Why Be Anglican: Eucharist

CalendarChurchA biblical word for the Lord’s supper is eucharist, which means “thanksgiving” (1 Corinthians 11:24). Other words are used in the Christian tradition: (the ordinance of the) Lord’s supper, communion, the table, the holy sacrament, mass and divine service. I’m not into battling over which one is the best but it has been observed that what one calls the eucharist may well reveal to which church group you belong. Exceptions apply of course: I was always surprised when Bill Hybels referred to the “sacrament” since in many Baptist type groups the Lord’s supper is an “ordinance.”

Image used with permission.

That discussion can be dropped.

The focal point of an Anglican order of worship is the eucharist. Some traditions, from the Plymouth Brethren to the Restoration church movement to Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, celebrate the eucharist weekly while others celebrate less often. I grew up in a 4x per year, plus New Year’s Eve plus Good Friday, tradition.

The routine celebration of the eucharist de-focuses the weekly worship from the sermon to the eucharist, which is the offering of God’s grace in Christ to those present. In some traditions, unfortunately, the sermon is cut to a short homily while in our Anglican tradition the sermon is 20-25 minutes with a full eucharist service. Hence, our service runs about 1.5 hours instead of the often desired one hour time slot.

Regardless, one can be formed into a eucharistic Christian by weekly participation in faith, in devotion, and in recollection. Weekly celebration by the dullard and mind-wandering, of course, does little for the person. The aim in all this is to celebrate weekly with attentiveness. Weekly eucharist has been for me (for decades) the desired form of weekly worship.

Here is how it goes:

The Great Thanksgiving

The people remain standing. The Celebrant, whether bishop or priest,
faces them and sings or says

The Lord be with you.
PeopleAnd also with you.
CelebrantLift up your hearts.
PeopleWe lift them to the Lord.
CelebrantLet us give thanks to the Lord our God.
PeopleIt is right to give him thanks and praise.

Then, facing the Holy Table, the Celebrant proceeds

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and every-
where to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of
heaven and earth.

Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and
Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever
sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

Celebrant and People

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

Then the Celebrant continues

Holy and gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us
for yourself, and, when we had fallen into sin and become
subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent Jesus
Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human
nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the
God and Father of all.

He stretched out his arms upon the cross, and offered himself,
in obedience to your will, a perfect sacrifice for the whole
world.

At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it,
or to lay a hand upon it; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or
place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing wine to be
consecrated.

On the night he was handed over to suffering and death, our
Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks
to you, he broke it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take,
eat: This is my Body, which is given for you. Do this for the
remembrance of me.”

After supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given
thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you:
This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you
and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Whenever you drink
it, do this for the remembrance of me.”

Therefore we proclaim the mystery of faith:

Celebrant and People

Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

The Celebrant continues

We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in
this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death,
resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.

Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be for your people the
Body and Blood of your Son, the holy food and drink of new
and unending life in him. Sanctify us also that we may faithfully
receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy,
and peace; and at the last day bring us with all your saints
into the joy of your eternal kingdom.

All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ: By him, and
with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor
and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. AMEN.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Breaking of the Bread

The Celebrant breaks the consecrated Bread.

A period of silence is kept.

Then may be sung or said

[Alleluia.] Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us;
Therefore let us keep the feast. [Alleluia.]

Facing the people, the Celebrant says the following Invitation

The Gifts of God for the People of God.

Take them in remembrance that Christ died for
you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith,
with thanksgiving.

The ministers receive the Sacrament in both kinds, and then immediately
deliver it to the people.

The Bread and the Cup are given to the communicants with these words

 

The Body of Christ, the bread of heaven. [Amen.]
The Blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. [Amen.]

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.