food, but ordinary and harmless food, which practice they had stopped after my edict which I issued in accord with your mandate that clubs be banned' (Ep. 10.96.7). In some places the meal, separate from the eucharist, continued or reappeared, but now as a charitable institution known as the agape, the Greek word for 'love'. The evidence for this development is far from clear, however, and a number of the texts that are commonly taken to refer to a 'love-feast' separate from the eucharist can just as plausibly be understood to refer to the eucharist itself (Jude 12; Ign. Smyr. 8.2), with emphasis on care for the poor associated with it (Tert. Apol. 39.16).
Eating together is so fundamental to human communities that a ritualised meal lends itself to a vast array of possible significations. In the early accounts ofthe banquet ofthe Lord Jesus, there are four constellations of symbolism that are particularly important. (1) As we have seen, the meal was a 'memorial' of Jesus. It re-enacted his last meal with his disciples, but it commemorated Jesus also in a more general way, by re-presenting significant parts of his story and, indeed, dramatically making Jesus himself present in the actions bracketing the meal: 'This is my body'; 'This is my blood'. The focus, nevertheless, was on the final day of Jesus' life on earth, so that Paul could sum up the tradition he had just quoted by declaring, 'Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord' (1 Cor 11:26). That focus on the sacrificial death of Jesus would characterise the eucharistic symbolism and thought of the western church, while in the east the emphasis would be more on the presence of the resurrected and ascended Lord with the faithful at the banquet.
(2) The meal was an occasion for thanksgiving, so central to its shape that beginning early in the second century it was commonly named, by synecdoche, the eucharist, 'the thanksgiving' (e.g. Ign. Eph. 13.1; Phild. 4.1; Smyr. 7.1; 8.1; Didache 9.1,5; 10.7; Justin, 1 Apol. 66.1). The name and the prayers that suggested it were themselves recollections of Jesus' thanksgiving (eucharistesas) or blessing (eulogesas) over the bread (and wine) both at the Last Supper (1 Cor 11:24; Mark 14:22-3 and parallels) and in the feeding miracles (Mark 6:41; 8:6 and parallels). But now the worshippers gave thanks for the benefits they received through Jesus (cf. Justin, 1 Apol. 65). The earliest certain example ofthe eucharistic prayer of thanksgiving that has come down to us is in the Didache (i0:2-6).42
(3) The common meal was a gathering of the new family of the children of God. It celebrated their solidarity 'in Christ', and it helped to register the
42 See Grant, 'Structure ofeucharistic prayers'.
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