Holy Communion is the sacrament that uses the bread and wine to celebrate the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and his resurrection from death. Many Christians consider it to be the most important sacrament. It recalls the Last Supper of Jesus. (Matthew 26)
When Christians celebrate Holy Communion they give thanks to God for His love in sending Jesus to save people from sin.
- Roman Catholic Christians believe that the bread and the wine actually transform into the body and blood of Christ. This is called It is a divine mystery how this happens but they believe that Jesus is fully present in the bread and wine. By participating in Holy Communion they become present in a mystical way at the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- Anglican (Church of England) Christians who celebrate Holy Communion do so as a reminder of Jesus’ words and actions at the Last Supper. The bread and the wine remain symbols of Jesus’ sacrifice. There is no change in substance.
All Christians would say that Holy Communion allows them to come together as a community with other Christians and feel closer to God by sharing in the importance of Jesus’ sacrifice.
What is the impact of Holy Communion on individuals, communities and society?
- It brings the community of believers together, strengthening their commitment to their faith
- It calls for Christians to put the love they have experienced from God into practice by loving others. Just as Holy Communion is a shared meal where everyone is equal, churches try to make everyone welcome, whatever their age, gender or race
- Holy Communion also has an impact on society and on other communities across the world. It reminds Christians that while they break bread together, there are many in the world who are starving. Many churches collect money during the service to support the work being done to support those in developing countries, the elderly, prisoners or the homeless.
Two Contrasting Examples – You must be able to contrast two different ways of celebrating communion in the exam. You should contrast the Roman Catholic approach with the Church of England approach:
The Catholic Mass – Mass begins with a greeting from the priest, prayers for forgiveness and praise (the Gloria)
Liturgy of the Word – On Sundays there are readings from the Bible and prayers are said for the Church, the world, the local community, the sick and the dead.
Liturgy of the Eucharist:
- Offerings of bread and wine are brought to the altar
- The priest says the Eucharistic Prayer using the words of Jesus at the Last Supper: ‘He gave you thanks, he broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, saying: Take, eat: this is my body which is given for you in remembrance of me’
- The priest prays over the wine using similar words
- The people say the Lord’s Prayer
- Members of the congregation come forward to receive the bread and the wine
- For Roman Catholics, during the service the bread and the wine are believed to become the body and blood of Christ. This is called Transubstantiation
Church of England
A communion service in the Church of England looks virtually identical to the Roman Catholic service. Jesus is present in the bread and wine in a spiritual sense. The main emphasis is that the bread and wine is shared equally with all.