Without Hellenistic society, neither Jewish synagogues nor Christian churches, nor even Islamic mosques for that matter, would have ever come to exist. Nor would the Sanhedrins, Greater or Lesser, nor even the Passover seder. Nor would the Eucharist or the agape meals of the ancient church. It can be very accurately stated that not only Christianity but Judaism as we have it today are Hellenistic religions, meaning that they formed out of the milieu of the wider Hellenistic society.
Private associations and their membership
The proliferation of private associations in Hellenistic society, and the names of their members and officers, is known primarily from abundant epigraphic evidence dating from the seventh century through the end of Antiquity. They were also mentioned in the laws of the Athenian statesman Solon (638-558 BCE).
The clubs served a variety of functions, religious devotion, sharing funeral costs, and mutual assistance among professionals being the three main points around which they were organized, but there was a lot of overlap. For instance, nearly all associations, or clubs, had a social function, and nearly all were dedicated, at least peripherally, to a deity.
Between these groups, citizens and “foreigners” (which in the case of Greece could be a Corinthian if one was in Athens) tended to gravitate toward their own, though nearly all clubs had a few members of the other set.
For citizens, these clubs were mostly for men only, and included the ‘hetaireiai’ (associations of ‘hetairoi’ or ‘companions’), the ‘synomosiai’ (‘sworn groups’ analogous to modern fraternities, whose main purpose was ‘synousia’, or social intercourse, and the ‘orgeones’, the passionate religious devotees for whom no collective name was apparently ever devised. The orgeones usually focused on one of the deities in the official cult.
The generic word for a club in which mostly foreigners and other on-citizens joined for mutual support was ‘koinon’ (plural ‘koina’), meaning a league, commonwealth, or federation; the word was derived from the adjective ‘koinos’, or ‘common’, the same word which gives us ‘koinotita’ or community, and ‘koinonia’, meaning communion or fellowship.
Another term was ‘hairesis’, meaning those who have a common identity, or a sect, and still another, originally unique to Egypt, was ‘politeuma’ (plural ‘politeumata’), or ‘commonwealth’.
Workers’ associations or craft guilds had a variety of designations: synergasia (‘fellow-workers’), homotechnon (plural ‘homotechna’), syntechia, synedrion (the word from which we get ‘sanhedrin’), and phyle (‘tribe’).
Terms for private clubs that could also be used for their meetings were ‘syngoge’ (‘gathering’), synedrin (‘congress’), synodos (literally, ‘those who follow the same way’), and ekklesia, plural ‘ekklesiae’, an assembly.
From that list comes ‘synagogue’, ‘sanhedrin’, ‘synod’, and ‘ecclesia’ as well as the original spelling, used in Greek, Latin, and Romance languages for ‘church’. That word derives from ‘kyriokos’, a compound of ‘kyrios’ and ‘oikos’ meaning ‘household of the Master’. Kyrios can be ‘lord’, but ‘master’ is the better translation; the preferred word for ‘lord’ is ‘archontas’.
The generic term for a club devoted to a single, usually imported, deity was ‘thiasos’ (plural ‘thiasoi’), and the name for its members was ‘thiasotai’. However, members of a thiasos were mostly called by names indicating their devotion, like Apolloniastai, Dionysiastai, Heracleiastai, Sarapistai, Mithrastai, Athenastai, Hypsianistai, Asclepiastai, and Chrestianistai or Christianistai.
In Rome and the Latin-speaking West, the common term for such an association or club was ‘collegium’ (plural ‘collegia’); a club corresponding to a thiasos was a ‘collegium sodalicia’.
The term ‘corpus’ was sometimes used, but ‘collegium’ predominated.
Other terms for members included symbiotai (‘companions’), synethei (‘intitmates’), philoi (‘friends’), adelphoi (‘brothers’), homotaphoi (‘funerary fellows’), and temenitai (‘those concerned with a holy precinct’).
Regarding the last, a sacred precinct or ground was called ‘temenos’; a temple or shrine itself was called a ‘hieron’.
A major feature of these thiasoi was that not only were foreigners the majority, but women and even slaves were admitted, sometimes rising to prominence in the society. Some of the names for women were ‘eleuthepai’ (‘respectable women’, or matrons), ‘gynaikes’ (‘wives’), and ‘eleutherai; (‘independent women’).
The worship of the Mystery Cults of Late Antiquity was mostly carried out by thiasoi, under that name or synonyms. For their members, other designations came into play. ‘Mystai’ (from ‘myesis’) was the common designation for first level initiates, while ‘epistatai’ (from ‘epistetes) were the second level, or inner circle, initiates.
Another generic name for a Mystery Cult devotee was ‘therapeutes’ (plural ‘therapeutai’), meaning ‘attendants’, or ‘those who wait on another’. It was especially used for devotees of Serapis and Asclepius. The term derives from the designation for a temple slave, suggesting that is the degree of devotion. The term for a female worshipper ‘therapeutrides’. A related word, for which we get ‘therapy’, was ‘therapeia’, or ‘service’.
A ‘melanephores’ (‘wearer of black’) was a devotee of Serapis wearing black to identify with the grieving Isis. The second Serapeion (hieron of Serapis) included among its supporters a ‘koinon’ of therapeutai, a koinon of melanephorai, and a thiasos of Sarapistai, the last being the ran-and-file members of that shrine.
The Therapeutai of Asclepios, the foremost medical society of Antiquity, included among its members Hippocrates, Galen, and Apollonius of Tyana, a first century physician who many in his time and the two centuries following compared to Jesus the Nazorean.
The synagogue of Samaritans, Jews, and Karaites, the churches of Christians, and the mosque of Muslims all have their roots in these private associations or clubs of Hellenistic society, in purpose, structure, and name.
Shared meals and parties (aristocrats)
The best known of the ancient Greek affairs was the ‘symposion’ (‘drinking together’). This event was generally hosted by a wealthy citizen for other wealthy citizens. It was held in the men’s quarters (’andron’) of the host’s house, following the deipnon, or evening meal, which was shared among the participants, called ‘symposiastai’.
There were no women present at symposia, except for maybe flute-girls and ‘heterae’, the class of prostitutes in ancient Greece analogous to the geishas of old Japan. Wine was not drunk until after deipnon, its mixing with water and distribution supervised by the symposiarch, the character in the pericope of the Wedding at Cana called there the “master of the feast”.
The Roman counterpart was the ‘convivium’ (‘living together’), also called a ‘compotatio’ (‘drinking together’), ‘comissatio’ (‘carousing’), or ‘concoenatio’ (‘eating together’). The counterpart of the symposiarch was the ‘magister bibendi’ (‘master of drinking’). There, women were present, often as equals, and wine was drunk before, during, and after the cena (dinner).
In ancient Sparta, men and boys who were full citizens shared evening meals known as ‘pheiditia’, grouped into tents. Those with whom they ate were called ‘syssitoi’, and were the same as those with whom they fought in the field of battle. Membership in one of these clubs was mandatory for citizenship, and falling behind in dues a reason for expulsion and loss of status to become a ‘periokos’, a free non-citizen who nonetheless carried the freedom to travel which Spartanoi lacked.
At the Spartan pheiditia, there was no entertainment and no drinking. Members provided a fair share for the common table. Similar common meals among the citizen elite of Crete, another area of Dorian conquest, were called ‘andreia’. These ‘syssitia’ (another, more generic, name) later spread to Megara and Corinth, and were very likely held in the homeland of Doris in Central Greece and the Dorian colonies of coastal southwest Anatolia.
Shared meals (commoners, foreigners, women)
Shared common meals were a significant feature of all private associations or clubs in Hellenistic society, including the religious thiasoi. These were always held at deipnon, the evening meal, and usually took the form of an ‘eranos’, Greek for what we would call a potluck dinner. Its participants were called ‘syndeipnoi’ (‘those who share supper’), ‘eranistai’, and ‘synklitai’ (“fellow banqueters’). The supervisor of an eranos was called ‘trikliniarchos’ (‘ruler of the dinner’), ‘archeranistes; (‘ruler of the eranos’), or, if a woman, ‘proeranestria’.
Jewish thiasoi and common meals
The Essenes shared common meals known as ‘ouooma’, which they considered a sacrament as long as at least a minyan of ten was present. The meals were taken in silence.
Novices were not allowed to take part until they had finished a year’s probation. To take part in the common cup, the new member must complete two years of probation and become full initiates. This is somewhat reminiscent of the three-year catachumenate new Christians endured in the post-primitive Early Church.
In Palestine, groups of worshippers began joining together to defray the costs of a Passover sacrifice and subsequent seder. These groups were called ‘chavurot’. Later, the chavurot also began observing Shabbat dinner together, and it is from these common meals that the current benedictions for the Kiddush and the Havdalah come.
As portrayed in the Christian gospels, Jesus the Nazorean and his disciples would be called a chavurah, or in Greek a thiasos.
Traditional Jewish meal blessings
These are the blessings developed in the chavurot of the first century BCE and CE.
Before anything else, the head of the table, be it a group or a family, gave thanks and pronounced the Sanctification over the occasion.
Blessed be Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us alive and preserved us and enabled us to reach this time. Amen.
Blessed be Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. Amen.
This Blessing of bread serves to bless the entire meal.
Blessed be Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. Amen.
After the meal comes the Thanksgiving, or Grace, pronounced once again over a cup of wine:
Blessed be Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who sustains the entire universe with his goodness, grace, and mercy. Amen.
We give thanks, Yahweh our God, that you prepared for our fathers a good land and brought us out of Egypt, and gave to us the Covenant, Torah, and all the food we could want. Amen.
Yahweh our God, have mercy upon Israel your people, upon Jerusalem your city, and upon that house that is called by your Name. May you restore the kingdom of the house of David your Messiah to its rightful place. Amen.
May he who makes peace in the celestial heights create peace for us and for all Israel. Amen.
Blessed be Yahweh our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine. Amen.
Didache, Chapters 9-10
The oldest Eucharistic prayers known, these from the end-of-the first-century Didache perhaps date from the mid-first century or earlier. Note the complete lack of any reference to the crucifixion, the resurrection, atonement, or words of institution. These prayers, which show some affinity with ideas and motifs later called Gnostic, clearly demonstrate that in the Primitive Church, the agape meal and the Eucharist were one and the same.
‘First concerning the Cup: We give you thanks, Father, for the holy vine of your servant David, which you revealed to us through your servant Jesus; glory to you forever.
‘And concerning the broken Bread: We give you thanks, Father, for the Life and Knowledge which you revealed to us through your servant Jesus; glory to you forever. As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains but was brought together and became one, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom, for yours are the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever.
‘But after you are satisfied with food, thus give thanks: We give you thanks, holy Father, for making your holy name dwell in our hearts, and for the Knowledge and Faith and Immortality which you revealed to us through your servant Jesus; glory to you forever.
You, Lord Almighty, created all things for your name’s sake, and gave all humanity food and drink for our enjoyment, that we might give thanks to you, but you have blessed us with spiritual food and drink and Eternal Light through your servant. Above all we give thanks that you are mighty; glory to you forever.
Remember, Lord, to deliver your Church from all evil and to make it perfect in your love, and gather it together in holiness from the four winds to the kingdom which you have prepared for it; for yours are the power and the glory forever.
Let Grace come and let this world pass away. Hosannah, God of David. If anyone be holy, let them come! If anyone be not, let them repent: Maranatha, Amen.’
Acts of the Apostles, 2:42, 46-47
‘And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and koinonia, and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.’
‘And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.’
These passages from a book written in the late first or early second century demonstrate that the koinonia (‘communion’) meals were an affair that took place at the home, modeled on both the eranoi of the Hellenistic fellowships and the common meals of the chavurot, not a “sacrament” from the Divine with a sacerdotal intermediary but a shared experience flowing from all the participants present who “follow the same way”.
1 Corinthians 11:20-22, 33-34
‘When therefore you assemble yourselves together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in your eating each one takes his own supper first. One is hungry, another is drunk. What, don’t you have houses to eat and to drink in? Or do you despise God’s assembly, and put them to shame who don’t have? What shall I tell you? Shall I praise you? In this I don’t praise you.
‘ Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. But if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, lest your coming together be for judgment.’
In this passage, without the interpolations separating its two parts, we gain insight into the motive behind the first separation of agape and eucharist in which the former followed the latter, and the reason behind either the original post-Great Jewish War compiler of the Gospel of Mark or the later post-Bar Kokhba War editor of Mark, or perhaps an intermediate editor between the two, inventing the “Last Supper” by borrowing the same story from the Mystery Cults.
Pagan feasts with the gods
Even before the Mystery Cults exploded over the religious scene,, both citizens and thiasotai in Hellenistic society held meals to which one of the gods was invited as the guest of honor, often with an idol brought in to represent them. These meals were called ‘theoxenia’, or ‘hospitality to the diety’. Attendees were called ‘theoxeniastai’. Sometimes the dinners were in honor of a hero and were thus appropriately designated ‘heroxenia’.
In the Roman version, the deity played the host. The Romans called these ‘lectisternia’ for male deities and ‘sellisternia’ for female deities.
Communion feasts of the Mystery cults
Though the Mysteries of Osiris, the Mysteries of Demeter and Persephone at Eleusis, and the Orphic Mysteries had existed for hundreds of years, nearly three millennia in the case of the first, it was not until the Hellenistic era that the Mysteries became a widespread popular phenomenon whose practice spread from Spain to Iran.
Besides Osiris (with Isis and Horus), Persephone (with Demeter), and Dionysos, there were cults to Adonis (and Aphrodite), Attis (and Cybele), Bromius, Sabazius, Mithras, Apollo, Herakles, and Serapis (with Isis and Harpocrates). These different cults to deities originating from the four corners of the known world differed greatly in many aspects, but shared some features.
Among the chief of these was a communion meal in which participants partook of the body and blood of the saving deity in the form of earthly food and drink.
The idea of sacramental bread which gives immortality dates back to at least 2600 BCE, for which time pyramid hieroglyphics and the Book of the Dead speak of “thy bread of eternity, and thy beer of everlastingness”.
This original “holy communion” of the body and the blood of Osiris un-Nefer (‘the Good One’), was wheat cakes and barley ale, copied by his later Hellenistic incarnation as Serapis.
The holy communion of the body and the blood of Persephone in the Eleusinian Mysteries was a sacred bread and ‘kykeon’, a drink of barley water and mint.
The holy communion of the body and the blood of Dionysos in the Orphic Mysteries was raw bull flesh and wine. The afore-mentioned pericope in the Gospel of John of Jesus changing water into wine was borrowed from one of the stories of Dionysos, by the way.
The holy communion of the body and the blood of Attis was milk and honey.
The holy communion of the body and the blood of Mithras was bread and water.
The template of these, especially of the Mysteries of Sarapis (whose most important center was at Alexandria) and of the Mysteries of Mithras (whose most important center was at Memphis), the writer of Mark (whichever one that was) had ample example to compose a pericope to give sacredness to the mundane utilizing the Jewish elements of bread and wine.
Institution of the Lord’s Supper, Luke 22:14-20
Since the version in the Gospel of Luke better parallels some of the information above, and since Luke’s story derives from that in Mark, I have used that version, which directly parallels the prayers in the Didache and which may be the earlier version, much the same way Luke’s version of the Little Apocalypse is earlier than that in our current Mark and in the Gospel of Matthew.
‘And when the hour came, he sat at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”
‘And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves; for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”
‘And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
‘And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood”.’
A Great Divorce
With the invention of the “Last Supper”, the separation of eucharist and agape began.
In the first stage, the first cup was dropped, and the blessing of the bread and thanksgiving over the cup joined into a single prayer, with the consecrated bread and wine consumed before the evening meal.
In the second stage, the “eucharist” came to be celebrated in the morning while agape remained in the evening.
In the third state, agape was banned, but the blessing of additional elements, cheese, olives, oil, appended to the end of the anaphora (the Eucharistic canon proper).
In the fourth stage, blessing of anything but bread and wine was proscribed.
From that point, totally divorced from its beginnings as the form of blessing of a Jewish chvurah meal, the “Holy Eucharist” became a rite reminiscent of a magical ritual transubstantiating the elements of bread and wine into other substances by sacred alchemy, which led to Adoration of the Blessed Food and Processions of the Blessed Food, with the body of believers who make up and provide the actual koinonia gone like dust in the wind.
These are some relevant passages from Church Fathers Julian Martyr and Tertullian of Carthage, followed by three of the most ancient anaphorae of the Church. Note in particular the passage in Julian where he complains that the rites of Mithras are the same in action but in the exact same words, taken from the mouth of one Savior into the other. That complaint goes both ways; in his argument with Origen of Alexandria, the pagan philosopher Celsus charges that Christians of Alexandria have stolen their rites from those of the enthronement of Zeus on Crete.
Justin Martyr, 151, First Apology, Chapters 65-67
‘But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the illuminated person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to γένοιτο [so be it]. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.
‘And this food is called among us the Eucharist, of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Savior, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.
‘For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of me, this is my body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, he said, “This is my blood;” and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.
‘And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through his Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead. For he was crucified on the day before that of Saturn; and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to his apostles and disciples, he taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.’
Tertullian, The Apology, 39:16-19, 198 CE
Our feast explains itself by its name. The Greeks call it agape, i.e., love. Whatever it costs, our outlay in the name of piety is gain, since with the good things of the feast we benefit the needy; not as it is with you, do parasites aspire to the glory of satisfying their licentious propensities, selling themselves for a belly-feast to all disgraceful treatment,-but as it is with God himself, a peculiar respect is shown to the lowly. If the object of our feast be good, in the light of that consider its further regulations. As it is an act of religious service, it permits no vileness or immodesty. The participants, before reclining, taste first of prayer to God. As much is eaten as satisfies the cravings of hunger; as much is drunk as befits the chaste. They say it is enough, as those who remember that even during the night they have to worship God; they talk as those who know that the Lord is one of their auditors. After manual ablution, and the bringing in of lights, each is asked to stand forth and sing, as he can, a hymn to God, either one from the holy Scriptures or one of his own composing,-a proof of the measure of our drinking. As the feast commenced with prayer, so with prayer it is closed. We go from it, not like troops of mischief-doers, nor bands of vagabonds, nor to break out into licentious acts, but to have as much care of our modesty and chastity as if we had been at a school of virtue rather than a banquet.
This feast was held in the evening, but Communion was celebrated in the morning; Justin implies that, but Tertullian says so explicitly.
Tertullian, De Corona, Chapter III, 201 CE
And how long shall we go on, sawing backwards and forwards upon this line, when we have an old established observance, which, in preventing the question, hath decided it? If no Scripture hath determined this, assuredly custom hath confirmed it, which, doubtless, hath been derived from tradition. For how can a thing be used unless it be first delivered to us? But, thou sayest, even where tradition is pleaded, written authority ought to be required. Wherefore let us enquire whether none, save a written tradition, ought to be received. Certainly we shall deny that it ought to be received, if there be no precedents to determine the contrary in other observances, which, without any Scripture document, we defend on the ground of tradition alone, and by the supports of consequent custom. In fact, to begin with Baptism, when we are about to come to the water, in the same place, but at a somewhat earlier time, we do in the Church testify, under the hand of a chief minister, that we renounce the Devil and his pomp and his angels. Then are we thrice dipped, pledging ourselves to something more than the Lord hath prescribed in the Gospel: then, some undertaking the charge of us, we first taste a mixture of honey and milk, and from that day we abstain for a whole week from our daily washing. The Sacrament of the Eucharist, commanded by the Lord at the time of supper, and to all, we receive even at our meetings before day-break, and from the hands of no others than the heads of the Church. We offer, on one day every year, oblations for the dead as birth-day honors. On the Lord's day we account it unlawful to fast or to worship upon the knees. We enjoy the same freedom from Easter Day even unto Pentecost. We feel pained if any of the wine, or even of our bread, be spilled upon the ground. In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our forehead with the sign of the cross.
Anaphora of the Apostolic Tradition, c. 355 CE
The anaphora in the late 4th century Apostolic Tradition, a work that has been often mistakenly ascribed to Hippolytus of Rome in the early third but is more likely from the East of the empire, represents a midway point in the transition. Given that, while the document as a whole dates from the fourth century, this anaphora probably does date back to the early third century.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up unto the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord.
It is meet and right.
It is meet and right.
We give thanks to you God, through your beloved son Jesus Christ, whom you sent to us in former times as Savior, Redeemer, and Messenger of your Will, who is your inseparable Word,
through whom you made all, and in whom you were well-pleased, whom you sent from heaven into the womb of a virgin, who, being conceived within her, was made flesh, and appeared as your Son, born of the Holy Spirit and the virgin. It is he who, fulfilling your will and acquiring for you a holy people, extended his hands in suffering, in order to liberate from sufferings those who believe in you.
Who, when he was delivered to voluntary suffering, in order to dissolve death, and break the chains of the devil, and tread down hell, and bring the just to the light, and set the limit, and manifest the resurrection, taking the bread, and giving thanks to you, said, Take, eat, for this is my body which is broken for you. Likewise the chalice, saying, This is my blood which is shed for you. Whenever you do this, do this memory of me.
Therefore, remembering his death and resurrection, we offer to you the bread and the chalice, giving thanks to you, who made us worthy to stand before you and to serve as your priests.
And we pray that you would send your Holy Spirit to the oblation of your Holy Church. In their gathering together, give to all those who partake of your holy mysteries the fullness of the Holy Spirit, toward the strengthening of the faith in truth, that we may praise you and glorify you, through your son Jesus Christ, through whom to you be glory and honor, Father and Son, with the Holy Spirit, in your Holy Church, now and always, Amen.
The text still contains elements that connect Communion to a meal, providing additional prayers for the sanctification of oil (presumably to dip bread in), of cheese, and of olives to be said after the anaphora:
Sanctify this oil, O God, with which you anointed kings, priests and prophets, so as to grant health to them who use it and partake of it, that it may bestow comfort on all who taste it
and health on all who use it. Glory to you, with Holy Spirit, in the holy church, both now and always and world without end. Amen.
Sanctify this milk that has been united into one mass, and unite us to your love. Glory to you, with Holy Spirit, in the holy church, both now and always and world without end. Amen.
Let your loving kindness ever rest upon this fruit of the olive, which is a type of your bounty, which you caused to flow from the tree unto life for them who hope in you. Glory to you, with Holy Spirit, in the holy church, both now and always and world without end. Amen.
Apostolic Canons, c.380
- Limits what may be brought on the altar, specifically forbidding milk and honey, allowing nothing but the elements, ears of grains and grapes, and frankincense
Anaphora of St. Mark, 5th century CE
One of two liturgies upon which nearly all later Eastern rites are based (the other is the Liturgy of St. James), this rite is still used in the Coptic Orthodox Church under the name Liturgy of St. Cyril, with a few structural edits and much additional material. (Source: Positive Infinity @ https://www.vulcanhammer.org/2009/12/16/the-canon-of-the-mass-the-anaphora-of-st-mark/)
I did some further edits of the material.
The Lord be with you all.
And with you.
Let us lift up our hearts.
We have raised them up to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord.
That is right and fitting.
It is indeed right and fitting, holy and just, and most wholesome for our souls, to praise you, almighty Father, and to thank and rejoice in you, to speak and to sing of you, in the day and in the night, our lips never quiet and our hearts never silent.
For it is you who made the heavens and all they contain, the earth and all that is in it, the sea, the torrents, the rivers, the lakes and all that is in them. It is you who made man in your own image and likeness and bestowed on him the delights of paradise; when he had sinned you did not scorn and abandon him, but in your loving kindness called him again through your law and instructed him by your prophets. At last, you restored and renewed him by this most wonderful, heavenly and life-giving sacrament. All this you accomplished through him who is your wisdom, the true light, your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
It is through him that we offer to you, as also to him and to the Holy Spirit, this spiritual and unbloody sacrifice which all the nations offer you, Lord, from east to west, from north to south. Because great is your renown among all the nations, and in every place a sacrifice of incense is offered to your name, a pure sacrifice, a fragrant offering.
We ask and pray you, Lord, that you who are the true lover of mankind may be mindful of your Church, which stretches from one end of the earth to the other; remember, Lord, all your peoples and all your flocks.
Deliver the captive; rescue the distressed; feed the hungry; comfort the faint-hearted, convert the erring; enlighten the darkened; raise the fallen; encourage the wavering; heal the sick; and guide them all into the way of salvation and into your sacred fold; deliver us from our sins; and protect and defend us at all times.
You sanctify all men; receive also our sanctification with all who glorify you and with whom we celebrate your praise, and say:
Holy! holy! holy! Lord, God of Sabaoth! Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Truly, heaven and earth are full of your glory through the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Fill, O God, this sacrifice with that blessing which comes from you by the coming of your most Holy Spirit.
On the night in which he gave himself for our sins and suffered death in his flesh for all men, when he was eating with his apostles and disciples, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread into his hands, lifted his eyes to you, his Father, our God and the God of all, gave thanks, blessed, sanctified, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying: Take and eat. This is my body, which is broken for you and is shared among you for the forgiveness of sins. Amen.
Likewise, when he had finished the meal, he took the cup, filled it with wine and water, lifted his eyes to you, his Father, gave thanks, blessed, sanctified, filled it with the Holy Spirit and gave it to his disciples saying: Drink all of this. For this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins. Amen.
Do this in memory of me. In fact, whenever you eat this bread or drink this cup, you will proclaim my death and my resurrection and announce my ascension, until the time when I return.
That is why, King of heaven, in proclaiming the death of your only Son; in acknowledging his blessed resurrection from the dead on the third day, his ascension into heaven and his sitting at the right hand of you, his Father; and in waiting for his glorious and terrible second coming, when he will come to judge the living and the dead with justice and will give to each man according to his works, we place before you these gifts which come from you.
And in this time as in all times, may your most holy, venerable and glorious name be glorified and praised with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
As it was, is, and shall be from generation to generation and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Anaphora of Addai and Mari, 7th century CE
In the Liturgy of Addai and Mari still used by Assyrian and Chaldean and some Thomasine Christians, the anaphora in this, its current form, dates to the 7th century, but the original may date back to 3rd century CE Edessa. The pre-Uniate form, presented here in English translation, lacks the Words of Institution. It is the oldest anaphora in continuous use in all of Christendom.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of
the Holy Spirit be with us all, now and at all times and forever and ever. Amen.
Let your hearts be on high.
To thee, God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Israel, glorious King.
The offering is being offered to God, the Lord of all.
It is meet and right.
Worthy of glory from every mouth and thanksgiving from every tongue is the adorable and glorious Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, who created the world in his grace and its inhabitants in his compassion, has redeemed mankind in his mercy, and has affected great grace towards mortals.
Your majesty, O Lord, a thousand heavenly beings worship and myriad myriads of angels, hosts of spiritual beings, ministers of fire and spirit with Cherubim and holy Seraphim, glorify your name, crying out and glorifying, shouting and praising without ceasing and crying one to another and saying:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of his praises.
And with these heavenly hosts we give thanks to you, o my Lord, even we your servants weak and frail and miserable, for that you have given us great grace past recompense in that thou didst put on our manhood that thou mightiest quicken it by thy godhead, and hast exalted our low estate and restored our fall and raised our mortality and forgiven our trespasses and justified our sinfulness and enlightened our knowledge and, our Lord and our God, hast condemned our enemies and granted victory to the weakness of our frail nature in the overflowing mercies of thy grace.
Do thou, o my Lord, in thy many and unspeakable mercies make a good and acceptable memorial for all the just and righteous fathers who have been well-pleasing in thy sight, in the commemoration of the body and blood of thy Christ which we offer unto thee on thy pure and holy altar as thou hast taught us, and grant us thy tranquility and thy peace all the days of the world.
Yea, O our Lord and our God, grant us thy tranquility and thy peace all the days of the world that all the inhabitants of the earth may know thee that thou art the only true God the Father and that thou hast sent our Lord Jesus Christ thy Son and thy beloved. And he our Lord and our God came and in his life giving gospel taught us all the purity and holiness of the prophets and the apostles and the martyrs and the confessors and the bishops and the doctors and the presbyters and the deacons and all the children of the holy catholic church, even them that have been signed with the living sign of holy baptism.
And we also, O my Lord, thy weak and frail and miserable servants who are gathered together in thy name, both stand before thee at this time and have received the example which is from thee delivered unto us, rejoicing and praising and exalting and commemorating and celebrating this great and fearful and holy and life giving and divine mystery of the passion and the death and the burial and the resurrection of our Lord our Saviour Jesus Christ.
And may there come, O my Lord, thine Holy Spirit and rest upon this offering of thy servants and bless it and hallow it that it be to us, o my Lord, for the pardon of offences and the remission of sins and for the great hope of resurrection from the dead and for new life in the kingdom of heaven with all those who have been well pleasing in thy sight.
And for all this great and marvelous dispensation towards us we will give thee thanks and praise thee without ceasing in thy Church redeemed by the precious blood of thy Christ, with unclosed mouths and open faces lifting up praise and honor and confession and worship to thy living and holy and life giving name now and ever and world without end. Amen.