What is Holy Eucharist and why is it so significant?
are asking about one of the Churchs major sacraments,
the Holy Eucharist. Just as our bodies require food and
drink for physical nurture and growth, so for nurture and
growth our souls need soul food. Sensing this
deep need of the human soul, and aware of his approaching
death on a cross, Jesus shared a farewell meal with his
beloved companions. This
meal, called the Last Supper, becomes the First Supper
for the Christian Church. In this
sacred meal, Jesus takes ordinary table bread and wine,
gives God thanks (Eucharist is a Greek word for thanksgiving),
beseeches God to bless it, and distributes it with these
astounding and eternal words: This bread is my body.
This wine is my blood. Every time you eat this bread and
drink this wine in my name, I will be present with you.
so it is for people of faith. Ordinary bread and the wine
become, by the grace of God, the body and blood of the
Christ. In this timeless, eternal food, the Christ of faith
is present with us. It is his spiritual "Real Presence." How
does that happen, exactly? I dont know. It is Holy
Mystery. But this I can say. For 2000 years, since that
First Supper, Christ has touched and fed and revealed himself
in the breaking of bread. By grace that is amazing, souls
are fed and nurtured and changed by this sacrament of his
Holy and Risen Presence.
quick, closing story. Several years ago, a couple with
several young children were visiting the church where I
was rector and seeking to become familiar with the Eucharist.
In the Liturgy of that Sunday, when it was time for the
congregation to come forward to the altar rail to receive
the sacrament, their five-year-old son, sitting at the
edge of the aisle, stage-whispered to his parents, Hurry
Mom and Dad, lets go get some Christ! Out of the
mouths of babes.
Rev. Dr. Douglass M. Bailey
its most basic, Holy Eucharist is the physical reenactment
of Christ's Last Supper with his apostles. But symbolically,
it represents so much more: the sharing of the gifts
of God with God, the continued presence of Christ in
a sacred meal to which we are all invited, a source of grace.
Eucharistic celebration also reminds us of the last hours
of Christ's life on earth: There is a washing of hands
reminiscent of Pilate's ridding himself of responsibility
in the death of Christ. The bread is lifted up as was Christ's
body lifted onto the cross. The bread is broken as was
his body, and the wine poured out as was his blood.
me, Holy Eucharist is a coming together as disciples of
Christ to receive bread and wine, just as Jesus and the
apostles gathered at the Last Supper. It's a symbolic reminder
of God's love and the fact that God sent Jesus to show
us how we should live on this earth. Eucharist also reminds
us that Christ was persecuted and killed for living according
to God's Will, and yet he survived death to be followed
to this day.
Eucharist is, among other things, a way Christians remember
together what Jesus did for us and give thanks. When we
gather for Eucharist, we recall the things Jesus said and
did that are special to us.
my parents-in-law hosted a small, intimate family gathering
in their home to celebrate my birthday and the anniversary
of my wedding to their daughter. A special meal was prepared,
and as we gathered around their table, lots of loving things
were spoken and shared. At the end of the meal, we shared
a beautiful cake in commemoration of the events we were
celebrating. After we'd eaten all we wanted, I was given
several generous slices of the cake to take home.
that same night, my father-in-law suffered a heart and
attack was rushed to the hospital. He died very suddenly
and unexpectedly. My wife and I, along with the rest of
her family, were overwhelmed with grief and spent the next
few days in shock and sadness.
hearts were still aching with that feeling of profound
absence a few days later, when I felt my irrepressible
sweet tooth clamoring for something special. I looked in
the cupboard and saw the extra slices of birthday cake
that were given to me on the night my father-in-law died
and realized that the last time we had eaten the cake,
he had been our host. My wife was struck too with the significance
of this bit of birthday cake. Through our tears, we shared
the cake and shared memories of that special evening, and
of the father whose love made it all happen.
is what the first Christians may have felt when they held
their Eucharists, because they remembered a special night
with a caring Host who was no longer with them. They recalled
the things He had said, and the blessings that had come
to their lives from His hands. And they felt, when they
did this, no matter how many times they did so, that He was
there with them.
me, the Eucharist is a comfort. It serves as a beautiful
reminder that we are all connected through the Body and
the Blood of Jesus Christ, a sort of intrinsic bond that
holds all believers of the Faith as one.
church has a lot of beautiful but confusing descriptions
of worship. I think of the Holy Eucharist as Communion.
Technically, I suppose it includes all of the preparation
prior to the act of actually drinking wine and eating bread.
a layperson, I
do not really know all the reasons for the Eucharist's
significance, but I do know why it's important
to me. First, I think the word "Communion" is
very descriptive. I think it would be hard for anyone who
is not a professed Christian to understand, but I feel
as though I am experiencing some sort of connection to
God through the act of Communion. For me, it is often,
but not always, an intensely personal, spiritual act. I
often feel refreshed and strengthened during and after
receiving the wine and the bread.
do not know whether most people feel the same. I believe
God speaks to all of us in different ways. Maybe the reason
I feel closer to God through the act of Communion is because
it helps me to listen.
Holy Eucharist is an outward and visible sign, participation
demonstrates communication with God and others/the community.
Essentially it is a feast or celebration of our lives in
Christ. It is both reminder and renewal of that inward
and spiritual grace.