The Gospels tell us that the Disciples recognised Jesus after his resurrection in the breaking of bread and so as we look to recognise the resurrected Christ in our lives, we also share the Eucharist each week (otherwise known as the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion or Mass), in commemoration of the Last Supper and hope of the eternal worship of heaven.
A Holy Eucharist is a re-enactment of the Last Supper, the final meal that Jesus Christ shared with his disciples before His arrest, trial and eventual crucifixion. At the meal Jesus gave thanks for bread and wine and shared the meal with them, telling them to remember Him whenever they shared bread and wine in the future. He then breaks bread with them each time he appears to them after his resurrection. In fact, sometimes it is only in the ‘breaking of bread’ that they recognise who the resurrected Jesus really is. Sharing bread and wine, then, is identified in scripture as the way we recognise Jesus in our midst. This is why it continues to be central to Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican (Church of England) practice to this day. By holding the Eucharist centrally, these churches ensure their practice remains authentic to Jesus’ teaching and example.
At St Mary Magdalene’s, we celebrate the Eucharist according to common practice within the Church of England. As such the priests and severs robe. Did you know that, although it is regularly debated at Synod, it is still illegal not to wear robes for services in the Church of England? And for good reason. Robing ensures that we remain unified with authentic practice past, present and future, it helps unite us with other churches (Anglican, Orthodox, Roman Catholic etc) and it helps elevate our spiritual imaginations towards heaven (something we always need a little help with). Of course it is also an honour to wear the appropriate uniform dress to serve God when his people gather together.
The priest (Christ’s representative) twice lifts the bread and the wine to heaven and repeats Jesus’ sacred words from the Last Supper, and so Jesus in his heavenly throne moves closer to us. Then the priest elevates both the elements as the congregation of heaven and earth join together in the ‘Great Amen’, (the final of the Eucharistic prayer). At this moment God transforms the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord in response to our prayers, petitions and faithfulness. By receiving these gifts we receive Christ’s sacred body, which makes us whole and fuels us spiritually; and together we become the ‘Body of Christ’ (the Church).
As Christians we believe that God’s endless mercy, love and peace transforms the messiness and disorder of our world and we believe that we are his hands today. We therefore pray that by following in Christ’s command to share the Eucharist he may transform our bodies and help us live more according to his wishes; being more confident to openly share his love with a desperate world, through what we say and do. That is why as Christians we must join in the Eucharist act as often as possible.