The Agapae, or love feasts, were banquets held during the first three centuries in the Christian Church. They were called love feasts, because, including the partaking of the Sacrament, the Brethren met, both rich and poor, at a common feast-the former furnishing the provisions, and the latter, who had nothing, being relieved and refreshed by their more opulent Brethren. Tertullian (Apologia, chapter xxxix) thus describes these banquets: "We do not sit down before we have first offered up prayers to God; we eat and drink only to satisfy hunger and thirst, remembering still that we are to worship God by night: we discourse as in the presence of God, knowing that He hears us: then, after water to wash our hands, and lights brought in, every one is moved to sing some hymn to God, either out of the Scripture, or, as he is able, of his own composing.
Prayer again concludes our feast, and we depart, not to fight and quarrel, or to abuse those we meet, but to pursue the same care of modesty and chastity, as men that have fed at a supper of philosophy and discipline, rather than a corporeal feast."
The agapae united the group meal and the Lord's Supper because that Sacrament was first observed at a feast (see Matthew xxvi, 26-9). This custom was readily adopted among Gentile converts as such meals were usual practices by both the Greeks and Romans. Even in Bible times the observance was not always free of fault as is shown by Paul's rebuke at Corinth (see First Corinthians xi, 17-34; also in this connection note Second Peter11, 13; and Jude12).
These disorders marred the religious value of the function and led to its suppression in churches. The merit of the purpose, when properly carried out. gives substantial service to right living and has therefore much ceremonial and social importance.
Dr. August Kestner, Professor of Theology, published in Jena, in 1819, a work in which he maintains that the agapae, established at Rome by Clemens, in the reign of Domitian, were mysteries which partook of a Masonic, symbolic, and religious character. In the Rosicurcian Degrees of Freemasonry we find an imitation of these love feasts of the primitive Christians; and the ceremonies of the banquet in the Degree of Rose Croix of the Ancient and accepted Rite, especially as practiced by French Chapters, are arranged with reference to the ancient agapae.
Reghellini, indeed, finds an analogy between the Table Lodges of modern Freemasonry and these love feasts of the primitive Christians.
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