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Title:Christmas Eve, 2014 – the Love Feast
Christmas Eve, the Love Feast, December 24, 2014 (full size gallery)
This service was the culmination of our Advent in introducing Moravian traditions. We hosted the Candle Tea during Coffee Hour on Dec. 7. We have added Moravian musical pieces such as Candle Glowing for the Advent candle lighting each Sunday. The Love Feast was the final celebration. Here is Catherine’s introduction of the Love Feast from the service.
The Love Feast was based on the 1st century agape meal and revived by the Moravians in 1727. After communion, a Moravian church did not want to end for lunch so they brought it in and they continued in singing hymns and praying. Today the Love Feast is celebrated in the Moravian church several times a year, including Christmas Eve. Catherine experienced it 30 years living in Winston-Salem the southern center of the Church. We have worked with the Moravians on Staten Island since 2012 in the clothing distribution and supporting them during Hurricane Sanday. As they do on Christmas Eve, we served Moravian buns and coffee as part of our Love Feast. Throughout the ceremony there are many hymns sung. The highlight is the distribution of Moravian beeswax candles in two special holders that Helmut made. The Moravians end their Love Feast with the song "Morning Star" which is sung in alternating fashion between soloists and the congregation. The Candles are raised high for the final hymn "Angel from the Realms of Glory."
The Love Feast took much time and preparation. The two beautiful candle holders were crafted before Thanksgiving by Helmut, an expert wood crafter. What a wonderful job! Catherine bought the Moravian mugs from a Carolina potter during Thanksgiving. The purchased beeswax candles had red ruffles which were fabricated by several volunteers during Advent. Finally, the Moravian buns were baked by Catherine this week using a braided receipe with two added ingredients to produce the buns on Christmas Eve. 60 cups of coffee with sugar had to be prepared before the service. Our servers did a marvelous job of transporting each of the ingredients to the Parish House and then on cue providing them in the service. This involved much planning and consideration for the flow of the service. Servers and support included Cookie, Johnny, Eunice, Roger, Tucker, Kimberly and Andrea. The result was an authentic Moravian Love Feast. Thanks to all!
The Love Feast involved a different service for Episcopalians. The Love Feast was in place of the Eucharist. Dialogs had to be created. Rather than one sermon there were two meditations from the Christmas readings, the traditional Luke 2 story and the opening chapter of John.
The meditations are here. The first was influence by the concept of gathering which was a part of the Luke 2 story and to lead to our Love Feast. "We gather as God’s guests at this table, and Jesus has come to be our guest." The second was a lead-in to the Love Feast Candles with a discussion of light based on an article by Joel Peterson on "The importance of family from far away." "Joel said that his mother’s teaching hit the mark with him that night, “that Christmas is in the gathering and warmth of family, in the hearts of loved ones and those we care about….drawing together against the world’s cold darkness” to share the light with one another, The light that shines in the darkness, the light that even the darkness of death cannot overcome. "
We had to do some research to capture the Love Feast in our bulletin. The Moravians sing many hymns durintg the service so our hymn list was augmented.
We kept some things the same. Catherine read the Luke 2 Gospel story for memory. This has become something she has enjoyed doing for one of her favorite Biblical verses. The effect is much greater than a simple reading.
The Moravian culture features brass bands. Each church has one. This was one part of the Moravian experience we could not imitate. We were able to bring in our local talent to add our own music.
This year we were featured two harpists in alternating fashion for the music at the beginning of the service. Marilyn has been playing for many years here. Amy Meyer came to us last Sunday and desired to play. She has been playing harp since age 9 and is a relative newcomer to the area. The 30 minutes before hand was a treat as we were treated to "Silent Night", "What Child is This" and the "Pachebel Canon" among pieces that both played. The effect was a wonderful way to bring us to the service. It provided a meditative effect. Helmut and Brad then provided a prelude on music from Mozart, "Alleluiah!".
We had 56 in the service on a day with periods of rain and fog. The temperatures were mild for this time of year. Based on the comments received, the Love Feast was definitely worth doing as our Christmas Eve service this year.
We have some video excerpts of parts of the service.