Thursday, October 18, 2012

Small Group Communion and the Didache

Our small group recently took communion together. This was the first time, and it was simple, just Panera bread and little plastic cups. Still, it was sacred. It was a long time in coming, really. We go to an enormous church, and one of the biggest losses for us was the ability to take communion. There is a separate event every now and then for the Lord's Supper, but it is hard to get to and in the end, we deeply miss this sacrement. With the blessing of our elders, we eventually came around to doing this as a group. It sort of confirms my feeling of being a house church within a denomination.

I mentioned that on road trips we've been reading the writing of the early church. The first thing we read was the Didache, which is not so much a letter as much as what might have been catechism, gathered and refined teachings for new believers about what a Christian life is to look like. It's the oldest of Christian writings that we have outside of scripture, and scholars date it late first century. In other words, just after the apostles die off contemporary to the apostles (*edit thanks to my historian hubby). It's fascinating and beautiful to read. That they so emphasize moral teaching shows the emphasis on holy living in the early church.

There is also a section on the practices of the church, including the Eucharist. Isaac and I read this just days before our small group took communion, and it set it up so beautifully. The symbolism drawn from scripture and the ability to pray with the early church, oh, it moves me. It picks up just after describing how to pray, and remember that the word "Eucharist" means "give thanks", and the translator has capitalized the word because it seems to be taking on a concept all its own in referring to the Lord's Supper.

Now concerning the Eucharist, give thanks as follows. First, concerning the cup:

The DidacheWe give you thanks, our Father,
for the holy vine of David your servant, which you have made known to us
through Jesus, your servant;
to you be the glory forever.

And concerning the broken bread:

We give you thanks, our Father,
for the life and knowledge
that you have made known to us
through Jesus, your servant;
to you be the glory forever.

Just as this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains
and then was gathered together and became one,
so may your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom;
for yours is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.....

And after you have had enough, give thanks as follows:

We give you thanks, Holy Father,
for your holy name, which you have caused to dwell in our hearts,
and for the knowledge and faith and immortality that you have made known to us through Jesus your servant;
to you be the glory forever.
You, the almighty Master, created all things for your name's sake,
and give food and drink to humans to enjoy, so that they might give you thanks;
but to us you have graciously given spiritual food and drink,
and eternal life through your servant.
Above all we give thanks to you because you are mighty;
to you be the glory forever.
Remember your church, Lord,
to deliver it from all evil and make it perfect in your love;
and from the four winds gather the church that has been sanctified into your kingdom,
which you have prepared for it;
for yours is the power and the glory forever.
May grace come, and may this world pass away.
Hosanna to the God of David.
If anyone is holy, let him come;
if anyone is not, let him repent.
Maranatha! Amen


nathan johnson said...

I really enjoyed this post. I think there is something very special when believers practice sacraments like this together.

Anonymous said...

Have you read Ignatius of Antioch then on the Eucharist and the Bishop? He was taught by both Peter and John.

Also you might read - the whole text is online - Zizoulas's Bishop, Eucharist, Church to get a good handle on early Christian practice and perspective.

In no way am I looking to criticize you but house church in the New Testament had a categorically different meaning.

Kacie said...

Yes, have read some of Ignatius of Antioch on the bishop and eucharist.

Our small group doesn't pretend to look like the the New Testament church in all practices. And it is true that the New Testament practiced the eucharist differently in some ways. Though my personal knowledge is limited, I get a taste of it as my husband has delved deeply during his graduate studies in early church history.

Of course, as a Protestant, it's likely my perspective on the intention of how the sacraments and church leadership were meant to be handed on to the church through history is likely a bit different than yours. :)

As my husband and I talked about it, we were given the blessing of our "bishop" (our pastor) to pratice communion in this way.

Anonymous said...

Well, the meta question is what is the Eucharist? Do we follow the Pauline/Johannine teaching or some early modern conceptualization. Its not just the nature of the Mystery itself but the entirety of the Faith - the nature of Church (the Pauline teaching is that "Church" refers to the Eucharistic assembly; similarly both Hebrews and Revelation place the Eucharist as center of the Heavenly Liturgy - are we participants with Christ in this offering as the author of Hebrews suggests?), of participation in Christ, of Salvation, all hinge on this question. The Didache reflects the early practice and Apostolic teaching, so it strikes me as somewhat problematic to abstract away that context.

Anyway, I was not trying to challenge, just working out my own puzzlement.

Kacie said...

okay I'm a little lost on what your actual point is? It's okay to challenge! I'm just not sure what you're getting at.