On Communion

My Eucharist doctrine paper:

The Eucharist is the communal thanksgiving meal of the Church in which God’s people act in response to who God is, what Christ has done for us, and how the Holy Spirit continues to work through us, the Church community.  Through its inclusive nature and formation of the communal identity, the Eucharist was, is, and will continue to be one of the most subversive and substantial practices of the Christian Church.

Traditionally, the Eucharist has had many different boundaries imposed upon it.  In the early church, Communion was only served among those who had gone through the rigorous catechism and baptism processes.  In the Roman Catholic Church, Communion is served only to Catholics.  In many Protestant traditions, Communion is served to all those who proclaim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  In yet other denominations such as the United Methodist Church, “open communion” is practiced.  Anyone in attendance, baptized or not, can partake in communion.

Sara Miles, in Take This Bread, advocates for “open communion.”  She writes, “The feast show[s] us how to re-member what had been dis-membered by human attempts to separate and divide, judge and cast out, select or punish.”1  When practiced as “open communion,” the Eucharist becomes an extremely subversive practice.  It gives dignity and identity to persons who have been marginalized and cast down.  It is through this meal that we are bound together with one another in true community—that which does not discriminate or marginalize.

In the Eucharist, we both receive and give together as a community.  We receive the sustenance of Christ’s body and blood, the bread and the cup, as we also offer up our praise and thanksgiving to the Triune God.  Simon Chan writes, “In the Eucharist, we are entering into the life of Christ; through the Eucharist we are made his body—the communion between Christ and his people and among his people.”2  The Lord’s Supper gives shape and identity to the Church community through the invitation for God’s people to become, in solidarity, what the Church is meant to become.  

Thomas à Kempis notes that the sacraments are “a matter of great admiration, worthy of all faith, and surpassing man’s understanding, that [the] Lord God, true God and man, shouldst offer thyself wholly to us … and therein become our inexhaustible support.”3  Through partaking in Communion, the Church receives the body and blood of Christ and in turn is shaped by it.  We experience communion with Christ and with Christ’s people, which deepens our faith, convictions, and devotion.  We accept the offering of Christ “wholly to us” and we respond by offering ourselves wholly to Christ.

It is at the table of the Lord that Paul’s words are actualized in the world: “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”4  As we feast together, both in the presence of Christ and in the presence of the other, we are set free and invited to eat together as one body.

Bibliography

à Kempis, Thomas. The Imitation of Christ. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980.

Chan, Simon. “The Shape of the Liturgy.” In Liturgical Theology, 62-84. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006.

Miles, Sara. Take This Bread. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007.

Footnotes

1 Sara Miles, Take This Bread (New York: Ballantine Books, 2007), 76.

2 Simon Chan, “The Shape of the Liturgy,” in Liturgical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006), 71.

3 Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 283.

4 Colossians 3:11 (NIV)