bread and wine
Anglicans have had varied understandings of exactly how Christ is present in the celebration of the Holy Communion.

Since earliest times, Christians have celebrated the sacramental meal known variously as Eucharist, Mass, Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. This pattern of meeting to share bread and cup looks to ancient customs such as the Jewish Passover meal, but for Christians is founded on the command of Jesus to do this in memory of me (1 Cor 11:24-25).

"This pattern of meeting to share bread and cup looks to ancient customs such as the Jewish Passover meal, but for Christians, it is founded on the command of Jesus to 'do this in memory of me'."

The sharing of bread and wine as a participation in the body and blood of Christ was the central and distinctive act of Christian community meetings in the first centuries. Originally celebrated in the context of a more substantial community meal, the growth of the Church and concern about reverent participation that had already been expressed in the New Testament (1 Cor 11:27-30) led to the separation of the sacramental ritual into its historic liturgical forms.

During the Middle Ages, the consecrated bread and wine came to be revered in isolation from its liturgical sharing. The Reformers of the 16th century, including theologians of the Church of England, wished to exclude wrong understandings and restore the centrality of receiving the sacrament. Although they tended to seek greater participation in the sacramental meal, concerns about proper reception were in some tension with this, and for many years Anglicans participated largely in Morning Prayer, rather than Holy Communion.

The Book of Common Prayer (where the term ‘Holy Communion’ was coined) nonetheless reflects a renewed understanding of the Eucharist as central to Christian practice. In the 19th and 20th centuries many Anglicans sought to retrieve the centrality of the sacrament as the characteristic act of Christian worship.

Anglicans have had varied understandings of exactly how Christ is present in the celebration of the Holy Communion, but share a commitment to the central place of this shared prayerful action, accompanied by reading and exposition of the Scriptures.

 

 Content Editor