What is Communion and How Do I "Do" It?
The Communion, or Eucharist (YOO-ka-rist) is the most important and ancient of all Christian symbols. It is when we bless bread and wine according to Jesus’ command, and they become for us his body and his blood.
It is called “Communion” because through taking the bread and drinking the wine together we “commune”, we “become one” with Christ in his body, and we become one with each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
It is also call the “Eucharist”, which means “giving thanks” in Ancient Greek, because we “give thanks” to God for Jesus, and we give thanks to Jesus for sacrificing himself for us.
The Eucharist is the most important and ancient of all Christian symbols, and it is also just about the most mysterious. Down through the centuries, Christians have explained the power of the Eucharist in many different ways.
A Brief Theological Overview:
Some Christians (notably, the Roman Catholic Church) believe that the bread does actually become the body (the flesh) of Jesus, and the wine does actually become his blood. This is called “transubstantiation”. Other Christians (notably, the Reformed Protestant tradition) believe that the power of Communion lies in its symbolism: it is a symbol to us of the sacrifice of Christ and our redemption through his blood. Historically, many Anglican theologians have favoured a middle way: the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine, while at the same time they do actually become the real presence of Jesus in our midst; this is called “consubstantiation”.
The power of Communion is transformative
Today, we honour the rich diversity of this symbol, while all agreeing: something enormously powerful happens at Communion. People’s lives are changed. Christ meets us vividly in bread and wine. We see the world differently. Sometimes this happens in a profound, astonishing moment; other times, the transformation seeps quietly into our flesh and our blood, a metamorphosis that happens over years. It used to be that you couldn’t be admitted to Communion until you could “understand it”. Now days, many people will say it is not something that can be understood with the head alone. Some things need to be lived in order to be “understood”.
That’s why we welcome you to Communion
If you feel called to meet Christ in bread and wine, come to Communion. Open your hands and your heart, and say yes to Christ’s invitation. Do not worry if you don’t know how to “do” it: we’re friendly. The Priest or your fellow worshippers will be happy to help you or your children learn how to receive Communion.
How do I receive Communion?
- You wait until the Sidesperson invites you to line up. If you have mobility challenges and would like Communion brought to your pew, just let the Sidesperson know, and they’ll pass the message to the Priest who will come down to you at the end of Communion.
- You can stand or kneel at the altar rail, and you hold your hands open as you wait for the Priest to come with the bread. You may like to pray for Jesus to come meet you.
- When the Priest gives you the bread, you can say, “amen”, or “thanks be to God”, and then you put the bread in your mouth. Let the Priest know if you need a gluten-free wafer, they’re always available.
- Then you wait for the wine. You wait for the person holding the cup to say the words, “the blood of Christ, shed for you”, and then you say, “amen”, or “thanks be to God”.
- Now you can guide the cup to your lips and take a sip; or, if you prefer not to actually drink the wine, you can simply touch the base of the cup and receive the wine symbolically, in your heart.
- Kindly do not dip the wafer in the wine, as this is actually less hygienic than drinking from the common cup. (Surprising, but true! Proved by science! If you’re curious about this, you can read this post here for way more detailed information.)
- Then you return to your pew and pray quietly or sing along with the band until Communion is finished.
What about my children?
If you’re ready for your children to receive Communion (and you’re ready to field the kinds of questions they might ask!), then we’re ready to offer them Communion. It’s recommended that children gently touch the base of the cup and receive the wine symbolically; teenagers can take the wine if they like. For more information about introducing your children to Communion, click here.
If you feel your children are too young, or you’d like more preparation for them before they receive Communion, bring them forward for a blessing.
Getting a blessing instead
Blessings are always available from the Priest. Simply come forward as if you’re coming for Communion and stand or kneel at the rail with your arms folded over your chest.
If you have mobility issues and would like a blessing, simply let the Sidesperson know and fold your arms over your chest when the Priest comes to you after Communion.