last Supper and the Eucharist, and he gives a sketch of his interpretation, which is not out of the ordinary.
2.0 The First Eucharist
The oldest setting (outside of NT) is Didache, which calls it Eucharist (chap. 9-10, 14). Notice that 1 Cor 11 calls it a deipnon, a banquet meal and an after dinner conversation. It was sometimes called “breaking bread” and other times agape meal. He thinks that the first meals / eucharsts were a meal (deipnon) then a conversation / instruction (symposium).
These included prayers. Here is the first order of prayer, and it is possibly from the mid to late 1st century (probably the last):
And concerning the Eucharist, give thanks [“eucharistize”] So:
Regarding first the cup: “We give you thanks, our Father, for the holy vine of David your child, which you made known to us through Jesus your child; to you be the glory forever.
And concerning the broken bread: “We give you thanks, our Father, for the life and the knowledge which you made known to us through Jesus your child. Glory to you forever. As this broken bread was scattered on the mountains, but was gathered and became one, so may your church be gathered from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, for the glory and the power are yours through Jesus Christ. forever. (Done 9.1-4)
[Another prayer follows the meal, see p. 37 in this book.]
We notice the absence of the themes of body and blood in these meal ceremonies until The Apostolic Tradition. However, the theme of Eucharist is consistent.
Leaders? Probably from Didache since but surely since Ignatius … an “ordained” leader directed the Eucharist. Food was common: bread and wine, but a note of asceticism emerges. The most notable development has been the theologization of the meal, and it is only later in this chapter that McGowan addresses the question of the Eucharist as a sacrifice or oblation. And the elements of the meal were understood with a striking realism compared to the symbolism. Jesus was therefore present: how he was present was not yet clarified.
3.0 From the Eucharist to the Agape
The testimonies of Carthage allow a possible reconstruction of this slide, at least in one place. Between the time of Tertullian and his future compatriot Cyprian – in fact the half-century between 200 and 250 – the Eucharistic food was received mainly during the morning gatherings in Carthage, and not during the evening banquets where only a fraction of the community could come together. Tertullian knows both practices (On the soldier’s crown 3.3; cf. Apollo. 39), but for him the gathering of the evening meal remains the main assembly. For Carthaginian Christians around 200, the evening gathering was formally an agape, or “feast of love,” but also more loosely an Convivium dominicum Where cena Dei (“Lord’s Supper” or “God’s Banquet”) – the closest a writer of this period comes to re-using Paul’s famous language, but in reference to the whole evening rather than ‘with a more strictly sacramental aspect, which could be celebrated separately. This was again the characteristic meeting, probably still the (or at least “a”) principal place of blessing and consumption of food generally known as “the Eucharist,” and certainly the event which gave rise to the event. rumors of cannibalism and incest (49).
At 300, however, the movement is fairly complete and clear: the Sunday morning Eucharist completed what we would call Sunday morning worship. Along with this there is a growth in the number and a shift of houses to larger spaces, to the basilica in the 4th century.
5.0 Holy kiss
For example, Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14.
Surely at least a sign of kinship.
Justin Martyr: “After having washed the one who has been convinced and accepted, we bring him to those called ‘brothers’ gathered together, in order to make fervent prayers in common. . . . After finishing the prayers, we greet each other with a kiss ”(1 Apol. 65.1-2). Eucharistic kisses have become common.