Love feast

For other uses, see Love feast (disambiguation).

The term Agape or Love feast was used for certain religious meals among early Christians that seem to have been originally closely related to the Eucharist.[2] In modern times it is used to refer to a Christian ritual meal distinct from the Eucharist.[2]

References to such

A form of meal referred to as Agape was introduced among certain eighteenth-century Pietist groups, such as the Schwarzenau Brethren and the Moravian Church, and was adopted by Methodism. The name has been revived more recently among other groups, including Anglicans[2] and the American "House Church" movement.[5]

Early Christianity

The earliest reference to a meal of the type referred to as "agape" is in

The term "Agape" is also used in reference to meals in 2 Peter 2:13

Soon after the year 100,

Augustine of Hippo also objected to the continuance in his native North Africa of the custom of such meals, in which some indulged to the point of drunkenness, and he distinguished them from proper celebration of the Eucharist: "Let us take the body of Christ in communion with those with whom we are forbidden to eat even the bread which sustains our bodies."[16] He reports that even before the time of his stay in Milan, the custom had already been forbidden there.[17]

Canons 27 and 28 of the Council of Laodicea (364) restricted the abuses of taking home part of the provisions and of holding the meals in churches.[18] The Third Council of Carthage (393) and the Second Council of Orléans (541)[19] reiterated the prohibition of feasting in churches, and the Trullan Council of 692 decreed that honey and milk were not to be offered on the altar (Canon 57), and that those who held love feasts in churches should be excommunicated (Canon 74).

Protestant revivals of the practice

After the Protestant Reformation there was a move amongst some groups of Christians to try to return to the practices of the New Testament Church. One such group was the Schwarzenau Brethren (1708) who counted a Love Feast consisting of Feet-washing, the Agape meal, and the Eucharist among their "outward yet sacred" ordinances. Another was the Moravians led by Count Zinzendorf who adopted a form consisting of a simple sharing of a simple meal, and then testimonies or a devotional address were given and letters from missionaries read.

John Wesley the founder of Methodism travelled to America in the company of the Moravians and greatly admired their faith and practice. After his conversion in 1738 he introduced the Love Feast to what became known as the Methodist movement. Due to the lack of ordained ministers within Methodism, the Love Feast took on a life of its own, as there were few opportunities to take Communion.

The Primitive Methodists also celebrated the Love Feast, before it gradually died out again in the nineteenth century as the revival cooled.


The Schwarzenau Brethren groups (the largest being the Church of the Brethren) regularly practice Agape feasts (called "Love Feast"), which include feetwashing, a supper, and communion, with hymns and brief scriptural meditations interspersed throughout the worship service. The Creation Seventh Day Adventists partake of an Agape feast as a part of their New Moon observances, taking the form of a formal, all-natural meal held after the communion supper. The Agape is a common feature used by the Catholic Neocatechumenal Way in which members of the Way participate in light feast after the celebration of the Eucharist on certain occasions.

A number of Eastern Orthodox Christian parishes will have an agape meal on Sundays and feast days following the Divine Liturgy, and especially at the conclusion of the Paschal Vigil.

Agape in Freemasonry

Agape is also the name given by some masonic traditions to the formal meals held after meetings.[20] The meal always includes a joint of meat (normally beef) to be cut ceremonially by the master of the lodge. The meal is often accompanied with wine, normally supplied by senior members of the lodge. It has been a tradition in freemasonry since the late eighteenth century, though may have taken place previous to the Grand Lodge being formed in London in 1717.


External links

  • Catholic Encyclopedia
  • Latter Rain Ministry
  • Seekers Church
  • Love Feast Links Page

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