What makes it Eucharist?

By Erin Wiens St. John, Project Manager and Social Media Coordinator

Many of us are deeply missing communion, both the Sacrament and the community. As we’ve journeyed through the time of online worship, and begin to think about outdoor gatherings, we’ve considered so many different ways to share this Sacrament. And as we consider these ways, it strikes me that this a good moment to talk about our Episcopal theology of Communion.

A shiny silver chalice and communion plate covered by the white linen cloth.

As in many things, our theology carves a middle way between the Catholics and other mainline Protestants. We do not believe that Communion is a moment that the priest simply blesses the bread and wine in a communal remembrance of the Last Supper. But nor do we believe that the priest is the sole participant.

Instead, Ruth Meyers from Church Divinity School of the Pacific reminds us that Communion is entire composition of our coming together as a community, of the blessing that we give ourselves and the world.

Since we believe in the Real Presence, why don’t we just have the priest partake on behalf of the people, like Catholics? Because all are welcome and it takes everyone to affect that Sacrament.

Why don’t we just have bread and wine at home? That puts too much emphasis in the physicality of the bread and wine, rather not the community’s role in blessing it.

Communion set up with a loaf of baked bread next to a silver chalice.

And, during outdoor gatherings, why don’t we just have people bring bread and wine from home? Because everything we do is an effort to include everyone. If someone forgot bread and wine, or couldn’t afford to bring any, they’d be left out. It would emphasize our differences and inequalities, rather than hospitality and community.

So we will not be partaking of the bread and wine during Communion, whether people are watching at home or doing outdoor worship, until we can safely serve the bread and the cup to everyone. Instead, we will pray the prayer of spiritual communion. This is a prayer that you can pray whenever you feel the absence of Communion, anytime. 

Communion is one of the Sacraments that all Christians are called to partake in, and it is a grief that we cannot partake in it together. But the presence, the Real Presence of Christ that we celebrate in Communion, is not confined to bread and wine. Rather, it breaks into our world in so many different ways. And in this time of fasting from the Bread and Wine, may we all see the Real Presence in each other in different ways.

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