"Do this in remembrance of me". For centuries, the Jews had gathered at Passover to share a meal designed to remind them that it was God who released them from slavery in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land.
Hours before He was executed, Jesus shared the Passover meal with his closest followers. But this time, with a few words and gestures, He would change it forever. In His hands, the Jewish celebration of rescue and freedom would take on deeper significance. It became the event which connects his followers to the meaning and the power of His death and resurrection. Since the earliest days of Christian history, Holy Communion has been the central act of worship of the church.
The main elements of a Communion service are these:
- we greet each other in Jesus' name
- we confess our sins and are assured of God's forgiveness
- we listen and respond to readings from the Bible
- we listen to a sermon which explores those readings
- we pray for the world, the church and each other
- we exchange the Peace, a gesture of reconciliation
- the priest prepares the table
- the priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer
- the priest breaks the bread
- the priest blesses the bread and wine
- we share the bread and wine amongst us
- we depart with God's blessing
The service is punctuated by singing, usually accompanied on the organ or piano.
At St Nicolas', all are welcome to share in Communion, without exception. It is God who invites and His invitation is for all.
Making the Invisible Visible
Holy Communion (also called the Eucharist, Mass or the Lord's Supper) is a sacrament. That's not a word that trips off most people's tongues, so a brief explanation might be helpful.
A sacrament is an act or event which makes the invisible visible. At the same time, it is a channel for the love and power of God.
It is difficult to trust what you cannot see or touch. And yet Jesus invites us, on the evidence of what we read of Him in the Bible and of what we see of Him in the lives of others, to place our trust in Him. By this, he means that He wants us to let him lead, forgive, heal and change us. That's a tall order, particularly if we struggle to see the reality which we know we have encountered.
an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace
This is why the church gives us sacraments, to be "an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace." Through the signs and the symbols of sacraments like Communion, Baptism or Marriage, something of the mystery of God becomes visible and we are touched by a power beyond ourselves.
Simply by participating in these shared actions, we are inviting God to pour his love and power into our lives to restore, strengthen, cleanse and equip us. There is symbolism, yes, but it doesn't stop there. The sacrament of Holy Communion is a real encounter with the power of divine love.
If you wish to explore further, you will find the texts of the Anglican Communion service here.