|dc.description.abstract||In today’s society, there has been a rise in alternative ritual practices, through Neo-Paganism, Wicca, and other non-traditional organizations that are critical of Christianity’s history of exclusion of “The Other”. Christian rituals have long been documented by theologians through first-hand accounts, with the recognition of similarities between Christian rituals and ‘pagan’ rituals. What has not been thoroughly documented is how these similarities are purposefully done, as a means to encourage the transition of ‘pagan’ beliefs into Christian beliefs
The aim of this research is to acknowledge the building critique and study the development of Early Christian liturgy, so see if there is enough evidence to support the idea that Early Christians willingly adapted pagan rituals into Christian authorized rituals. This will be done while recognizing that the development of religion is often a functional tool, so the application of the Social Anthropological Functionalist theory will also be used.
In order to scrutinize the development of liturgy, one area was decided upon: Funerary Feasting. The nature of Christianity is based on a promised after-life through a set of expectations during life; the glorification of after-life begets Christianity as a death focused religion. Funerary Feasting was chosen as the best candidate ritual because of this. One of the most popular Christian rituals is the Eucharist, which is based off of the Last Supper of Jesus of Nazareth, a foundational event in the Christian Narrative. North Africa was the chosen site for this research because it was a massive pilgrimage site for Saints and Martyrs, another facet of the Funerary Feasting ritual. North Africa was also home to Early Christian Fathers who acknowledged Funerary Feasting as an aspect of the Christian narrative. These reports ceased by the 7th century; this is why the timeframe for this research is only between the 2nd and 7th centuries.
The research showed that the encouragement of the Early Christian Fathers was to break down the ritual of Funerary Feasting into different rituals. The already existing communal feasting rituals, like the ἀγάπη and the eucharist, were viable candidates the absorb areas of Funerary Feasting that were approved by the Early Christian fathers. The areas that Early Christian Fathers did not approve of needed to be adjusted into practices that could be accepted, like the Cult of Saints and Martyrs, which provided Christians with a celebratory outlet. This outlet held the festivity of Funerary Feasting, but with the lowered tolerance for ‘merrymaking’ that the Church approved of. Another measure of adjusting Funerary Feasting was done with iconography, where the Last Supper’s iconic scene is compared against the iconography of Greco-Roman totenmahls. More research should be done in regards to the development of Christian rituals both within and outside of the Mediterranean, there may be more evidence for the growing critique of how Christian development has occurred in the last 2000 years.||