Holy Communion

Introduction

You may know it as the Eucharist, the Breaking of Bread, the Lord’s Supper or Mass: Holy Communion is the specifically Christian form of worship which Jesus himself began at the Last Supper on the evening before his crucifixion.

The Passover Meal

Once a year, Jews commemorate their escape from Egypt at the Passover Meal, when the Lord passed over the homes of the people of Israel while killing the first-born children of the Egyptians (Exodus 12.1-32).

The Last Supper

Jesus held the Passover Meal with his disciples on the Thursday night before his crucifixion on Good Friday. It was usual as part of this ceremony to thank God for bread and wine and to share them among those present. But Jesus did something else. He said that the bread was his body, given for them, and that the wine was his blood, shed for them to save them from their sins. He said that every time his followers shared the bread and the wine they should do it as a reminder of him. We still do this today. Here is a description from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11.23-26). There are other, similar, accounts in the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark and Luke.

What happens at a Holy Communion service?

The people and the priest:

  • greet each other in the Lord’s name
  • confess their sins and are assured of God’s forgiveness
  • keep silence and pray a Collect (a short prayer)
  • proclaim and respond to the word of God (this involves two or three Bible readings and a sermon)
  • pray for the Church and the world
  • exchange the Peace
  • prepare the table
  • pray the Eucharistic Prayer (a prayer of thanksgiving which remembers what Jesus did at the Last Supper)
  • break the bread
  • receive Communion
  • depart with God’s blessing.

If you would like to see more details of the service we use, here it is, from the Church of England’s Common Worship book.

Can anyone receive Holy Communion?

Different parts of the Christian Church have different ways of marking when a Christian is ready to receive Holy Communion. In the Church of England this usually happens at a service called Confirmation, where people repeat the promises which they made (or which were made for them) when they were baptized and the Bishop lays hands on them. Sometimes people are admitted to Communion before they have been confirmed. We also welcome to Communion any visiting Christians who have been baptized and receive Communion in their own churches.

Those not receiving Communion are welcome to come to the altar at the time of Communion and receive a blessing instead.

If you do not yet receive Holy Communion but would like to, please talk to our Vicar, Barry Hingston, about preparation for Confirmation.


The picture is a detail from the stained glass window in St Michael’s Chapel at St John’s: Jesus holds the cup and says “Do this in remembrance of me”.