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date: 23 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The rapidly changing circumstances of Christianity between the third and fifth centuries are mirrored in the ritual changes of the church’s celebration of the Eucharist. The juxtaposition of continuity of theological expression in an act of thanksgiving, remembrance, and sacrifice with the multiple ecclesial political and cultural shifts throughout the church is reflected in changing interpretations, texts, and patterns. This chapter reviews the extant texts both about and from the liturgy in the three centuries in question before turning to three ritual and theological issues that exemplify the pressures of expressing and creating new ways of believing what is accomplished in the liturgical event. First is the development in understanding eucharistic participation as a ritual of Christian identity, and second, the embodiment of early Christian eucharistic participation in eating and drinking as well as the non-participation of fasting, which both contribute to the importance of cultic leadership in the development of ordained ministry.

Keywords: agape, bread, communion, cultic leadership, epiclesis, eucharist, habitus, identity, institution narrative

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