The History of the Lovefeast
The first Moravian Lovefeast was served in Germany on August 13, 1727, following the Renewal of the Moravian Church. Lovefeast is styled after the common meal partaken in love and fellowship by the early Church (as described in the Book of Acts). After the memorable celebration of the holy communion on August 13, seven groups of the participants continued to talk over the great spiritual blessing which they had experienced and were reluctant to separate and return to their own homes for the noonday meal. Count Zinzendorf, sensing the situation, sent them food from his manor house, and each group partook together, continuing in prayer, religious conversation, and the singing of hymns. This incident reminded Zinzendorf of the primitive agape, and the idea was fostered until lovefeasts became a custom in Moravian life. They were introduced wherever new settlements were founded and so came to America. Wherever its fullest liturgical development exists, the lovefeast is a service of solemn dignity, in which the finest Moravian Church hymns and stately music may be heard, but without any surrender of its central idea.
A Traditional Moravian Lovefeast
While Christmas Eve Lovefeasts in today’s Moravian churches are each unique, many share a traditional format. Warm mugs of sweetened coffee, prepared in the Moravian tradition, and authentic Moravian buns are served to the congregation. Seasonal music and Christmas carols set a festive tone while the congregation enjoys the “feast.” The candle portion of the service began as a Moravian children’s service. Handmade beeswax candles decorated with a red paper frill are distributed to each worshiper. The beeswax candles have been variously described as symbolizing the purity of Christ and the sacrifice of Christ as the light of the world. The candles are lit while the worship space is darkened except for a large illuminated Moravian Advent Star. Often led by a child, worshipers sing the antiphonal hymn, Morning Star, O Cheering Sight. In some congregations, after the last hymn, the worshipers carry their lighted candles out into the world.
To learn more about the traditional Moravian lovefeast, visit Moravian.org.