Five Senses of the Lovefeast

I was a diener (rhymes with ‘wiener’ – which is a server) at the early Lovefeast, so I had a bird’s eye view to all the action. The evening Lovefeast was very similar (it was a little longer, with fewer sounds of young children). You can watch a recap of the Lovefeast online INSERT LINK. But I am also bringing you the Lovefeast as a Five Senses. Enjoy!

I see…

Luminaries on the Quad before I even get inside Wait Chapel. And the giant, giant Moravian star over the doors.

Ushers handing out programs and beeswax candles as you enter the chapel.

Beautiful Christmas decorations all over: poinsettias, Christmas trees, Moravian stars, wreaths, pine garlands along the railings and up the stairs to the balcony. Also beautiful candles along the balcony stairs.

Groups of students who have come together. And groups of faculty or staff sitting near one another.

One unity candle at the front of the room.

The choir dressed in beautiful robes.

People dressed in holiday attire – lots of reds and greens.

Friends greeting each other with smiles, hugs, and/or kisses.

Dieners (rhymes with wieners) – or servers. They are the ones who pass out baskets of Moravian buns and cups of coffee. There is a systematic, orderly way they do this, row by row.

The lights go out, save for that one unity candle up front and the Christmas tree lights. Then you see one candle lit, and they light the person next to them, until there are enough dieners to light the ends of each row.

How beautifully the chapel goes from darkness to light as more and more rows of candles are lit.

Peaceful, happy faces as the ceremony ends.

I hear…

Lots of chatter before the service begins. Also the brass band that plays Christmas carols.

Beautiful music, all through the service. Flutes and the choir and bells. And the organ, who is really the star of the show. It is great to hear it booming.

The occasional coughs and sneezes. It is December, after all.

The warm, reverent voices of the people who are doing the readings and offering prayers.

The voices of people around me as we sing carols. There are always some folks nearby who are terrific singers – loud and proud – and also people like me who are not as musical. We tend to sing softer and try to stay in tune.

Chatter during the lighting of the candles. It takes several minutes to get everyone’s candles lit, and people can’t seem to stay quiet. It is a good noise though.

I smell…

Beeswax candles. Both in the sense that there are 2,000+ of them in the chapel, and if you keep the candle in your hands, your fingers will smell of beeswax where you held it between your thumb and forefinger.

Pine from the greenery.

Sweetened coffee.

I taste…

The Lovefeast bun, which reminds me of a slightly sweet hamburger bun that has ginger and nutmeg in it.

Coffee, which has been pre-sweetened and has milk added. I never take my coffee this way, except at the Lovefeast, because this is the how it is supposed to be. [Aside: in recent years, the coffee has gotten remarkably better tasting over the years, and is also a lot hotter than I remember having as a student. The Lovefeast coffee circa ’88-’92 always seemed sort of a ghastly grey, weak, and tepid.]

I feel…

The red crinkly paper at the stem of the beeswax candle, which is there to catch any dripping wax and keep it off your clothes.

The smoothness of the candle stem. It feels sort of soft and malleable, not brittle like other candles.

A rush of joy as we all stand to sing Joy to the World and raise our candles high at the end. It always feels like a special moment.

People who try to keep their candles lit even after leaving Wait Chapel.

A shared sense of peace and love at the end of the service. It always feels like everyone is connected to each other, caring, loving, happy. I wish this feeling could be bottled and opened up on all the other days of the year when we need it.


— by Betsy Chapman ’92, MA ’94


Categories: the daily deac

Recent Posts