What is the Eucharist or Communion?
We have been discussing the basic Christian doctrines found in the Apostles’ Creed. The Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed both have much to say about Jesus, His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection from the dead. His ascension into heaven, and the fact that He is seated at the right hand of the Father and will come again to judge the living and the dead! The Apostles’ Creed also speaks of the doctrine of the “forgiveness of sins”. And that is the gift that Jesus gives us that changes everything for us! He forgives our sins.
Just before Jesus was crucified, He ate the Passover meal with His disciples. As they were eating together Jesus asked His disciples to remember Him and His death for us by eating bread and drinking wine. Jesus told them that the bread is His body, broken for us and the wine is His blood, shed for us. Today we call this meal the Lord’s Supper, or the Eucharist or Communion. Down through the ages all the Christian churches have observed this holy Communion meal remembering Jesus’ death. Jesus called it the meal of the “New Covenant” or new promise. The “Old” was about to be fulfilled by the “New,” since Jesus’ death on the cross would change everything!
The Jewish Passover meal represented the “Old Covenant” where each year a lamb was sacrificed by each Jewish family and eaten with unleavened bread. Since leaven represented sin, there could be no leaven in the bread. On that first Passover in Egypt, the blood from the sacrificial lambs was sprinkled on the door of each Jewish home. And on that night, death came to every Egyptian home, but the angel of death “passed over” each Jewish home that was covered by the blood of these lambs. The next day Pharaoh ordered the Israelites to leave Egypt. Finally, God was freeing Israel from slavery to the Egyptians. (Exodus 12)
But now Jesus was announcing a “New Covenant” where the Lamb of God was sacrificed once and for all to free anyone who will come to Him from the slavery of sin. All the lambs that were sacrificed before were pointing to Jesus, the future Lamb of God that is the ultimate Sacrifice, taking away our sin. By calling for us to eat the bread and drink the cup, Jesus leaves us a reminder of His willing sacrifice – the foundation for forgiveness of sins. Christ said these words: “This is My blood of the Covenant which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
The Bible says: “When Jesus had given thanks, He broke the bread and said; ‘Take and eat: this is My body which is broken for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same manner He also took the cup after supper saying: ‘This cup is the New Covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore, whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a person examine herself or himself and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For she/he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Corinthians 11:24-29)
The Catholic Church and all Protestant denominations and the Eastern Orthodox Churches obey Jesus’ call to remember His death with the meal of bread and wine. We call it different names, the Eucharist or Communion or the Lord’s Supper. Many Christian Churches teach that the Lord’s Supper or Communion is a Sacrament.
When we take holy Communion, we are participating in the sacrifice of Jesus’ death. We are participating in the foretaste of the feast to come with our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He will not eat that meal – the bread and wine until He eats it with us in Glory. (Matthew 26:29) The Lord’s Supper not only reminds participants of the redeeming death of Jesus, but it looks forward to His return, when the memorial supper will give way to the festivities of the marriage feast of the Bridegroom and His Bride (us).
We are not to take Communion lightly. We are to love Christ and to repent of our sins before we take Communion. And forgive our enemies. We do not want to eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, or not show humble respect the body and blood of Christ!
A Sacrament is a holy act where God imparts grace to us. Baptism is also a Christian Sacrament. When we take Communion, we receive a blessing. We believe when we take Communion that we are nourished and strengthened in the Faith. We are anointed by the Holy Spirit as we take the bread and the wine. We come closer to Jesus Christ when we take His body and blood into ourselves. And we are looking forward to the Day when we will eat this Meal with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in heaven at the marriage feast of the Lamb. Communion is a beautiful holy mystery and we earthly humans are not able to take it all in. Now we see through a glass darkly but then we will see Face to face.