Widow's House Meals
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Apostolic Tradition 142

Hippolytus' Food

Hippolytus IconOne aspect of the agape meal as a charitable exercise can still be seen in the Hippolytus of Rome (170 - 235 AD) "Apostolic Tradition." Hippolytus was considered one of the most important theologians of his time and renowned for his preaching, eloquence and learning. The "Apostolic Tradition" reveals that charitable patronal activity was still practiced. Just after the discussion of the Lord's Supper, there is a brief treatment of widow's house meals. It is legislative and deals only with two specific points. First, anyone who wishes to hold a meal for widows should observe propriety by sending them home before the evening is too advanced.

Charitable Distribution

He urged that one who would like to feed them but cannot because of other responsibilities should give them a portion of food to take home and eat there. This was normally a small basket of food regularly given by patrons to clients who were not lucky enough to be invited to the dinner itself. The text seems to indicate that more widows than could be fed in the house would arrive, perhaps uninvited, like clients expecting a handout. Widows in Hippolytus' church who are in need of support or extra nourishment are still invited to private houses for dinner and gifts of food. The patron, though later losing authority to the centralized power of the bishop, still holds charitable meals to feed widows.

"Widow's House Meals"
by Ron Meacock © 2017

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