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The Eucharist (//; also known as Holy Communion and the Lord's Supper among other names) is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was instituted by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper; giving his disciples bread and wine during a Passover meal, he commanded them to "do this in memory of me" while referring to the bread as "my body" and the cup of wine as "the new covenant in my blood". Through the eucharistic celebration Christians remember Christ's sacrifice of himself on the cross.
The elements of the Eucharist, sacramental bread (leavened or unleavened) and sacramental wine (or non-alcoholic grape juice), are consecrated on an altar or a communion table and consumed thereafter. Communicants, those who consume the elements, may speak of "receiving the Eucharist" as well as "celebrating the Eucharist". Christians generally recognize a special presence of Christ in this rite, though they differ about exactly how, where, and when Christ is present. The Catholic Church states that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Christ under the species of bread and wine, it maintains that during the consecration, the substances of the bread and wine actually become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ (transubstantiation) while the appearances or "species" of the elements remain (e.g. colour, taste, feel, and smell). The Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches agree that an objective change occurs of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, but vary in their use of transubstantiation as a name for the change. Lutherans believe the true body and blood of Christ are really present "in, with, and under" the forms of the bread and wine (sacramental union). Reformed Christians believe in a real spiritual presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Anglican eucharistic theologies universally affirm the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, though Evangelical Anglicans believe that this is a spiritual presence, while Anglo-Catholics hold to a corporeal presence. Others, such as the Plymouth Brethren, take the act to be only a symbolic reenactment of the Last Supper and a memorial.
In spite of differences among Christians about various aspects of the Eucharist, there is, according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "more of a consensus among Christians about the meaning of the Eucharist than would appear from the confessional debates over the sacramental presence, the effects of the Eucharist, and the proper auspices under which it may be celebrated".
The Greek noun εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), meaning "thanksgiving", appears fifteen times in the New Testament while the related verb εὐχαριστήσας is found several times in New Testament accounts of the Last Supper, including the earliest such account:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks (εὐχαριστήσας), he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me".
The term eucharistia (thanksgiving) is that by which the rite is referred to in the Didache (a late 1st or early 2nd century document), and by Ignatius of Antioch (who died between 98 and 117) and Justin Martyr (writing between 147 and 167). Today, "the Eucharist" is the name still used by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Lutherans. Other Protestant denominations rarely use this term, preferring either "Communion", "the Lord's Supper", "Remembrance", or "the Breaking of Bread". Latter-day Saints call it "the sacrament".
When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.
Use of the term Communion (or Holy Communion) to refer to the Eucharistic rite began by some groups originating in the Protestant Reformation. Others, such as the Catholic Church, do not formally use this term for the rite, but instead mean by it the act of partaking of the consecrated elements; they speak of receiving Holy Communion even outside of the rite, and of participating in the rite without receiving First Communion. The term Communion is derived from Latin communio ("sharing in common"), which translates Greek κοινωνία (koinōnía) in 1 Corinthians 10:16:
The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
The phrase κλάσις τοῦ ἄρτου (klasis tou artou 'breaking of the bread'; in later liturgical Greek also ἀρτοκλασία artoklasia) appears in various related forms five times in the New Testament in contexts which, according to some, may refer to the celebration of the Eucharist, in either closer or symbolically more distant reference to the Last Supper. It is the term used by the Plymouth Brethren.
The "Blessed Sacrament", the "Sacrament of the Altar", and other variations, are common terms used by Catholics, Lutherans and some Anglicans (Anglo-Catholics) for the consecrated elements, particularly when reserved in a tabernacle. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the term "The Sacrament" is used of the rite.
Within Western Christianity the term Mass is used, especially in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the Lutheran churches (especially in the Church of Sweden, the Church of Norway, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland), by many Anglicans (especially those of an Anglo-Catholic churchmanship). At least in the Catholic Church, the Mass is a longer rite which always consists of two main parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in that order. The Liturgy of the Word consists mainly of readings from scripture (the Bible) and a homily (otherwise called a sermon) preached by a priest or deacon while the liturgy of the Eucharist includes the offering and the presentation of bread and wine at the altar, their consecration by the priest during the eucharistic prayer, and the reception of the consecrated elements in Holy Communion. Among the many other terms used in the Catholic Church are "Holy Mass", "the Memorial of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord", the "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass", and the "Holy Mysteries". The term mass derives from post-classical Latin missa ("dismissal"), found in the concluding phrase of the liturgy, "Ite, missa est". The term missa has come to imply a 'mission', because at the end of the Mass the congregation are sent out to serve Christ.
The term Divine Liturgy (Greek: Θεία Λειτουργία) is used in Byzantine Rite traditions, whether in the Eastern Orthodox Church or among the Eastern Catholic Churches. These also speak of "the Divine Mysteries", especially in reference to the consecrated elements, which they also call "the Holy Gifts".[note 1]
The term Divine Service (German: Gottesdienst) is used in the Lutheran Churches, in addition to the terms "Eucharist", "Mass" and "Holy Communion". The term reflects the Lutheran belief that God is serving the congregants in the liturgy.
Some Eastern rites have yet more names for Eucharist. Holy Qurbana is common in Syriac Christianity and Badarak in the Armenian Rite; in the Alexandrian Rite, the term Prosfora is common in Coptic Christianity and "Keddase" in Ethiopian and Eritrean Christianity.
The Last Supper appears in all three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It also is found in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, which suggests how early Christians celebrated what Paul the Apostle called the Lord's Supper. Although the Gospel of John does not reference the Last Supper explicitly, some argue that it contains theological allusions to the early Christian celebration of the Eucharist, especially in the chapter 6 Bread of Life Discourse but also in other passages.
In his First Epistle to the Corinthians (c. 54–55), Paul the Apostle gives the earliest recorded description of Jesus' Last Supper: "The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' Those interested might note that the Greek word for remembrance is ἀνάμνησιν or "anamnesis", which itself has a much richer theological history than the English word for "remember".
The synoptic gospels, Mark 14:22–25, Matthew 26:26–29 and Luke 22:13–20, depict Jesus as presiding over the Last Supper prior to his crucifixion. The versions in Matthew and Mark are almost identical, but Luke's Gospel presents a textual problem in that a few manuscripts omit the second half of verse 19 and all of v.20 ("given for you … poured out for you"), which are found in the vast majority of ancient witnesses to the text. If the shorter text is the original one, then Luke's account is independent of both that of Paul and that of Matthew/Mark. If the majority longer text comes from the author of the third gospel, then this version is very similar to that of Paul in 1 Corinthians, being somewhat fuller in its description of the early part of the Supper, particularly in making specific mention of a cup being blessed before the bread was broken.
Uniquely, in the one prayer given to posterity by Jesus, the Lord's Prayer, the word epiousios—which does not exist in Classical Greek literature—has been interpreted by some as meaning "super-substantial", a reference to the Bread of Life, the Eucharist.
In the gospel of John, however, the account of the Last Supper does not mention Jesus taking bread and "the cup" and speaking of them as his body and blood; instead, it recounts other events: his humble act of washing the disciples' feet, the prophecy of the betrayal, which set in motion the events that would lead to the cross, and his long discourse in response to some questions posed by his followers, in which he went on to speak of the importance of the unity of the disciples with him, with each other, and with the Father. Some would find in this unity and in the washing of the feet the deeper meaning of the Communion bread in the other three gospels. In John 6:26–65, the evangelist attributes a long discourse to Jesus that deals with the subject of the living bread and in John 6:51–59 contains echoes of Eucharistic language. The interpretation of the whole passage has been extensively debated due to theological and scholarly disagreements.[why?]
The expression The Lord's Supper, derived from St. Paul's usage in 1 Corinthians 11:17–34, may have originally referred to the Agape feast (or love feast), the shared communal meal with which the Eucharist was originally associated. The Agape feast is mentioned in Jude 12 but The Lord's Supper is now commonly used in reference to a celebration involving no food other than the sacramental bread and wine.
Early Christian sources
The Didache (Greek: Διδαχή "teaching") is an early Church treatise that includes instructions for Baptism and the Eucharist. Most scholars date it to the late 1st century, and distinguish in it two separate Eucharistic traditions, the earlier tradition in chapter 10 and the later one preceding it in chapter 9.[note 2] The Eucharist is mentioned again in chapter 14.[note 3]
Ignatius of Antioch (born c. 35 or 50, died between 98 and 117), one of the Apostolic Fathers,[note 4] mentions the Eucharist as "the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ",[note 5] and Justin Martyr speaks of it as more than a meal: "the food over which the prayer of thanksgiving, the word received from Christ, has been said ... is the flesh and blood of this Jesus who became flesh ... and the deacons carry some to those who are absent."
Paschasius Radbertus (785–865) was a Carolingian theologian, and the abbot of Corbie, whose most well-known and influential work is an exposition on the nature of the Eucharist written around 831, entitled De Corpore et Sanguine Domini. He was canonized in 1073 by Pope Gregory VII. His works are edited in Patrologia Latina vol. 120 (1852).
Most Christians, even those who deny that there is any real change in the elements used, recognize a special presence of Christ in this rite. But Christians differ about exactly how, where and how long Christ is present in it. Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Church of the East teach that the reality (the "substance") of the elements of bread and wine is wholly changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, while the appearances (the "species") remain. Transubstantiation ("change of the substance") is the term used by Catholics to denote what is changed, not to explain how the change occurs, since the Catholic Church teaches that "the signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ". The Orthodox use various terms such as transelementation, but no explanation is official as they prefer to leave it a mystery.
Lutherans and Reformed Christians believe Christ to be present and may both use the term "sacramental union" to describe this. However, Lutherans believe that the whole Christ, including his body and blood, are truly present in the supper, whereas the Reformed generally describe a "spiritual presence". Lutherans specify that Christ is "in, with and under" the forms of bread and wine. Anglicans adhere to a range of views although the teaching in the Articles of Religion holds that the body of Christ is received by the faithful only in a heavenly and spiritual manner. Some Christians do not believe in the concept of the real presence, believing that the Eucharist is only a ceremonial remembrance or memorial of the death of Christ.
The Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document of the World Council of Churches, attempting to present the common understanding of the Eucharist on the part of the generality of Christians, describes it as "essentially the sacrament of the gift which God makes to us in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit", "Thanksgiving to the Father", "Anamnesis or Memorial of Christ", "the sacrament of the unique sacrifice of Christ, who ever lives to make intercession for us", "the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, the sacrament of his real presence", "Invocation of the Spirit", "Communion of the Faithful", and "Meal of the Kingdom".
Ritual and liturgy
Many Christian denominations classify the Eucharist as a sacrament. Some Protestants (though not all) prefer to instead call it an ordinance, viewing it not as a specific channel of divine grace but as an expression of faith and of obedience to Christ.
In the Catholic Church the Eucharist is considered as a sacrament, according to the Church the Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian life." "The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch." ("Pasch" is a word that sometimes means Easter, sometimes Passover.)
In the Eucharist the same sacrifice that Jesus made only once on the cross is made present at every Mass. According to Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church "The Eucharist is the very sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus which he instituted to perpetuate the sacrifice of the cross throughout the ages until his return in glory. Thus he entrusted to his Church this memorial of his death and Resurrection. It is a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet, in which Christ is consumed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory is given to us."
For the Catholic Church, "[t]he Eucharist is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the making present and the sacramental offering of his unique sacrifice, in the liturgy of the Church which is his Body. ... [T]he memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but ... they become in a certain way present and real. ... When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present. ... The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the same and only sacrifice offered once for all on the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit. ... The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: 'The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.' 'And since in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner... this sacrifice is truly propitiatory.'"
The only ministers who can officiate at the Eucharist and consecrate the sacrament are ordained priests (either bishops or presbyters) acting in the person of Christ ("in persona Christi"). In other words, the priest celebrant represents Christ, who is the Head of the Church, and acts before God the Father in the name of the Church, always using "we" not "I" during the Eucharistic prayer. The matter used must be wheaten bread and grape wine; this is considered essential for validity.
The Catholic Church teaches that during the consecration of bread and wine, both bread (known as the host) and wine become the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This change is brought about in the eucharistic prayer through the efficacy of the word of Christ and by the action of the Holy Spirit. The empirical appearance and physical properties (called the species or accidents) are not changed, but in the view of Catholics, the reality (called the substance) indeed is; hence the term transubstantiation to describe the phenomenon. The Eucharistic presence of Christ begins at the moment of the consecration and endures as long as the Eucharistic species subsist, that is, until the Eucharist is digested, physically destroyed, or decays by some natural process (at which point, theologian Thomas Aquinas argued, the substance of the bread and wine cannot return). The Council of Trent declares that by the consecration of the bread and wine "there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation." The Church holds that the body and blood of Jesus can no longer be truly separated. Where one is, the other must be. Therefore, although the priest (or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion) says "The Body of Christ" when administering the Host and "The Blood of Christ" when presenting the chalice, the communicant who receives either one receives Christ, whole and entire. "Christ is present whole and entire in each of the species and whole and entire in each of their parts, in such a way that the breaking of the bread does not divide Christ."
The Catholic Church sees as the main basis for this belief the words of Jesus himself at his Last Supper: the Synoptic Gospels and Saint Paul's recount that Jesus at the time of taking the bread and the cup said: "This is my body … this is my blood." The Catholic understanding of these words, from the Patristic authors onward, has emphasized their roots in the covenantal history of the Old Testament. The interpretation of Christ's words against this Old Testament background coheres with and supports belief in the Real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
In 1551, the Council of Trent definitively declared, "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation." The Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215 had spoken of "Jesus Christ, whose body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread being changed (transsubstantiatis) by divine power into the body and the wine into the blood."[note 6] The attempt by some twentieth-century Catholic theologians to present the Eucharistic change as an alteration of significance (transignification rather than transubstantiation) was rejected by Pope Paul VI in his 1965 encyclical letter Mysterium fidei. In his 1968 Credo of the People of God, he reiterated that any theological explanation of the doctrine must hold to the twofold claim that, after the consecration, 1) Christ's body and blood are really present; and 2) bread and wine are really absent; and this presence and absence is real and not merely something in the mind of the believer. In line with these basics, and in a spirit of ecumenism, the term "real presence" might be favored, with the same essential meaning but avoiding the scholastic/philosophical overtones of the term "transubstantiation".
On entering a church, Roman Rite Catholics genuflect to the tabernacle that holds the consecrated host in order to respectfully acknowledge the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, a presence signalled by a sanctuary lamp or votive candle kept burning close to such a tabernacle. (If there is no such burning light, it indicates that the tabernacle is empty of the special presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.) Catholics will also often kneel or sit before the tabernacle, when the sanctuary light is lit, to pray directly to Jesus, materially present in the form of the Eucharist. Similarly, the consecrated Eucharistic host is sometimes exposed on the altar, usually in an ornamental fixture called a Monstrance, so that Catholics may pray or contemplate in the direct presence and in direct view of Jesus in the Eucharist; this is sometimes called "exposition of the Blessed Sacrament", and the prayer and contemplation in front of the exposed Eucharist are often called "adoration of the Blessed Sacrament" or just "adoration". All of these practices stem from belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, which is an essential Article of Faith of the Catholic Church.
According to the Catholic Church doctrine receiving the Eucharist in a state of mortal sin is a sacrilege and only those who are in a state of grace, that is, without any mortal sin, can receive it. Based on 1 Corinthians 11:27–29, it affirms the following: "Anyone who is aware of having committed a mortal sin must not receive Holy Communion, even if he experiences deep contrition, without having first received sacramental absolution, unless he has a grave reason for receiving Communion and there is no possibility of going to confession."
Within Eastern Christianity, the Eucharistic service is called the Divine Liturgy (Byzantine Rite) or similar names in other rites. It comprises two main divisions: the first is the Liturgy of the Catechumens which consists of introductory litanies, antiphons and scripture readings, culminating in a reading from one of the Gospels and, often, a homily; the second is the Liturgy of the Faithful in which the Eucharist is offered, consecrated, and received as Holy Communion. Within the latter, the actual Eucharistic prayer is called the anaphora, literally: "offering" or "carrying up" (ἀνα- + φέρω). In the Rite of Constantinople, two different anaphoras are currently used: one is attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, the other to Saint Basil the Great. In the Oriental Orthodox Church, a variety of anaphoras are used, but all are similar in structure to those of the Constantinopolitan Rite, in which the Anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom is used most days of the year; Saint Basil's is offered on the Sundays of Great Lent, the eves of Christmas and Theophany, Holy Thursday, Holy Saturday, and upon his feast day (1 January). At the conclusion of the Anaphora the bread and wine are held to be the Body and Blood of Christ. Unlike the Latin Church, the Byzantine Rite uses leavened bread, with the leaven symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Armenian Apostolic Church, like the Latin Church, uses unleavened bread, whereas the Greek Orthodox Church utilizes leavened bread in their celebration.
Conventionally this change in the elements is understood to be accomplished at the Epiclesis ("invocation") by which the Holy Spirit is invoked and the consecration of the bread and wine as the true and genuine Body and Blood of Christ is specifically requested, but since the anaphora as a whole is considered a unitary (albeit lengthy) prayer, no one moment within it can readily be singled out.
Anglican eucharistic theology is not memorialist (the belief that nothing special happens at the Lord's Supper other than devotional reflection on Christ's death). Christ's is present in the fullness of his person but Church of England repeatedly has refused to make official any definition of the Presence preferring to leave it a mystery while proclaiming the consecrated bread and wine to be the spiritual food of his Most Precious Body and Blood or just his Body and Blood. The bread and wine are an "outward sign of an inner grace," BCP Catechism, p. 859. The Words of Administration at Communion allow for Real Presence or for a real but spiritual Presence (Calvinist Receptionism and Virtualism) which was congenial to most Anglicans well into the 19th Century. From the 1840s the Tractarians re-introduced the Real Presence to suggest a corporeal presence which could be done since the language of the BCP Rite referred to the Body and Blood of Christ without details as well as referring to these as spiritual food at other places in the text. Both are found in the Roman and other Rites, but in the former a definite interpretation is applied. Receptionism and Virtualism assert the Real Presence. The former places emphasis on the recipient, and the latter states the Presence is confected by the power of the Holy Spirit but not in Christ's natural body. His presence is objective and does not depend on its existence from the faith of the recipient. The liturgy petitions that elements 'be' rather than 'become' the Body and Blood of Christ leaving aside any theory of a change in the natural elements: bread and wine are the outer reality and the Presence is the inner not visible but perceived by faith.
In 1789 the Protestant Episcopal Church of the USA restored explicit language that the Eucharist is an oblation (sacrifice) to God. Subsequent revisions of the Prayer Book by member churches of the Anglican Communion have done likewise (the Church of England did so in the 1928 Prayer Book).
The so-called 'Black Rubric' in the 1552 Prayer Book which allowed kneeling for communion but denied the real and essential presence of Christ in the elements was omitted in the 1559 edition at the Queen's insistence. It was re-instated in the 1662 Book modified to deny any corporeal presence to suggest Christ was present in his Natural Body.
In most parishes of the Anglican Communion the Eucharist is celebrated every Sunday, having replaced Morning Prayer as the principal service. The rites for the Eucharist are found in the various prayer books of the Anglican churches. Wine and unleavened wafers or unleavened bread is used. Daily celebrations are the norm in many cathedrals and parish churches sometimes offer one or more services of Holy Communion during the week. The nature of the liturgy varies according to the theological tradition of the priests, parishes, dioceses and regional churches. Leavened or unleavened bread may be used.
The bread and "fruit of the vine" indicated in Matthew, Mark and Luke as the elements of the Lord's Supper are interpreted by many Baptists as unleavened bread (although leavened bread is often used) and, in line with the historical stance of some Baptist groups (since the mid-19th century) against partaking of alcoholic beverages, grape juice, which they commonly refer to simply as "the Cup". The unleavened bread also underscores the symbolic belief attributed to Christ's breaking the bread and saying that it was his body. A soda cracker is often used.
Most Baptists consider the Communion to be primarily an act of remembrance of Christ's atonement, and a time of renewal of personal commitment.
However, with the rise of confessionalism, some Baptists have denied the Zwinglian doctrine of mere memorialism and have taken up a Reformed view of Communion. Confessional Baptists believe in pneumatic presence, which is expressed in the Second London Baptist Confession, specifically in Chapter 30, Articles 3 and 7. This view is prevalent among Southern Baptists, those in the Founders movement (a Calvinistic movement among some Independent Baptists), Freewill Baptists, and several individuals in other Baptist associations.
Communion practices and frequency vary among congregations. A typical practice is to have small cups of juice and plates of broken bread distributed to the seated congregation. In other congregations, communicants may proceed to the altar to receive the elements, then return to their seats. A widely accepted practice is for all to receive and hold the elements until everyone is served, then consume the bread and cup in unison. Usually, music is performed and Scripture is read during the receiving of the elements.
Some Baptist churches are closed-Communionists (even requiring full membership in the church before partaking), with others being partially or fully open-Communionists. It is rare to find a Baptist church where The Lord's Supper is observed every Sunday; most observe monthly or quarterly, with some holding Communion only during a designated Communion service or following a worship service. Adults and children in attendance, who have not made a profession of faith in Christ, are expected to not participate.
Lutherans believe that the body and blood of Christ are "truly and substantially present in, with, and under the forms" of the consecrated bread and wine (the elements), so that communicants eat and drink the body and blood of Christ himself as well as the bread and wine in this sacrament. The Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence is more accurately and formally known as the "sacramental union". Others have erroneously called this consubstantiation, a Lollardist doctrine, though this term is specifically rejected by Lutheran churches and theologians since it creates confusion about the actual doctrine and subjects the doctrine to the control of a non-biblical philosophical concept in the same manner as, in their view, does the term "transubstantiation".
While an official movement exists in Lutheran congregations to celebrate Eucharist weekly, using formal rites very similar to the Catholic and "high" Anglican services, it was historically common for congregations to celebrate monthly or even quarterly. Even in congregations where Eucharist is offered weekly, there is not a requirement that every church service be a Eucharistic service, nor that all members of a congregation must receive it weekly.
Traditional Mennonite and German Baptist Brethren Churches such as the Church of the Brethren churches and congregations have the Agape Meal, footwashing and the serving of the bread and wine two parts to the Communion service in the Lovefeast. In the more modern groups, Communion is only the serving of the Lord's Supper. In the communion meal, the members of the Mennonite churches renew their covenant with God and with each other.
Among Open assemblies, also termed Plymouth Brethren, the Eucharist is more commonly called the Breaking of Bread or the Lord's Supper. It is seen as a symbolic memorial and is central to the worship of both individual and assembly. In principle, the service is open to all baptized Christians, but an individual's eligibility to participate depends on the views of each particular assembly. The service takes the form of non-liturgical, open worship with all male participants allowed to pray audibly and select hymns or readings. The breaking of bread itself typically consists of one leavened loaf, which is prayed over and broken by a participant in the meeting and then shared around. The wine is poured from a single container into one or several vessels, and these are again shared around.
In the Reformed tradition (which includes the Continental Reformed Churches, the Presbyterian Churches, and the Congregationalist Churches), the Eucharist is variously administered. The Calvinist view of the Sacrament sees a real presence of Christ in the supper which differs both from the objective ontological presence of the Catholic view, and from the real absence of Christ and the mental recollection of the memorialism of the Zwinglians and their successors.
The bread and wine become the means by which the believer has real communion with Christ in his death and Christ's body and blood are present to the faith of the believer as really as the bread and wine are present to their senses but this presence is "spiritual", that is the work of the Holy Spirit. There is no standard frequency; John Calvin desired weekly communion, but the city council only approved monthly, and monthly celebration has become the most common practice in Reformed churches today.
Many, on the other hand, follow John Knox in celebration of the Lord's supper on a quarterly basis, to give proper time for reflection and inward consideration of one's own state and sin. Recently, Presbyterian and Reformed Churches have been considering whether to restore more frequent communion, including weekly communion in more churches, considering that infrequent communion was derived from a memorialist view of the Lord's Supper, rather than Calvin's view of the sacrament as a means of grace. Some churches use bread without any raising agent (whether leaven or yeast), in view of the use of unleavened bread at Jewish Passover meals, while others use any bread available.
The Presbyterian Church (USA), for instance, prescribes "bread common to the culture". Harking back to the regulative principle of worship, the Reformed tradition had long eschewed coming forward to receive communion, preferring to have the elements distributed throughout the congregation by the presbyters (elders) more in the style of a shared meal. Over the last half a century it is much more common in Presbyterian churches to have Holy Communion monthly or on a weekly basis. It is also becoming common to receive the elements by intinction (receiving a piece of consecrated bread or wafer, dipping it in the blessed wine, and consuming it) Wine and grape juice are both used, depending on the congregation.
Most Reformed churches practice open communion", i.e., all believers who are united to a church of like faith and practice, and who are not living in sin, would be allowed to join in the Sacrament.
The British Catechism for the use of the people called Methodists states that, "[in the Eucharist] Jesus Christ is present with his worshipping people and gives himself to them as their Lord and Saviour". Methodist theology of this sacrament is reflected in one of the fathers of the movement, Charles Wesley, who wrote a Eucharistic hymn with the following stanza:
Reflecting Wesleyan covenant theology, Methodists also believe that the Lord's Supper is a sign and seal of the covenant of grace. In many Methodist denominations, non-alcoholic wine (grape juice) is used, so as to include those who do not take alcohol for any reason, as well as a commitment to the Church's historical support of temperance. Variations of the Eucharistic Prayer are provided for various occasions, including communion of the sick and brief forms for occasions that call for greater brevity. Though the ritual is standardized, there is great variation amongst Methodist churches, from typically high-church to low-church, in the enactment and style of celebration. Methodist clergy are not required to be vested when celebrating the Eucharist.
John Wesley, a founder of Methodism, said that it was the duty of Christians to receive the sacrament as often as possible. Methodists in the United States are encouraged to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday, though it is typically celebrated on the first Sunday of each month, while a few go as long as celebrating quarterly (a tradition dating back to the days of circuit riders that served multiple churches). Communicants may receive standing, kneeling, or while seated. Gaining more wide acceptance is the practice of receiving by intinction (receiving a piece of consecrated bread or wafer, dipping it in the blessed wine, and consuming it). The most common alternative to intinction is for the communicants to receive the consecrated juice using small, individual, specially made glass or plastic cups known as communion cups. The United Methodist Church practices open communion, inviting "all who intend a Christian life, together with their children" to receive Communion.
In the Irvingian Churches, Holy Communion, along with Holy Baptism and Holy Sealing, is one of the three sacraments. It is the focus of the Divine Service in the liturgies of Irvingism.
Edward Irving, who founded the Irvingian Churches, such as the New Apostolic Church, taught the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, emphasizing "the humiliated humanity of Christ in the Lord's Supper." Additionally, the Irvingian Churches affirm the "real presence of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion":
Jesus Christ is in the midst of the congregation as the crucified, risen, and returning Lord. Thus His once-brought sacrifice is also present in that its effect grants the individual access to salvation. In this way, the celebration of Holy Communion causes the partakers to repeatedly envision the sacrificial death of the Lord, which enables them to proclaim it with conviction (1 Corinthians 11: 26).
Many non-denominational Christians, including the Churches of Christ, receive communion every Sunday. Others, including Evangelical churches such as the Church of God and Calvary Chapel, typically receive communion on a monthly or periodic basis. Many non-denominational Christians hold to the Biblical autonomy of local churches and have no universal requirement among congregations.
Holy Qurbana or Qurbana Qaddisha, the "Holy Offering" or "Holy Sacrifice", refers to the Eucharist as celebrated according to the East Syriac Christianity. The main Anaphora of the East Syrian tradition is the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari.
Both are extremely old, going back at least to the third century, and are the oldest extant liturgies continually in use.
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church the Holy Communion service customarily is celebrated once per quarter. The service includes the ordinance of footwashing and the Lord's Supper. Unleavened bread and unfermented (non-alcoholic) grape juice is used. Open communion is practised: all who have committed their lives to the Saviour may participate. The communion service must be conducted by an ordained pastor, minister or church elder.
The Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses commemorates Christ's death as a ransom or propitiatory sacrifice by observing a Memorial annually on the evening that corresponds to the Passover, Nisan 14, according to the ancient Jewish calendar. They refer to this observance generally as "the Lord's Evening Meal" or the "Memorial of Christ's Death", taken from Jesus' words to his Apostles "do this as a memorial of me". (Luke 22:19) They believe that this is the only annual religious observance commanded for Christians in the Bible.
Of those who attend the Memorial a small minority worldwide partake of the wine and unleavened bread. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that only 144,000 people will receive heavenly salvation and immortal life and thus spend eternity with God and Christ in heaven, with glorified bodies, as under-priests and co-rulers under Christ the King and High Priest, in Jehovah's Kingdom. Paralleling the anointing of kings and priests, they are referred to as the "anointed" class and are the only ones who should partake of the bread and wine. They believe that the baptized "other sheep" of Christ's flock, or the "great crowd", also benefit from the ransom sacrifice, and are respectful observers and viewers of the Lord's Supper remembrance at these special meetings of Jehovah's witnesses, with hope of receiving salvation, through Christ's atoning sacrifice, which is memorialized by the Lord's Evening Meal, and with the hope of obtaining everlasting life in Paradise restored on a prophesied "New Earth", under Christ as Redeemer and Ruler.
The Memorial, held after sundown, includes a sermon on the meaning and importance of the celebration and gathering, and includes the circulation and viewing among the audience of unadulterated red wine and unleavened bread (matzo). Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the bread symbolizes and represents Jesus Christ's perfect body which he gave on behalf of mankind, and that the wine represents his perfect blood which he shed at Calvary and redeems fallen man from inherited sin and death. The wine and the bread (sometimes referred to as "emblems") are viewed as symbolic and commemorative; the Witnesses do not believe in transubstantiation or consubstantiation; so not a literal presence of flesh and blood in the emblems, but that the emblems are simply sacred symbolisms and representations, denoting what was used in the first Lord's Supper, and which figuratively represent the ransom sacrifice of Jesus and sacred realities.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the "Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper", more simply referred to as the Sacrament, is administered every Sunday (except General Conference or other special Sunday meeting) in each LDS Ward or branch worldwide at the beginning of Sacrament meeting. The Sacrament, which consists of both ordinary bread and water (rather than wine or grape juice), is prepared by priesthood holders prior to the beginning of the meeting. At the beginning of the Sacrament, priests say specific prayers to bless the bread and water. The Sacrament is passed row-by-row to the congregation by priesthood holders (typically deacons).
The prayer recited for the bread and the water is found in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. The prayer contains the above essentials given by Jesus: "Always remember him, and keep his commandments …, that they may always have his Spirit to be with them." (Moroni, 4:3.)
- While the Salvation Army does not reject the Eucharistic practices of other churches or deny that their members truly receive grace through this sacrament, it does not practice the sacraments of Communion or baptism. This is because they believe that these are unnecessary for the living of a Christian life, and because in the opinion of Salvation Army founders William and Catherine Booth, the sacrament placed too much stress on outward ritual and too little on inward spiritual conversion.
- Emphasizing the inward spiritual experience of their adherents over any outward ritual, Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends) generally do not baptize or observe Communion.
- Although the early Church of Christ, Scientist observed communion, founder Mary Baker Eddy eventually discouraged the physical ritual as she believed it distracted from the true spiritual nature of the sacrament. As such, Christian Scientists generally do not observe communion.
- The United Society of Believers (commonly known as Shakers) do not take communion, instead viewing every meal as a Eucharistic feast.
Practice and customs
Open and closed communion
Christian denominations differ in their understanding of whether they may celebrate the Eucharist with those with whom they are not in full communion. The apologist Saint Justin Martyr (c. 150) wrote of the Eucharist "of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined." This was continued in the practice of dismissing the catechumens (those still undergoing instruction and not yet baptized) before the sacramental part of the liturgy, a custom which has left traces in the expression "Mass of the Catechumens" and in the Byzantine Rite exclamation by the deacon or priest, "The doors! The doors!", just before recitation of the Creed.
Churches such as the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches practice closed communion under normal circumstances. However, the Catholic Church allows administration of the Eucharist, at their spontaneous request, to properly disposed members of the eastern churches (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Church of the East) not in full communion with it and of other churches that the Holy See judges to be sacramentally in the same position as these churches; and in grave and pressing need, such as danger of death, it allows the Eucharist to be administered also to individuals who do not belong to these churches but who share the Catholic Church's faith in the reality of the Eucharist and have no access to a minister of their own community. Some Protestant communities exclude non-members from Communion.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) practices open communion, provided those who receive are baptized, but the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) practice closed communion, excluding non-members and requiring communicants to have been given catechetical instruction. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Evangelical Church in Germany, the Church of Sweden, and many other Lutheran churches outside of the US also practice open communion. Some use the term "close communion" for restriction to members of the same denomination, and "closed communion" for restriction to members of the local congregation alone.
Most Protestant communities including Congregational churches, the Church of the Nazarene, the Assemblies of God, Methodists, most Presbyterians and Baptists, Anglicans, and Churches of Christ and other non-denominational churches practice various forms of open communion. Some churches do not limit it to only members of the congregation, but to any person in attendance (regardless of Christian affiliation) who considers himself/herself to be a Christian. Others require that the communicant be a baptized person, or a member of a church of that denomination or a denomination of "like faith and practice". Some Progressive Christian congregations offer communion to any individual who wishes to commemorate the life and teachings of Christ, regardless of religious affiliation.
In the Episcopal Church (United States), those who do not receive Holy Communion may enter the communion line with their arms crossed over their chest, in order to receive a blessing from the priest, instead of receiving Holy Communion. As a matter of local convention, this practice can also be found in Catholic churches in the United States for Catholics who find themselves, for whatever reason, not in a position to receive the Eucharist itself, as well as for non-Catholics, who are not permitted to receive it.
Most Latter-Day Saint churches practice closed communion; one notable exception is the Community of Christ, the second-largest denomination in this movement. While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the largest of the LDS denominations) technically practice a closed communion, their official direction to local Church leaders (in Handbook 2, section 20.4.1, last paragraph) is as follows: "Although the sacrament is for Church members, the bishopric should not announce that it will be passed to members only, and nothing should be done to prevent nonmembers from partaking of it."
The Catholic Church requires its members to receive the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation before taking Communion if they are aware of having committed a mortal sin and to prepare by fasting, prayer, and other works of piety.
Traditionally, the Eastern Orthodox church has required its members to have observed all church-appointed fasts (most weeks, this will be at least Wednesday and Friday) for the week prior to partaking of communion, and to fast from all food and water from midnight the night before. In addition, Orthodox Christians are to have made a recent confession to their priest (the frequency varying with one's particular priest), and they must be at peace with all others, meaning that they hold no grudges or anger against anyone. In addition, one is expected to attend Vespers or the All-Night Vigil, if offered, on the night before receiving communion. Furthermore, various pre-communion prayers have been composed, which many (but not all) Orthodox churches require or at least strongly encourage members to say privately before coming to the Eucharist.
Many Protestant congregations generally reserve a period of time for self-examination and private, silent confession just before partaking in the Lord's Supper.
Seventh-day Adventists, Mennonites, and some other groups participate in "foot washing" as a preparation for partaking in the Lord's Supper. At that time they are to individually examine themselves, and confess any sins they may have between one and another.
Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church
In the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church the Eucharist is only given to those who have come prepared to receive the life giving body and blood. Therefore, in a manner to worthily receive, believers will fast from the night before the liturgy from around 6pm or the conclusion of evening prayer and will remain fasting until they receive Holy Qurbana the next morning. Additionally, members who plan on receiving the holy communion have to follow a strict guide of prescribed prayers from the Shehimo or the book of common prayers for the week.
Eucharistic adoration is a practice in the Western (or "Roman") Catholic, Anglo-Catholic and some Lutheran traditions, in which the Blessed Sacrament is exposed to and adored by the faithful. When this exposure and adoration is constant (twenty-four hours a day), it is called Perpetual Adoration. In a parish, this is usually done by volunteer parishioners; in a monastery or convent, it is done by the resident monks or nuns. In the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist is displayed in a monstrance, typically placed on an altar, at times with a light focused on it, or with candles flanking it.
The gluten in wheat bread is dangerous to people with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders, such as non-celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy. For the Catholic Church, this issue was addressed in the 24 July 2003 letter Archived 29 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which summarized and clarified earlier declarations. The Catholic Church believes that the matter for the Eucharist must be wheaten bread and fermented wine from grapes: it holds that, if the gluten has been entirely removed, the result is not true wheaten bread. For celiacs, but not generally, it allows low-gluten bread. It also permits Holy Communion to be received under the form of either bread or wine alone, except by a priest who is celebrating Mass without other priests or as principal celebrant. Many Protestant churches offer communicants gluten-free alternatives to wheaten bread, usually in the form of a rice-based cracker or gluten-free bread.
The Catholic Church believes that grape juice that has not begun even minimally to ferment cannot be accepted as wine, which it sees as essential for celebration of the Eucharist. For non-alcoholics, but not generally, it allows the use of mustum (grape juice in which fermentation has begun but has been suspended without altering the nature of the juice), and it holds that "since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons, this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite."
As already indicated, the one exception is in the case of a priest celebrating Mass without other priests or as principal celebrant. The water that in the Roman Rite is prescribed to be mixed with the wine must be only a relatively small quantity. The practice of the Coptic Church is that the mixture should be two parts wine to one part water.
Many Protestant churches allow clergy and communicants to take mustum instead of wine. In addition to, or in replacement of wine, some churches offer grape juice which has been pasteurized to stop the fermentation process the juice naturally undergoes; de-alcoholized wine from which most of the alcohol has been removed (between 0.5% and 2% remains), or water. Exclusive use of unfermented grape juice is common in Baptist churches, the United Methodist Church, Seventh-day Adventists, Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Churches of Christ, Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), some Lutherans, Assemblies of God, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, the Christian Missionary Alliance, and other American independent Protestant churches.
Risk of infectious disease transmission related to use of a common communion cup exists but it is low. No case of transmission of an infectious disease related to a common communion cup has ever been documented. Experimental studies have demonstrated that infectious diseases can be transmitted. The most likely diseases to be transmitted would be common viral illnesses such as the common cold. A study of 681 individuals found that taking communion up to daily from a common cup did not increase the risk of infection beyond that of those who did not attend services at all.
In influenza epidemics, some churches suspend the giving wine at communion, for fear of spreading the disease. This is in full accord with Catholic Church belief that communion under the form of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. However, the same measure has also been taken by churches that normally insist on the importance of receiving communion under both forms. This was done in 2009 by the Church of England.
Some fear contagion through the handling involved in distributing the hosts to the communicants, even if they are placed on the hand rather than on the tongue. Accordingly, some churches use mechanical wafer dispensers or "pillow packs" (communion wafers with wine inside them). While these methods of distributing communion are not generally accepted in Catholic parishes, one parish provides a mechanical dispenser to allow those intending to commune to place in a bowl, without touching them by hand, the hosts for use in the celebration.
- Eucharistic theology
- Eucharistic theology, Eucharistic theologies summarised
- Eucharistic miracle
- Real presence of Christ in the Eucharist
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- Confession Concerning Christ's Supper by Martin Luther (1528)
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