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Center for Action and Contemplation

The Early Christian Church: Weekly Summary

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Early Christian Church

Summary: Sunday, April 26-May 1, 2015

We are still carrying the DNA of our great, great grandparents of faith, and knowing that can give us deep identity and meaning. (Sunday)

Values like nonparticipation in war, simple living, inclusivity, and love of enemies could be more easily understood when Christians were gathering secretly in the catacombs, when their faith was untouched by empire, rationalization, and compromise. (Monday)

The Christian church became the established religion of the empire and started reading the Gospel from the position of maintaining power and social order instead of experiencing the profound power of powerlessness that Jesus revealed. (Tuesday)

The Desert Fathers and Mothers gave birth to what we call the apophatic tradition, knowing by silence, symbols, and not even needing to know with words. (Wednesday)

“[The Desert Fathers and Mothers] sought a way to God that was uncharted and freely chosen, not inherited from others who had mapped it out beforehand.” –Thomas Merton (Thursday)

By reclaiming the many divergent roots of our faith tradition, we come closer to experiencing the wholeness and union that God surely desires for us and offers to us. (Friday)


Practice: Agape Meal

The early Christians were practicing Jews and continued many of their Jewish traditions. This gradually changed as more and more Gentiles joined the Christian movement. Some rituals became distinctly Christian, taking on new meaning based on Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. For example, the last meal Jesus and his disciples shared was a Passover meal, commemorating Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. At this Last Supper, Jesus inaugurated the ritual of Communion or Eucharist with bread and wine, which Christians continue to this day.

Early Christians also shared agape (love) feasts in their small communities. Somehow eating together creates a space where we can be vulnerable and present. By sharing our food, or by coming empty handed and receiving from another’s bounty, we enter true communion. Dependent on physical nourishment, we connect with the root of our human need. We are blessed by the generosity of a farmer’s labor, the Earth’s abundance, the joy of companionship.

Invite a few friends and perhaps even strangers to join you in sharing a feast of love. You might prepare a simple meal or invite each person to bring a dish. The focus is not on the food itself, but the act of sharing that food in the presence of each other. Eat mindfully, slowly, with plenty of time for conversation, listening, and laughter. You might also sing songs or read poetry of gratitude or talk about how you are experiencing God in your lives. However you practice an agape feast, let it flow as naturally as your very hunger and fulfillment. Be aware of God’s presence within each person and be thankful for the food that makes life possible and the love that makes life meaningful.

Gateway to Silence:
Teach me Your way.

For Further Study:
Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer;
Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality;

In addition, I recommend Diana Butler Bass’ book, A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (published by HarperOne, 2010).

Image credit: 6th c. mosaic (detail), Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes, Tabgha, Israel.
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