Charity and Good Works (pt. 35)
v Doctrinal Series v
It is known that dinners and suppers are everywhere customary, and are given for various purposes, and that with most they are given for the sake of friendship, relationship, enjoyment, gain, and remuneration; also that they are employed for corrupting men and drawing them over to certain parties; and that among the great they are given for the sake of honor, and in kings’ palaces for splendor. But dinners and suppers of charity are given only among those who are in mutual love from similarity of faith.
With the Christians of the primitive church dinners and suppers had no other object; they were called Feasts, and were given both in order that they might heartily enjoy themselves, and at the same time be drawn together.
In the first state of the establishment of the church suppers signified consociation and conjunction, because evening, when they took place, signified that state. But in the second state, when the church had been established, there were dinners, for morning and day signified that state. At table they conversed on various subjects, both domestic and civil, but especially on such as pertained to the church. And because they were feasts of charity, whatever subject they talked about, charity with its delights and joys was in their speech.
The spiritual sphere that prevailed at those feasts was a sphere of love to the Lord and love towards the neighbor, which cheered the mind of everyone, softened the tone of every voice, and from the heart communicated festivity to all the senses. For there emanates from every man a spiritual sphere, which is a sphere of his love’s affection and its thought therefrom, and this interiorly affects his associates, especially at feasts. This sphere emanates both through the face and through the respiration. It is because dinners and suppers, or feasts, signified such association of minds that they are so frequently mentioned in the Word, and nothing else is there meant by them in the spiritual sense; and the same is meant in the highest sense by the paschal supper among the children of Israel, also by their banquet at other festivities, and by their eating together of the sacrifices near the tabernacle. Conjunction itself was then represented by the breaking and distribution of bread, and by drinking from the same cup and handing it to another.