Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Moravian Lovefeast

Moravian Stars in the Strietzelmarkt in Dresden
On the 10th Day of Christmas, I am preparing for my first experience with a Lovefeast in the Moravian Tradition which will be held, this year, at St. George's Chapel in Harbeson, DE, on the Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany.

A 'Lovefeast" sounds positively bohemian, doesn't it?  It conjures up for me images from the 60's of a "Love In". Peace, love, drug, sex and and rock 'n roll. Cool. Groovy. Far out, man!

That's not it. At. All.  Or, at least, so I'm told.

I know to expect some wonderful music and the singing lots of hymns by candlelight, interspersed with hearing some readings and sharing some wonderful food.

Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine.

I haven't been told to wear flowers in my hair or bring a 'bowl of greens' - but, being good Episcopalians, there's bound to be at least a few bottles of good wine - so I think I'm safe in assuming that, what little I've read is correct in that
As the early Christians met and broke bread together in token of their fellowship and love, so the members of the Moravian Church family have made it their custom to celebrate special occasions by sharing with friends a simple meal, a "lovefeast." The name of the service is a literal translation of the New Testament word "agape." A Lovefeast (not to be confused with Holy Communion) seeks to remove social barriers and strengthen the spirit of unity and goodwill among all people. A Lovefeast, in fact, is a Singstunde (an hour of song) which incorporates a simple meal.
I'm thinking that this will be a little like the Agape Meal that often precedes the Maundy Thursday Service except that one tends to be Very Somber - a reenactment of the meal that was shared in the Upper Room before Jesus was arrested and put on trial.

So, there's lots of olives and a variety of cheeses and pita bread and dates and grapes. There can also be the reading of appropriate scriptural verses and psalms and the singing of hymns.

The "Lovefeast", celebrated on The Feast of the Epiphany, is bound to be quite festive. It's 12th Night, after all - the 'official' end of Christmastide and the beginning of the Season of The Epiphany.

I love The Epiphany. Almost as much as I love Christmas.

Unfortunately, Christmas has become so secularized that I, even I, have a hard time remembering "the reason for the season". I love that my grandmother insisted that Christmas presents be exchanged on The Feast of the Epiphany, leaving us to consider the holy gift of the Incarnation at Christmas.

I've tried to emulate that in our family when the whole gang gets together - parents, kids, grandchildren - and celebrates "Little Christmas".  This year, because of the travel plans of one of our kids, we're celebrating it a bit late, but no one would miss this for the world.

I love that, after we consider the holy gift of the Christ child, we share gifts with each other in honor of the birth of Jesus. It really doesn't matter to me that the "Three Kings" probably came three years and not 12 days after the Nativity. It matters that we take time to consider the gift of the Incarnation and then share gifts with each other in His honor.

Author Philip Jenkins has an interesting article in the December 27th issue of Christian Century about the Season of Timkat - an important, three-day celebration of the 40-million-member Orthodox Church of Ethiopia.

According to Jenkins, Timkat comes 12 days after Christmas and "brings large areas of the country to a halt in a season dedicated to elaborate rituals, to feasting and gift giving, pageantry and mysticism".

Actually, the event commemorates the baptism of Christ in the Jordan (Timkat is the Amharic word for 'baptism'). Jenkins says that "baptismal symbolism dominates the rituals to the point that enthusiastic believers plunge into consecrated pools to renew their vows". 

Christians in the Orthodox tradition, do not link Epiphany to the visit of the Magi but, rather, to Christ's baptism, and thus returns us to the controversy that consumed the early church for the first three centuries when believers had very different ideas about the divinity of Christ and whether there was a particular moment at which he gained that status. Yes, Christ came into the world - but when, exactly, did that divinity shine forth?

Jenkins says that "The mainstream church believed, of course, that the baby born in Bethlehem was God incarnate, but powerful voices held rival views. For many early Christians, Jesus was a good or holy man, conceived and born in the usual way, and only at the moment of his baptism was he suddenly overwhelmed by the power of divinity, the Logos or Holy Spirit".

Some cry, "Heresy!" at this notion. And yet, 40 million Christians who consider themselves "Orthodox" will see hundreds of thousands of pilgrims flood into Ethiopia to join them, with individual churches processing and parading their 'tabots' - symbols of the Ark of the Covenant.

Well, whether it's the manifestation of the divinity of Christ in his baptism or by the recognition of the same by three secular "Kings", I think it all comes down to the way John's gospel (1:1) speaks of the Incarnation: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".

And, that word was LOVE.

I suppose a 'Moravian Lovefeast' is just as good as a plunge in a pool of consecrated water. 

So's our family's "Little Christmas" celebration.

It really matters not how you celebrate the manifestation of  "Love incarnate, Love divine".

It matters THAT you celebrate it. Preferably, with someone - or those - you love.

The motto of the Moravian church is: "In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, love".

Sounds like a manifestation of God to me!


JCF said...


I've partaken in the Brethren Lovefeast in Pennsylvania---complete w/ footwashing---and also the " sweetened bun and coffee" served by a Moravian student one Christmastime at UTS. Both very meaningful. Enjoy, Lisbeth!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

This will be my first experience. I'm really looking forward to it. Especially after your experience.

Matthew said...

Somewhere I have an old recipe for Moravian communion "bread" but its really almost like a sweet cookie dough. You roll it out VERY thin, cut them into tiny circles and put a cross on each and bake them. Sort of like a homemade version of the stale individual wafers. They keep quite a long time in zip lock bags or frozen. We have used them in our church for communion when someone will go through the herculean task of making a bunch of them. Have fun!!!!p.s. Moravia is not just next door to Bohemia for nothing ya know!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, Matthew, if you ever find the recipe, please send it along. I'd love to have it and try it out.

Matthew said...

I'll post it in the comments this weekend when I have time to go through my recipe box -- yes I still have one of those old wooden ones. Matthew

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

You're the BEST, Matthew!

JCF said...

And w/ the Moravians, a child/children always sing "Morning Star"! ;-)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I have a hunch someone will sing it tomorrow night.