This past Saturday I woke up early after a peculiarly restless sleep anxious about the day ahead. Every first and third Friday the Seattle Johannite community, Holy Paraclete, meets at a local esoteric bookstore for communal prayer and, occasionally, participation in the Eucharist through our friend, Monsignor Scott Rassbach+, of Rose Cross Community in Portland. This time, however, was different and unique. Although the monsignor couldn’t make it to the service, I decided as the narthex leader to try something different from our usual vespers service on account of a special guest coming from out of town and offer them, as a gesture of friendship between our different communities.
Friendship and mutual support is important. Regardless of traditions, we are all being led by the Sacred Flame toward the Godhead in whatever way we imagine it and are all fellow travelers on the spiritual path. I met Pater Craig Williams a number of years ago at the Esoteric Book Conference ,where he was interviewed last year by Occult of Personality. A priest of Ecclesia Gnostica Æterna and adept in Ayurveda and Eastern spirituality, I’ve enjoyed my conversations with him and acknowledge him as a friend and exemplar of what it means to be a modern gnostic. Another guest, friend and soon-to-be deacon of Ecclesia Gnostica was also present, as well as others from different traditions. To say I felt overwhelmed at first would be a gross understatement.
The entire morning I traveled here and there across town to get the things I needed for the ceremony in-between making lunch for my partner and me, ironing the clothes I was going to wear, and packing up my travel bag that I use to bring what I needed to the location. I decided that I would arrive a few hours earlier to clean up the space with my partner, set up what was needed, and then grab a quick drink at a local pub to calm my nerves about an hour and half before Holy Paraclete’s first Agapé Meal.
The Agapé Meal is a ceremony dating back to the earliest ages of the Christian movement and although the Council of Laeodicea effectively marked the end of the practice of the agapé feasts in the transition of Christian worship from home to the adapted Hellenic temples and other buildings granted to Christians for worship and congregation some fifty years earlier by the Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus by declaring, “no one holding any office in the Church, be he cleric or layman, who are invited to an agapé feast, may take away their portions, for this is to cast reproach on the ecclesiastical order.” Although it can be certain many still met in the context of their own families and extended friends, this development also marked the codification – or rather separation – between clergy and the laity.
Although eucharistic in appearance, the agapé is principally communal in nature, best described by His Grace, +Mar Timotheos of New South Wales: “[The Agape Meal] a prayerful feast shared in community.. [and] a time for a whole household to come together and give thanks… you can think of [it] as a bridge. It bridges the domestic, mundane reality of the meal with the sacred time of liturgy – so it has a flavour that is somewhat liturgical and somewhat casual. As the liturgy proclaims: there is no separation between these things – but it’s easy to think of sacredness as only being at church or in meditation. Agape is a way to remind ourselves that truly ‘there is nothing mundane in the holy’.”
The above description is precisely what I felt last Saturday in the presence of good friends and spiritual partners. In spite of our many different backgrounds, experiences and even personal practices, we were able to come together, sit at the same table, pray and enjoy our company in a mindful manner. The conversations were delightful and I was overjoyed by the entirety of the experience in spite of my initial anxieties. Waking up the next morning, I felt inspired – the first time in a number of weeks due to personal life stressors – and motivated to move past the things I’ve been letting hold me back to some degree and try out new things.
 Canon 27, Laeodicea