Agape

The agape, or love feast, was a memorial of the Last Supper.  It’s thought to be somewhat analogous to the Jewish Passover dinner or the Greek custom of having a “brotherhood” meal before or after a solemn event.

As practiced by the early Christians, it merely recalled the Lord’s Last Supper.  It did not, as has been proposed, have a relationship to the Eucharist, since it was merely an eating before or after the celebration of the Eucharist.  Participants gathered to eat, talk on pious subjects and sing hymns.

However, abuses arose, and it was discontinued, even as a non-liturgical act, by the sixth century.  In recent times there has been a revival of the concept through the emphasis upon the “sense of community” brought about by the ecumenical and liturgical movements, but it has more social overtones than association with the Holy Eucharist.

In addition, as expounded on by Jesus, agape is a form of love which is both unconditional and voluntary; that is, it is non-discriminating with no pre-conditions and is something that one decides to do.

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said, “‘Love (i.e. agape) the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-41).

In keeping to this commandment, Jesus demonstrated his extreme form of love for us by dying on the cross.  He has shown us the type of love we should have for God and for one another, not the love that we see in our material world today, but a love that is divine, unconditional, self-sacrificing, active, volitional and thoughtful.

This type of love has been described as agape, which is one of several Greek words meaning love.  Other Greek words used to identify types of love are:  Phileo: love between friends; Eros: the sense of being in love, or romantic love; Storge: love of family, such as, between parent and child, or between siblings, cousins, etc.  In a very close family, agape is felt as well. (9:41)