Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals

Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals

Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals

Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals

Synopsis

The early Eucharist has usually been seen as sacramental eating of token bread and wine in careful or even slavish imitation of Jesus and his earliest disciples. In fact, the evidence suggests great diversity in conduct, including the use of foods, in the first few hundred years. This study describes and discusses these practices fully for the first time, and provides important new insights into the liturgical and social history of early Christianity.

Excerpt

The spate of recent publications examining meals, fasting, and asceticism in the New Testament and early Christianity means that the importance of food in these areas no longer needs to be demonstrated, even if the subject has yet to be exhausted. of course in one sense it has never needed to be demonstrated, given the prominence of the eucharistic meal in so much of Christian history, and the great modern tradition of research on the history of the liturgy. One of the things this book tries to do is draw these two scholarly strands, of liturgical and social history, closer together for their mutual benefit. By examining what is a very specific phenomenon (and, some will still conclude no doubt, a marginal one), I hope at least to have raised much broader questions that will be fruitful both to those interested in the wider social history of early Christianity and to those concerned, whether historically or theologically, with the eucharist and its significance.

It may be all too obvious that this book began life as a doctoral dissertation. Most of its merits and flaws are those which I was willing to defend at the University of Notre Dame in 1996. I am happy to have the opportunity to thank again those whose support and help made its initial production possible: the University of Notre Dame for the award of a Presidential Fellowship and similarly the Anglican Diocese of Perth for a Sambell Scholarship; my Director, Harold W. Attridge, and Paul F. Bradshaw, Blake Leyerle, and Jerome Neyrey who served as my advisory committee, for their advice then and since and for their examples in similar fields of research; my wife and daughter, Nicole and Madeleine, for their support and encouragement.

I am most grateful to the series editors for their inclusion of this work in Oxford Early Christian Studies, and to them and an anonymous reader for the acuity and the modesty of their suggestions for revision. Hilary O'Shea and Elizabeth Alsop have offered very significant 'virtual' help to a far-flung author. There are others whose advice on specific issues, practical assistance with materials, or conversation during my initial research and since, has been invaluable: John Cavadini, Nancy Dallavalle, Laura Holt, Mary Gerhart, Lawrence Hoffman, Robert Kugler, Lester Ruth, and William Tabbernee must represent a list which would be far longer if exhaustive. This version has appeared in . . .

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