The Eucharist was incontestably a central institution in the lives of early Christian communities, but the process of describing and interpreting the evidence for its practice in the first few centuries is far from complete. Recent strands in scholarship include emphasis on continuity with Greco-Roman as well as Jewish meal practices, greater acknowledgement of diversity, and contextualization of prayer texts relative to evidence for ritual and realia. This workshop seeks to contribute to the continuing task of establishing the form and meaning of such early Christian ritual meals, including the question of sacrificial significance, participation and presidency, and local diversity.
Although cultic imagery and ideas was present in Christian literature and liturgy from the earliest times, the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and the persistence of Greco-Roman cultus provided complex opportunities and challenges. Both these traditions were simultaneously rejected and appropriated, if in distinct ways, by the emergent Church. Authors including Ignatius, Justin and Tertullian provide evidence for the ways Christianity not only borrowed but re-invented cultic ideas in the course of developing its liturgical life.