Unfortunately, half the stuff I'm reading makes me wish I knew more about what I'm reading about. In other words, this is becoming a survey of the topic, a scratching of the surface of a rich and complex history of Christian writings that I have up to now known nothing about. There's a coffee house my mother-in-law introduced me to called Agia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) that has shelves of books by the Church Fathers. My curiosity has presently been piqued, and I look forward to flipping through some pages over a few cups of coffee next time I'm there.
I had to share this quote, though, from the wisdom of Hippolytus, a priest in the church of Rome around 200 AD. He wrote a blessing for when someone brings an offering of cheese or olives:
"Again, if someone offers cheese and olives, let the bishop pray thus:
Sanctify this curdled milk
by uniting us to your love.
Grant too that this fruit of the olive tree
may never lose its sweetness.
It is a symbol of the abundance
that you made flow from the tree (of the cross),
to give life to those who hope in you."
The best part, though, is the footnote after the first sentence of the prayer. "Sanctify this curdled milk by uniting us to your love" literally means, "make this coagulated milk holy by coagulating us to your love."
There are elements of ancient praxis that I think we lack in church today. Likening our union in Christ to the coagulation of milk is not one of them. Ha, ha.