Holy Communion is best known as a Roman Catholic sacrament offered at Sunday Mass, but it is also a religious ritual practiced by other Christian faiths. This week’s clergy discuss the rite practiced in memory of Christ’s sharing of bread and wine at the Last Supper.
The Very Rev. Michael F. Duffy
Rector, The Parish of St. Agnes Cathedral, Rockville Centre
Quite simply, we partake in Communion because Jesus told his followers to do so. On the evening before he died, Jesus gathered with his closest followers, his Apostles, and during that Passover meal, Jesus took bread and wine, gave it to them and said "This is my body, this is my blood."
Catholics believe he meant what he said. Jesus told us to "do this in Memory of Me" and so we do. (Luke 22:19-20) When a Catholic priest says the words of consecration at Mass, the bread and wine become the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. Jesus loves us so much that he desires to give us his very self. This is the main reason I became a Catholic priest, because without the priesthood, we don’t have the Eucharist, and without the Eucharist, we don’t have the church.
Holy Communion is also food for the journey of faith. We all know it is not easy being a disciple of the Lord today. The Eucharist helps Catholics live that faith out, by nurturing and strengthening us. If you worthily receive Holy Communion often, your life will be different than it is right now. I guarantee it.
The Rev. Nancy Rakoczy of Franklin Square
Unaffiliated, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Yes, Lutherans have Communion. Lutheranism is a reformed version of Catholicism. Martin Luther, the Catholic priest, theologian and reformer of 500 years ago, said the two most important sacraments are baptism and Communion. He wrote in the Small Catechism, "It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself for us Christians to eat and to drink."
Lutherans and Catholics share a belief of Christ’s real presence in the bread and wine. Lutherans say that Christ is in, with and under the forms of the consecrated bread and wine. Luther never intended to separate from the Catholic Church, but since it did occur, he naturally kept the bedrock doctrine that is foundational to both Lutherans and Catholics.
However we discern this sacrament, Communion is meant to draw us together in unity, not separate us because of different denominational understandings. Lutherans and Catholics are so much each other’s brother and sister, I wonder if God sees us as anything other than identical twins — equally beloved in God’s sight.
The Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.
Pastor, Church-in-the-Garden, Garden City
As an American Baptist Church under the Baptist Polity, we believe in two ordinances: baptism and Communion. We recognize the Scriptural mandate of both, recognizing that Christ participated in both acts and explicitly commended them to the church.
During the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate and remember the Passover meal among Jesus and his disciples on the night before his betrayal and arrest. As Baptists, we do not believe the elements are physically changed but instead represent Christ’s body and blood emblematically, as they were on the night of the original supper. Communion forces us to reflect and ask ourselves as a faith community and individually, if are we betraying Christ in our actions. It is a crucial question that probes deeply into our lives.
Thus, the Communion table and the foreshadowing of the events to come are a symbolic reminder of Christ’s mission of salvation and his communal call to discipleship for us all. At the Church-in-the-Garden, we believe in an open Communion table, meaning that anyone present with us can participate in this meal and perhaps experience Christ and be ultimately moved to give themselves to discipleship. It is an opportunity to connect to one another and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the church affiliation for the Rev. Nancy Rakoczy.
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