Holy Communion

Holy Communion is the central act of worship of the Anglican Church. It was instituted just before His Crucifixion when Jesus was having His final meal with the Twelve Apostles.

That it is the central act of worship is one aspect of our catholicity that we, as Anglicans, acknowledge, accept, and proclaim. It is a confirmation of our Catholic Heritage. 

There is also one key element of our liturgical worship that tends to be understated: the unbroken connection in the Celebration of Holy Communion within the Church today with the Institution of this Sacrament by our Lord on the night before He died. That unbroken connection is the Apostolic Succession.

Many members of Christ’s Church have, in the last four or five hundred years, abandoned this Apostolic connection and taken a position contrary to our Catholic Heritage on the Sacraments of the Church, including  Holy Communion; however, we hold firmly to Catholic Tradition that each of our Sacraments are dependent on this unbroken connection to our Lord. 

Apostolic Succession is not an accident or an invention of the Christian Church. It draws upon the priestly succession of the Old Testament, which validated the actions performed by the priests in the temple, as the model for the Apostolic Succession of the New Testament era. 

Indeed, as St. Paul has stated in his Epistles, Christ became the High Priest when He offered Himself up as a Sacrifice before God the Father for all of humankind.

We, as Anglicans, and as Catholic Christians, have as the very basis of our theology the belief that Jesus Christ instituted two elements as necessary to salvation: Baptism and the Holy Communion. The first makes us a Christian; the second sustains us as a Christian. 

Even before instituting the Sacrament of Holy Communion, our Lord, on at least two occasions, gave His disciples a foretaste. We refer to those occasions as the feeding of the multitudes. 

But what does Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, mean for us as Anglicans?

Holy Communion is both a sacrifice and a thanksgiving, often phrased as a “Sacrifice of Thanksgiving.”

We should remember that all that our Lord did when instituting Communion was sacrificial, done in sacrificial terms, at a sacrificial time for a sacrificial end. 

What this means is that Communion is more than just a memorial; it is a solemn action in which sacred gifts are offered to God; and those sacred gifts are not just bread and wine, for we offer “ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice…” 

But, are we really worthy to make such an offering to God? Not hardly, but we do acknowledge our unworthiness and beseech God to accept our “bounden duty and service.”

So, in Communion, we make an offering of bread and wine and we make an offering of ourselves in a self-oblation.

We call upon God to send down His Holy Spirit to fulfill the sacrifice, similar to the “prefigurative fire by which Israel’s offerings were consumed before God, signifying God’s acceptance of the sacrifice.”

Through the operation of the Holy Spirit, in one of the great mysteries, the bread and wine become the BODY and BLOOD of Christ, which we consume as we feast on the sacrifice, completing the sacrificial rite in a manner similar to that of the Old Testament.

What we do in Communion is but an earthly representation of what Christ does in heaven where, in an heavenly oblation, He offers a perpetual intercession for us in Heaven, not a mere praying for us, but a full exercise of His Priesthood as mediator which has been consecrated once and for all by His death on the Cross, a sacrifice which lives on.

By this, we mean that Christ appears before God for us in Heaven and, through Communion, we are joined to Him.

Communion is the earthly counterpart of the heavenly oblation and though the priest stands at the Altar and makes the motions, it is Christ who is offering or, in more human terms, acting through the priest.

As you can see, from the Catholic view, as is our heritage from traditional Anglicanism, Communion is not just a sometime memorial. It is a corporate act wherein we feed upon the Body and Blood of Christ in communing with God. We are in communion with Him. The elements, which are the offering of the fruits of the earth and ourselves, are accepted and acted upon by the Holy Spirit. We feast upon the Body and Blood of Christ, not asking how the bread and wine are transformed, but accepting it as one of the Holy Mysteries, because Jesus Christ said so.

In His words of Institution when He took bread, gave thanks and brake it, He said “This is My BODY.” Likewise, when He took the cup and gave thanks, He said, “This is My BLOOD.” To say it is other is to dispute our Lord and Saviour.

Finally, Communion is a thanksgiving to God for all the benefits that He bestows upon us, both natural and spiritual. The name Communion was given to the “Breaking of Bread” during the time of the Apostles to signify this aspect of thanksgiving.

We are indeed thankful that God feeds us with the spiritual food of the Blessed Body and Blood of His Son Jesus Christ and that through the Bread of Heaven we are incorporated into the Mystical Body of His Son, “which is the blessed company of all faithful people…”

As St. Paul states in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, “We, who are many, are one bread, one body: for we all partake of the one bread.”

In the feeding of the five thousand at Capernaum, our Lord in His discourse said:

“I am the bread of life…if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever: yea, and the bread which I will give is My flesh, for the life of the world. He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood hath eternal life…”

The Holy Communion is the central corporate act of worship in the Church, instituted by Jesus Christ Himself and passed down to us in the Apostolic tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

Each time Communion is celebrated, we join together with the Angels, Archangels, with all the company of heaven, and with the whole Church, the Body of Christ, in offering this sacrifice of thanksgiving, and in receiving the Bread of Heaven.