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The Holy Eucharist, Communion, or The Mass

The Mass

At All Souls, we refer to the Sacrament of Holy Communion, or the Lord's Supper, or the Holy Eucharist, as "Mass." We use this traditional word, mindful of the history we share with Christians from all times and all places. We understand this to be the most inclusive term we could possibly use and we welcome all who wish to draw closer to Jesus Christ to share in the bread and wine of this great sacrament.

The Mass is a mystery. We do not possess adequate language to describe or explain how we feel God's presence, though the Church has tried to describe this mystery over the ages.

One phrase that is often used to describe Christ-among-us in the Mass is Real Presence.

The 1991 statement of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission notes, "The elements are not mere signs; Christ's body and blood become really present and are really given. But they are really present and given in order that, receiving them, believers may be united in communion with Christ the Lord."

A classic Anglican statement attributed to John Donne (or to Queen Elizabeth I) and included in The Episcopal Church's Hymnal 1982 (Hymn 322) is "He was the Word that spake it, he took the bread and brake it, and what that Word did make it, I do believe and take it." In Eucharistic Prayer A of Rite 2, the celebrant prays that God the Father will sanctify the gifts of bread and wine "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" (BCP, p. 363).

The Catechism, found in the back of the Book of Common Prayer, notes that the inward and spiritual grace in the eucharist is "the Body and Blood of Christ given to his people and received by faith" (BCP, p. 859). Belief in the real presence does not imply a claim to know how Christ is present in the eucharistic elements. Belief in the real presence does not imply belief that the consecrated eucharistic elements cease to be bread and wine.

How We Receive

At All Souls, the congregation goes forward and most kneel at the Altar Rail. Many people receive the Bread and hold it until the Cup is passed. They then dip the bread into the Cup (this is called "intinction") and then eat the wine-soaked bread. Those whose beliefs tend more toward the Real Presence may wish to eat the Bread (thus ensuring that there are no crumbs) and then to drink the Wine from the common Cup. It matters much less how one receives than that one does receive.

Last Published: April 24, 2012 1:03 PM
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