Since Christianity began, Holy Communion, Eucharist or the Mass, whatever word you prefer to use, has been central to Christian worship. We know from the Acts of the Apostles that the earliest followers of Jesus regularly met to share bread whilst the earliest available liturgies -the liturgy of St. James for example – make it very clear that the early church believed that Jesus really was present with them in the Eucharist.
I too believe that Jesus really is present with us when we take bread and wine together as our communal meal. I can’t really express how strongly I believe this.
The Eucharistic prayer starts off by proclaiming the real presence of Jesus: ‘The Lord is here,’ followed by ‘His Spirit is with us.’ These aren’t just words included to pad out the liturgy; they are statements of faith. And if they are statements of truth – ‘the Lord is here’ – surely it is right that our fit and proper response should be to ‘lift up our hearts?’
And, if Jesus is with us, touching us and feeding us, surely it can only be correct to accept the possibility that we may be transformed through the simple act of sharing in and receiving bread and wine? Of course if we aren’t open at least to the possibility then all we are left with is an empty, as opposed to a living, ritual.
In the Eucharist we look simultaneously in two directions; back into Scripture to the Last Supper and the post resurrection meal encounters and, forwards to the eternal banquet. Again in the Eucharistic prayer it is made clear that we are joined in our earthly communion by the ‘angels, archangels and all the company of heaven.’ Holy Communion, the Eucharist, the Mass isn’t just about the here and now with all its trials and tribulations; it is also about drawing us into a bigger story, the eternal story. That’s why we proclaim ‘great is the mystery of faith.’
But why would Jesus want to feed us? For sure to remind us of our eternal destiny but also so that when the feast has ended we are equipped to ‘go in peace to love and serve the Lord.’
At the Eucharist, if we allow it, something amazing happens. We are received, fed, blessed and equipped to live the Christian life. That’s the power of the Eucharist. That’s why St Paul was so keen to stress the importance of handing on the tradition that he had received. That’s why I am so committed to sacramental worship.
So as we share in the Eucharist lets express our wonder that Jesus is still to this day making himself known to us in bread and wine, feeding us to keep telling the Jesus story in word and deed.
Rev. Andrew Lightbown