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9 Breaking the Fast: The Central Moment of the Paschal Celebration in Historical Context and Diachronic Perspective

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Chapter Summary

Breaking the fast was the central moment and core symbol of the Christian paschal celebration both in the quartodeciman and in the dominical traditions. Whereas it appears to have been constitutive for the quartodeciman celebration to break the fast after the conclusion of the Jewish Passover meal, which terminated in the late evening, the mimetic link of the dominical Easter to the resurrection and to the discovery of the empty tomb on Sunday morning entailed a full-night vigil. But provided that the quartodeciman celebration is in fact historically older, it may be possible that the paschal vigil originated as an extension of an evening celebration, rather than the latter emerging as a reduction of the former. Consequently this would help explain puzzles posed not only by some early witnesses but also by fourth-century sources that testify to dominical paschal vigils celebrated on Saturday evening.



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