What is the Eucharist?Eucharist is the nurturing of Christians in the church community as they grow toward God. The word Eucharist means "thanksgiving." Some worshipers call this activity Communion, or The Lord's Supper. Episcopalians generally believe that the bread and wine become Christ's body and blood in a mystical - but not literal - way. Some think of the bread and wine merely as symbols of Christ's sacrifice. There are many shades of belief about exactly what the wine and bread are and become when they are blessed and eaten. Jesus simply asked that we remember him when we eat his "supper."
One of the characteristics of the Episcopal Church is that you have wide latitude in understanding the details of the Eucharist. There are probably as many beliefs about the bread and wine as there are communicants at the altar. There is one thing, however, that all of these interpretations have in common. We associate the bread and wine with Jesus' death on the cross - his body and blood - and we do two things about that. First, we give thanks for Jesus' sacrifice, since it has personal meaning for each of us. Second, we expect some sort of transformation to happen to us.
You may be among those who feel transformation to be almost physical, as you take the food and drink into your own body. Or you may believe that just the symbolic reminder of Jesus' life and death is the thing that makes for transformation. Whatever you think and feel, it is clear that a change of some sort is anticipated. The change has to do with our becoming more like Jesus in his life and in his love for God. By our weekly participation in this ritual, we become more closely conformed to Christ; we become more Christlike.
As you chew the bread and as you taste the wine, think about Jesus' presence with you in that moment. Is this a person whom you would like to incorporate into your own self?
Children receive First Communion soon after the age of reason (around seven years old), when they can clearly understand that the consecrated bread and wine of Communion are the Body and the Blood of Christ. For generations of children, First Communion has been a memorable first encounter with the sacramental presence of Christ.
Our Patient Merciful God
The Bible and the Gospel speak of God's great mercy for us ...
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“Enter his gates with
thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him
and praise his name.