Late in the First Century CE, an anonymous redactor brought together several short pieces on liturgy, morality, church organization, and a brief apocalypse, and made a little document known as the Didache. This 2,300 word document was one of many early church writings that we now consider non-canonical (not part of the Bible) but that many early Church authors thought should have been included in the New Testament canon.
In the middle of the Didache, in Chapters 9 and 10, there is a liturgy for blessing a meal in a Christian community. Again, it’s not entirely clear if this is a Church service like we think about it or if it is a home liturgy among believers, but I think tend to think it is meant for home use. The Didache seems to be an order for how to be a Christian written for non-Jewish Christians by Jewish Christians and the blessing and sharing of a meal among the faithful has always been central to the Christian tradition, and this particular liturgy looks almost identical to the contemporary blessing of a Sabbath meal for Jews. Bless some wine; bless some bread; share a meal; give thanks. Even the number of blessings after the meal is the same as scholars think the ancient Jewish thanksgiving for a meal had. Jesus would have, as the honored guest and teacher, blessed the meal on many occasions among his disciples and among those with whom he ate.
The sacred meal at the heart of the Christian faith was simply a shared meal at first. Eventually, through time and legalization, the shared meal was relegated to homes, and the Eucharist as we know it, with its small taste of the heavenly feast, became the norm. As Christianity developed, the shared meal at home became lost, and the Communion became the sole official source of the meal from the Age to Come, but Covid has proved to me, and I think to many others, that the time has come to reclaim our heritage reclaim our sacred meal, not to replace the Eucharist, but to bring it home, literally.
Many of us have felt bereft for the loss of the Communion, and while having this sacred meal does not replace the communion, it can tide us over until we can join together again in that sacred meal. It can also continue to bless our lives and add holiness to our homes and shared spaces. This sacred meal can be said alone or can be shared over Zoom. This sacred meal connects us not only to faith in Jesus but to the faith of Jesus, leading us to follow more closely in his steps.
I hope that some time this week you’ll gather your people, whether on Zoom or in your family or pod, grab a delicious meal, a loaf of bread (or just a symbolic piece to share) and a glass of wine or grape juice and add a little holiness and a little blessing to your life. Try setting aside one meal each Sunday for a few weeks to bless. Read a little scripture, discuss it among your people. Ask a hard question about morality or ethics and find not an answer, but more questions. Join in the great banquet Jesus brought us.
The Sacred Meal
We thank you, our Father, for the holy vine of David your servant, which you have revealed to us through Jesus your Child. Glory be yours through all ages. Amen.
The wine is shared.
We thank you, our Father, for the life and knowledge you have revealed to us through Jesus your Child. Glory be yours through all ages. Amen.
The bread is shared.
Over the meal
As the grain once scattered in the fields and the grapes once dispersed on the hillside are now reunited on this table in bread and wine, so, Lord, may all your people soon be gathered together from the corners of the earth into your reign, for yours is the glory and power, throughout all ages. Amen.
The meal is eaten.
After the meal, these prayers are said
We thank you, Father, for your holy name which you have made to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge, faith, and abundant life you have revealed to us through Jesus your Child. Glory be yours throughout all ages. Amen.
All powerful Lord, you created all things for your name’s sake, and you have given food and drink to your children for our enjoyment, so that we may thank you. And you have bestowed on us a spiritual food and drink that leads to everlasting life, through Jesus your Child. Amen.
Above all, we thank you because you are the almighty. Glory be yours throughout all ages. Amen.
Lord, remember your Church and deliver it from all evil; make it perfect in your love and gather it from the four winds into your reign which you have prepared for it, for power and glory are your throughout all ages. Amen.
May grace come, and this age pass away and the new age come! Hosanna to the God of David! If any is holy, let them come! If any is not, let them repent! Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.