The Eucharist is at the heart of Christian worship. It is celebrated by Christians around the world as a memorial of the death and resurrection of Jesus, in response to his words at the final meal he shared with his disciples, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the Eucharist, God invites us to his table as a foretaste of the heavenly banquet which he has prepared for people of all nations and cultures.
Outwardly, the Eucharist takes the form of a shared meal of bread and wine, recalling the fact that, at the Last Supper, Jesus associated the breaking of bread and sharing of wine with his own imminent death, giving them special significance.
After his resurrection, the disciples recognised Jesus as he broke bread to share with them. Each time we share the meal Jesus shared with his friends, we remember his offering of himself on the cross, we rejoice in his resurrection from the dead, and look forward to the coming of God’s Kingdom.
The Eucharist (also known as Holy Communion, the Mass, or the Lord’s Supper), can take many different forms across the Church of England, and it may be understood by Christians in different ways, but at the heart of the celebration there is always a special prayer of thanksgiving, or ‘Eucharistic Prayer’ (eucharistein means ‘to give thanks’ in Greek). This is offered by the priest who presides at the service in the name of all who are gathered, giving thanks for all that God has given us in Christ.
At a celebration of the Eucharist, the community gathers, asks God’s forgiveness for its sins, listens to readings from the Bible including a reading from one of the Gospels. A sermon may be preached, and the community prays together. Bread and wine are brought to the holy table (also called ‘the altar’), the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer, and everyone says the Lord’s Prayer together. The community then receives the consecrated bread and wine. At the end of the service, the community is sent out into the world as a ‘living sacrifice’ to live and work to God’s praise and glory.
Holy Communion is celebrated by the whole people of God gathered for worship. As it is so important and central to our worship, it can only be celebrated in a church building by an ordained priest ( I am of course able to celebrate Holy Communion in people’s homes when they are unwell.) It lies at the centre of our Christian worship, but in these days of confinement, we are unable to gather together to share Holy Communion. As we approach Holy Week, through Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and of course Easter Sunday, we can prepare to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in different ways. I am looking forward to the day when we can gather again together for worship!