Communion

Holy Communion – the principal act of Christian worship on the Lords Day

As it is stated in the preface to the current edition of the Book of Common Prayer, The Holy Communion (is) the principal act of Christian worship on the Lords Day (Sunday) and other major feasts. For the first 1500 years of the Church’s existence Christians knew no other form of worship as they gathered on Sundays other than Holy Communion. Our Communion service in its structure is very much like the service used since the 300s AD. It has only been since the Reformation that some Christians replaced Communion with other forms of worship as the principal act of worship on Sundays.

Holy Communion is one of the Sacraments of the Christian faith. A Sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace as the Book of Common Prayer states. The outward and visible signs in Communion are bread and wine. The inward and spiritual grace which Christ gives to us is spiritual union with him and strengthening in his love and service by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Communion with Christ is central to our Christian life as individuals and as a community. It is the distinctive thing which Christians do together. Through it Christ assures us that we are in him, and he in us. For this reason at Trinity Church all services on Sundays, apart from exceptional circumstances, are Communion services and, in addition, there are Communion services offered on other days as well.

Transubstantiation

Sometimes people want to know if the Episcopal Church teaches the doctrine of transubstantiation. The answer is No. Transubstantiation is a hypothesis developed in the 13th century using the writings of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato to explain a Christian’s experience of Christ in Holy Communion. It was once a popular mode of explanation in the Roman Catholic Church.

Presence of Christ

Both the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches hold to the ancient doctrine that Jesus Christ is really, truly, and objectively present, in a spiritual way, in Holy Communion. Jesus is, of course, really, truly, and objectively present at all times and in all places. Holy Communion (co-union) enables us to come to live more fully in the experiential knowledge of this moment-to-moment reality each time we participate.

The Real Presence of Christ in the context of Holy Communion has seven interrelated aspects:

  1. when two or three (or more) Christians are gathered together in his Name;
  2. the sacramental office of the presiding priest (by way of the transmission of authority from Christ through the Apostles);
  3. the reading of Scripture, the Word of God, in the context of the Community of Believers;
  4. preaching congruent with Scripture and the historic teachings of Christian faith;
  5. the offering by the People of God of their own hearts and lives (because by so doing they are joined to the living reality of Christ);
  6. the consecrated elements of Bread and Wine, and finally,
  7. the continuing presence of Christ the living Word received in the hearts of Believers, which then goes with them from the church service into the world.

The authority of the office of bishop flows from the High Priesthood of Christ. When the bishop or priest is acting in and of his office, in communion with the Church as the Body of Christ, we can have confidence in the spiritual efficacy of those actions in Christs Name. These acts are primarily rites of the Church, but include preaching the Gospel, which some of the ancient Church Fathers regarded as of a sacramental nature.

Two Major Rites for the Holy Communion

There are two major rites for the Holy Communion in the present Prayer Book: Rite I which is written in traditional Elizabethan style and Rite II which is more contemporary in language. While the language is different, the structure and theology of both rites are the same.

It is important to remember that the Communion service is a spiritual process, not only a making present (which is what remembrance means) of the Last Supper which Jesus celebrated with his disciples on the night before he was crucified, but a making present of Jesus Christ in our own lives as well. In the service we go through a process in which we hear the Word of God, receive teaching on the Scriptures, pray for others, repent of our sins, receive the Lord’s forgiveness, offer the Peace of Christ to one another, and participate in the Sacrament of union with Christ.

You are a Key Participant

You are not in an audience, but a key participant in the Congregation of the People of God. Communion is not something that is done to or for you, but with you as an important part of the whole. It is something which everyone does together, a spiritual offering of praise and thanksgiving to God. We strive for excellence in our services, expressing our praise and thanksgiving to God by beautifying our worship. We offer our best and most beautiful to God in liturgy, vestments, music, architecture and interior design. These are a fitting offering to one who has given us all we have, and serve to show others the honor due God’s Name.

The function of the three orders of ordained clergy (Bishop, Priest, Deacon) are not to stand between you and God, but to facilitate and strengthen your personal relationship with God in Christ. When you receive Communion, Christ gives himself to you, because you have given yourself to him. Your clergy are there for you to speak with, to pray with, work with, and to help you grow as a Christian.

Service ParticipationLiturgy of Holy Communion