I’m going to depart from my traditional series of Thursday posts on the New Testament to spend a little while on an early Christian document called The Didache. This little document, which I think comes from the period 51-57, but which some will date as late as 120, is a very early guide to churchly practices. We’ll walk through it a bit at a time before returning to actual New Testament texts.
The Didache. (translated by Kirsopp Lake) Loeb Classical Library #24. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1912, reprint 1985, pp. 303-334.
Chapter 10, pp. 322-325.
The author continues immediately after instructions on the Eucharist to give instructions about a prayer. It is rightly a “eucharistic” prayer, as it is a prayer of thanksgiving. It may or may not be directly associated with the eucharistic ceremony. First, it refers to “after you are filled” (Didache X.1). If the meal is an actual meal this statement makes a great deal of sense. If it is a small ceremonial bite and sip the language does not seem as coherent. The thanksgiving given (Didache X.2) is to the “holy father” for his name dwelling in “our hearts” and for “knowledge and faith and immortality.” The confession is made that God gave food and drink, that it is enjoyable, and that “to us” has been given “spiritual food and drink” Didache X.3). The prayer asks God to remember the church, to bring rescue, and to fill it with love, gathering it together (Didache X.5). It asks God to come, welcomes the saints, and calls those who are not holy to repentance (Didache X.6). Then in an abrupt shift the eucharistic ceremony seems to return, as the author instructs that prophets should be allowed to εὐχαριστεῖν as they wish.