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Author Topic: The Agape (Love Feast)  (Read 6124 times) Average Rating: 0
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ozgeorge
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« on: November 30, 2007, 11:13:32 AM »

In another thread, the topic of the Agape or "Love Feast" came up, and led to some further pm discussions, and it was decided that it might be better to start a thread about it in case others are interested or have some input.

In the Epistles, we find references to the early Liturgy of the first Christians. Two terms come up:
1) The Lord's Supper (κυριακον δειπνον) 1 Corinthians 11:20
2) The Love Feasts (αγαπαις) (Jude 1:12)

These terms are not actually completely interchangeable. "The Lord's Supper" was a Liturgy which included the both Eucharist and the Love Feast (or "Agape").
The Agape was a common meal shared to which the Faithful would bring food. The Eucharist and the Agape were celebrated together in the one Liturgy.
Later, the two were seperated, and eventually, the Agape was dropped from practice all together. Today, only vestiges of the Agape remain in the Eastern Orthodox Church in three or four forms:
1) The Artoclasia ("Breaking of the Bread") Service of Vespers, caled "liti" in Slavonic,
2) The Agape Service of Pascha Sunday (which takes place in the afternoon),
3) The bead and wine offered to the Faithful in monastries and some Churches after Communion in order to break their fast.

Some have also wondered whether the "slava" celebrated in the Serbian Church may also be a remnant of (or an attempt to revive) of the Agape.

Someone asked whether we still eat a meal in Church during the Agape Service of Pascha, and the answer is "no". Monastries and many Churches will have a meal straight after the Agape Service on Pascha in the refectory, hall or as a picnic, but we don't actually eat the meal in the Church. However, in the Artoclasia (Liti) Service, bread, wheat, wine and oil are blessed in the Church and distributed to the Faithful.

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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2007, 06:43:03 PM »

I think any time the community of the faithful all come together for a meal it is in the same vain and spirit as the Agape meal. There is archaeological evidence in some of the early house churches that there was space for worship and then there was space for fellowship (the Agape meal).

How many of our parishes have parish meals after big feast day? I have never been to a pre-sanctified liturgy during lent that did not have a meal afterwards, have you?
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« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2007, 11:05:07 PM »

I think any time the community of the faithful all come together for a meal it is in the same vain and spirit as the Agape meal.
I think trapeza and coffee hour after the Liturgy are almost the same spirit and vein as the Agape, but not quite. The Agape was part of the Liturgy, whereas coffee hour and trapeza are informal and non-liturgical. I'd say the Artoclasia (Liti) is the closest thing we have to the Agape now since it is the liturgical blessing and sharing of food among the Faithful.
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« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2007, 11:18:03 PM »

I'd say the Artoclasia (Liti) is the closest thing we have to the Agape now since it is the liturgical blessing and sharing of food among the Faithful.
I would also add the Memorial Services (mnimosino/panikhida) to this as another liturgical service resembling the Agape since it also liturgically blesses and distributes food (kollyva). And in a way, Memorial Services even more closely resembles the Agape, because the Agape was originally a post-funerary shared meal in pre-Christian times served as a memorial to the dead.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2007, 11:18:31 PM by ozgeorge » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2008, 09:11:21 PM »

ahhh! We had this "Love Feast" in the Moravian church of my childhood.  It was hymns and prayers, then the minister would pray and the church ladies brought out bread and coffee and everyone had them in church, afterwards there were some more prayers and then a dismissal.
Could this be a descendant of this Orthodox custom retained from the early Church?
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« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2008, 09:15:12 PM »

ahhh! We had this "Love Feast" in the Moravian church of my childhood.  It was hymns and prayers, then the minister would pray and the church ladies brought out bread and coffee and everyone had them in church, afterwards there were some more prayers and then a dismissal.
Could this be a descendant of this Orthodox custom retained from the early Church? 

Or possibly an attempt to revive the ancient practice.  Heck, they could have had the idea without knowing their history, and done the practice unaware that it was practiced in a similar form 1800 years ago.

I think Arimethea's note about having a separate space for the Agape meal is important; they're still eating together, and at the house-church, but not in the same room as worship, making the practice more akin to "coffee hour" than eating inside the Church...

There is archaeological evidence in some of the early house churches that there was space for worship and then there was space for fellowship (the Agape meal).
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« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2008, 09:43:59 PM »

Love Feast is an integral part of Brethren churches. It usually occurs twice a year and is held on a Saturday evening. The meal has been prepared Saturday afternoon by the brethren and sisters  in the kitchen of the meeting house. The people gather with the singing of hymns in anticipation of the Love Feast. Then the brethren rearrange the benches into long tables and the members seat themselves behind the tables on benches to share a meal of fellowship, which includes a bowl of simple beef broth soup which is eaten reverently with bread dipped in it. This symbolizes reverent fellowship.

The next element of the evening is Foot Washing-which symbolizes humility and service. The men wash the feet of the men and women with the women. The holy kiss is exchanged, brethren with brethren, sisters with sisters.

Finally, the actual communion-the partaking of the bread and cup-usually homemade unleavened bread and wine, which to them symbolizes participation in Christ's suffering and death.

An interesting and beautiful ceremony.
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« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2008, 09:46:17 PM »

I don't know much about this topic, but evidently in the Armenian Church you can see some vestiges of the ancient practice.  During the first part of the liturgy (the part before the Great Entrance) one of the hymns which is sung is referred to as the Jashou Sharagan.  "Jash" means meal.  The phrase translates as "hymn of the meal."  Also, the book read by the deacons, which contains the Gospel readings during this part of the liturgy, is called Jashou Avedaran, or "Gospel of the meal."  Of course no meal is actually eaten at this part of the liturgy.

Then of course there is the bread which is distributed to the faithful after the liturgy.  I've been told that all of these are practices left over from the days of the agape meal.
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« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2012, 04:06:58 AM »

ahhh! We had this "Love Feast" in the Moravian church of my childhood.  It was hymns and prayers, then the minister would pray and the church ladies brought out bread and coffee and everyone had them in church, afterwards there were some more prayers and then a dismissal.
Could this be a descendant of this Orthodox custom retained from the early Church?
It's a revival as Fr. George considered it might be.

Would anyone happen to know what the food elements were of the early Agape meals?
Bread and wine - yes. And from catacomb depictions apparently fish too.
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