The Eucharistic Words and Actions

Sunday after Sunday, we notice that there is a definite pattern to the celebration of the Eucharist. The words may change, depending on which rite is chosen from The Book of Common Prayer, but in each of several choices certain actions remain the same. Just as Jesus did as the last supper, we always take (offertory), bless (Great Thanksgiving), break (fraction), and give (Communion).

The Holy Eucharist is called by some the Lord's Supper or is called Communion. It is our response to Jesus' request that we remember him when we eat bread and drink wine together. In order to remember him, we must know the meaning of his life. One of the most important things in the Eucharist, and something that does not ever change, is the telling of the story. Listen for it as you watch the blessing of bread and wine.

The first Christians living in Jerusalem apparently used the familiar ritual patterns of Judaism, eventually adapting them to fit the gospel message. Gradually, people began to write down what they did. The earliest record we have of instructions for a Christian liturgy is from the second century. In those instructions the celebrant was told to give thanks for the wine and then for the broken bread. The reader was also told that the only persons who could eat and drink were those who had been baptized in the name of the Lord. Sound familiar?

The celebration of the Eucharist is like walking into history and joining with Christians from earliest times in our remembering Jesus' life and his death on the cross, and in giving thanks to God for God's gifts. It is also an immediate and contemporary experience of transformation as we become more and more like the person whom the ritual celebrates. The liturgy may change in its language and in less important details of the service, but the story will always be told each time the Eucharist is celebrated, and our thanks will again be given to God. 

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