Bishop Eric Menees
In this the third week of Easter we are closing in on the climax of our worship. We’ve sang the Lord’s praises, read his word, listened to a learned and spirit filled sermon, professed our faith, offered the prayers of the people, asked for and received forgiveness, given our tithes and offerings to the Lord, joined as the Bride of Christ in the prayer of consecration, and received an invitation to come to the altar of the Lord.
Today we look at the Administration of Holy Communion. As we respond to the invitation of the celebrant we reverently come forward and either kneel or reverently stand before the ministers as they come forward with the elements. We receive the elements in one of two ways – either opening our mouths to have the host placed on our tongue or we place our hands out to receive the host hearing the words:
“The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, [which was given for you, preserve your body and soul to everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your heart by faith, with thanksgiving.]”
The Chalice Bearer follows immediately and invites us to either sip from the chalice (or, if the communicant so desires, the chalice bearer will intinct the host into the wine) and says:
“The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, [which was shed for you, preserve your body and soul to everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ’s Blood was shed for you, and be thankful.]”
Coming forward to receive the Body and Blood of Christ is both a declaration of our faith and an act of faith. I think of the Prologue of the Gospel of John and the declaration: “12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) In the act of communion we both “receive” Christ into our bodies and in action profess our belief in him. We assert our role and position as Children of God coming to the table of our loving Father.
I am also reminded of the words of our Lord, “53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”(John 6:53-55)
The reception of Holy Communion is literally stepping into the Kingdom of God. In our faith and our action of feeding on the body and blood of Christ we experience a foretaste of the eternal life we have with Christ. However, that is not simply a future experience but a present reality for those of us who “abide in Christ.” The act of communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist is of utmost importance and therefore, only to be done with reverence and a right attitude. I recall the warning of St. Paul as he wrote to the church in Corinth: “27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Cor. 11:27-29)
This coming Lord’s Day I pray you every blessing and peace as you commune with the Lord in worship and in the reception of the Holy Eucharist!