October 19, 2020

Jesus-Shaped Spirituality: A Eucharistic Life

Emmaus icon

I am a liturgical Christian. By that I do not mean that I prefer a certain style of worship. Rather, it means that I accept the wisdom of the traditional pattern of worship. I have written about this in a post called, “The Order of Christian Worship.”

The traditional pattern reenacts the drama of the Gospel by focusing on the Lord Jesus Christ through two primary elements: the Word and the Table. It is a meal to which all are invited by God. It is a gathering of God’s family at which we devote ourselves to “the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).

The liturgical gathering — the Eucharistic service — reflects what happens when people get together for a meal. If my wife and I were invited to dinner, our friends would greet us at the door. As we entered we would say, “Thanks for having us over; it smells wonderful! And I love what you’ve done with your house!” — we would offer words of gratitude and praise. Before dinner was served, we would sit down in the living room or out on the porch and catch up with each other through conversation. Then, summoned to the table, we would enjoy the meal prepared for us. Finally, after more conversation, we would bid them goodnight, saying, “Let’s do this more often. We’ll be in touch.” We go home, our hearts warmed, our special relationship renewed. We are filled with thankfulness for life’s goodness and eager to tell others about our rich experience.

Sharing words and a meal, we give, receive and grow in love. Our life is enriched.

Henri Nouwen has observed that the eucharistic liturgy not only gives life but also shapes our daily lives as followers of Jesus. In his profound book, With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life, Nouwen writes:

withburningheartslrgThis little book is an attempt to speak to myself and to my friends about the Eucharist and to weave a network of connections between the daily celebration of the Eucharist and our daily human experience. We enter every celebration with a contrite heart and pray the Kyrie Eleison. We listen to the Word — the scriptural readings and the homily — we profess our faith, we give to God the fruits of the earth and the work of human hands and receive from God the body and blood of Jesus, and finally we are sent into the world with the task of renewing the face of the earth. The Eucharistic event reveals the deepest human experiences, those of sadness, attentiveness, invitation, intimacy, and engagement. It summarizes the life we are called to live in the Name of God. Only when we recognize the rich network of connections between the Eucharist and our life in the world can the Eucharist be “worldly” and our life “Eucharistic.”

To make his points, Henri Nouwen traces Jesus’ journey with disciples on the Emmaus road (Luke 24), an encounter that follows the pattern of the eucharistic celebration.

What we have here is a pattern of relating to God and others that might well be called “Jesus-shaped.”

Like Jesus’ friends in Emmaus, there is lament, a deep sense of sadness at the injustice of the world and the inability to realize my dreams.

But there is also a divine word, a perspective that comes to me from Another, a Story that catches my attention and imagination, setting forth an alternate interpretation of the “facts on the ground,” awakening hopeful faith.

Then there is grace and communion. I invite this speaking Stranger into my life, into my home. I start to treat him as a guest, but before long I realize that he is at the head of the table, blessing and breaking the bread, feeding me. At once, the guest is no more a stranger. I recognize him as my very life, as Life itself, the Source of all that life means in the world, now and forever.

Finally, there is community and mission. I run to meet others who have received life. I want to hear their stories and tell mine. Then, as a community of life, we reach out to those around us, our neighbors who likewise lament the world’s injustice and the inability to realize their dreams. We tell them of a Stranger who has a divine word for them, who wants to feed them, who wants to be their very life.

This is the liturgical life, the Eucharistic life, the Jesus-shaped life.


  1. Terrific post. Love seeing that “pattern” in Luke 24. Powerful.

  2. This is one of my favorite books. I’m actually about to begin a teaching series on it with a small group. Great post, CM…

  3. To make his points, Henri Nouwen traces Jesus’ journey with disciples on the Emmaus road (Luke 24), an encounter that follows the pattern of the eucharistic celebration.

    So, which came first: the chicken or the egg? Did the disciples and later followers of Jesus create a Eucharistic liturgy that was somewhat patterned after the Luke 24 narrative, or was Luke 24 deliberately written to reflect or echo the pattern of what had become the church’s Eucharistic liturgy? Or neither?

    • It may not be either/or. Luke may have shaped his narrative to reflect the Eucharistic gathering of the early Christians. Of all the Gospel writers Luke is most interested in the “breaking of bread” and meal fellowship. On the other hand, it is the first disciples’ experience of Jesus as the one who was constantly sharing meals with them that likely informed and set the pattern for their meetings.

    • As Ch Mike said, the Gospels were written out of the experience of the Christian communities. Jesus used the Passover meal (which he may have done a day or two before the Actual Day) to establish something new. That was echoed in the meal at Emmaus. That new thing was what was appended to what I understand was the format of a standard Jewish prayer service of the day – the prayers and readings from scripture, and a short word on the interpretation of that scripture. Something like this is what one would expect if Christianity indeed arose out of Judaism. It seems to have been in place from the beginning, years before the Gospels were written down.


  4. “we give to God the fruits of the earth and the work of human hands and receive from God the body and blood of Jesus”

    I may be a little dense here — I have been back in a liturgical church setting for only three years now after a lifetime spent elsewhere — but what are these “fruits of the earth and the work of human hands” of which Nouwen speaks that “we give to God” and only then do we “receive from God the body and blood of Jesus”? Is Nouwen speaking merely of the wine made from grapes and the bread cooked in an oven? Or is he subtly introducing a works righteousness mentality into the process (first we give to God, and only then does He give to us)? If so, I disagree completely. I think. As I said, I’ve been back in a liturgical church setting for only three years and have much to learn.

    Is it heretical of me to think that the elements do not need to be consecrated by a priest or have any magic words spoken over them to become the body and blood of the Lord? If they’re the body and blood of the Lord, it’s not the smells and bells that accomplishes that, but the Lord Himself.

    Martha of Ireland’s input could definitely help here.

    As I say, I have much to learn.

    • Pretty much every liturgical tradition could answer your questions differently. But I’ll give a Lutheran take on just this one:

      the elements do not need to be consecrated by a priest or have any magic words spoken over them

      I think you are right to say that it is the Lord Himself who accomplishes this. The question is, how does he? By speaking: when he says “this is my body,” it is performative speech, causing what it says to be true. This is why I believe it is important for the Words of Institution (which predate the vast majority of NT texts) to be read: Let Christ speak His Words.

      Nouwen is a Roman Catholic, so obviously his writing may reflect that perspective. From a liturgical perspective, “giving of the fruits of the earth” could be a reference to the offering, where, as a response of faith, we contribute the products of the sweat of our brow to support the proclamation of the Gospel. At this point, many traditions have wine and bread brought forward, originally brought by the parishioners, for use in the Eucharist.

    • David Cornwell says

      Adding to to Miguel’s comments above, here is what I think was taking place early on:

      The church had this sacrament from the first, and it was celebrated as they gathered together, before it had the Gospels and before any theologizing developed. So, before a priesthood became established, eucharist worship was a reality. However as time went on it became subject, more and more, to priestcraft and theology. This probably had to happen in order to understand, explain, and maybe to control it’s meaning. Then, of course, divergent views were developed as history unfolds.

      • For some reason, in the Orthodox Church, you can buy the wine from whatever wineshop you care to, but the bread HAS to be baked by someone in the parish. In our eucharistic prayers we have the phrase “Thine own of thine own we offer unto thee on behalf of all and for all.” The Eucharist is a bloodless sacrifice.

        This helped me immensely when veneration of icons was a stumbling block to me. The Eucharist is OFFERED to the Most Holy Trinity and we receive back the Body and Blood of Christ. Very synergistic, very Eastern. So WORSHIP isn’t bowing, kissing, chanting, incensing or any one of a hundred other religious acts. It is sacrifice – “No one shall appear with his hands empty before the Lord”. From this point of view you can’t really say that Protestants, especially Low Church Prots, WORSHIP God at all if they don’t have a sacrificial sacramentology. They venerate Him and honor Him, but no sacrifice is made to Him, unless the whole service is viewed as some kind of sacrifice.

        Correct me if I’m wrong.

        • We Anglicans offer a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

          • Which is not much of a “sacrifice” at all–just words, really.

          • I can’t tell you how much it upsets me that our sacrifice doesn’t meet your requirements.

          • Robert beat me to the punch ;o)

            As Mule pointed out;

            “Thine own of thine own we offer unto thee on behalf of all and for all.”

            An almost identical statement is made in the Anglican/Episcopal “traditional” liturgy after the collection–which is a part of the Eucharist. The Anglican/Episcopal Eucharist is very much as “sacrificial” as RC in it’s articulation without being as narrowly focused and without the “works righteousness” connotations. As is typical of much of what I’m experiencing with the Episcopalian tradition there is more of a “middle of the road” approach and a willingness to accommodate a relatively broad spectrum of understanding. For instance, in the Eucharist liturgy I find statements that affirm both Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation. I like that because it take Sacramentalism seriously and does so without being overly dogmatic as to which theory is “right”.

        • In the Lutheran church, we maintain that any thing we offer up to God must first be something he has given us. The bread, wine, and financial contributions given in the offering are all part of what we call “first article gifts” (stemming from creation), so it’s not like we’re actually making any sort of net contribution to the equation. Hence, we see worship as intrinsically monergistic, even though we have roles to play. God blesses us with gifts, and we respond by offering some of them back to him: in the dialogical pattern of worship, there is a back and forth between revelation and response, but God is always the initiator. He calls us, we gather. He baptizes us into His name and forgives us our sins, we trust him and gladly keep His Word. There is both sacramental AND sacrificial, but one proceeds, causes, and enables the other. Even low church Protestants have a sacrificial element to their worship: they offer their time, praises, prayers, thanksgiving, songs, tithes, attentiveness, etc… If anything, it is the sacramental nature of worship, God blessing us with his gifts, that is missing in low church Protestantism. The vast majority of them are synergists already anyways. The problem is that it is not a Christocentric synergism.

    • Though Nouwen is Catholic and his words reflect the Catholic form of the liturgy, this Protestant can still find meaning in them. Leaving aside the role of the priest, it is still true that we bring bread and wine which are the fruit of the ground and of our labors and it is in these very elements that Christ makes himself present.

      I think what Miguel says about the offering plays a part. It is during the giving of all our gifts that the Presider prepares the communion.

    • There’s no magic in the sacraments. But there is miracle. Baptism and Holy Eucharist are miracles that are brought about by God’s word, not by human will. God chooses to make Jesus present in the Eucharist; he does this by the words that Jesus Christ first spoke: “This is my body,” “This is my blood.” That the words are spoken by the mouth of the celebrant in a local church does not diminish the fact that they are Jesus’ words, and it is the power of his words that continues to make the miracle happen.

    • In the Orthodox Church, the bread and wine are things that have already been transformed by the work of human hands (though we don’t use that phrase explicitly), as part of the charge to humans in Genesis to make something of the earth. What we receive back is something that has been transformed further by the Holy Spirit at the request of all present, the people as well as the priest. In the anaphora, the long prayer of consecration, the priest says the “words of institution,” but that is not the point at which the bread and wine change. That happens at the epiclesis – the invocation of the Holy Spirit. The priest utters the words on behalf of all, as the prayer of all:

      “Send down Thy Holy Spirit *upon us* and these gifts here offered, and make this bread the Precious Body of Thy Christ, (congregation: Amen!) and that which is in this cup the Precious Blood of Thy Christ (congregation: Amen!), changing them by Thy Holy Spirit. (congregation: Amen! Amen! Amen!)”

      So for the Orthodox, there are no “magic words” – simply a request that God will do something that is beyond our understanding. And we don’t try to explain it or describe it with a doctrine of “transubstantiation” or “consubstantiation” or anything else. We believe God simply does it because that’s what Jesus said would happen.

      As Mule noted above, the Eucharist is a bloodless sacrifice: in the timelessness of worship, we are present at The Once-For-All Sacrifice on Calvary and participate in it by offering not only the bread and wine, which we receive back transformed, but also ourselves, as is the privilege and task of humanity from the beginning, so that we also may be transformed and become, as the Church, the Sacrament for the world. That’s why we ask for the Holy Spirit to be sent down *on us* in the epiclesis, and again in the litany following it.

      The priest prepares the bread in the hour before the Liturgy begins, in a separate ceremony. This is done to the left (north) of the altar in an alcove that’s part of the altar area. It’s the remnant of the room that was used, both in Greco-Roman-style houses and later in the earliest church buildings, to store all the offerings of the people, including the wine and also money, clothes, etc. that people in the community offered for the care of one another. The deacons were in charge of the care and distribution of these offerings, and this was known; that’s why when St Lawrence of Rome was arrested by the authorities, they demanded that he take them to “the treasures of the Church,” and why they were so incensed when he took them to the poorest part of town and told them, “These people are the treasures of the Church.”


  5. It’s always a good thing to bring us back to what really is the reality of truth. I think of the recorded portions of the Gospels that “set” the table. Jesus appearing to the fearful disciples after The Cross: The road to Emmaus, on the beach, in a locked room, having doubters touch His real physical body, etc. I’m joyful that the pattern of Jesus is still open to all who will come, and change us inside out. oh, yeah, help us to remember the example of the meal before the pain of the cross that we can still be a part of . . .remembering.

  6. Ordinary bread and wine. And the words spoken with them, from the sinner. Any sinner will do.

    The finite contains the infinite. Just as with the Bible. Just as with our dear Lord Himself.

    What a gift.

  7. In my view the bread and wine do not change or “become” the Lord’s body and blood any more than the bread and wine at Passover become “the bread of affliction” that the Israelites hurriedly baked and carried with them out of Egypt and the blood that was smeared on their lintels and doorposts. Despite some of the churches’ early belief in this, I feel it’s a misreading and misunderstanding of what both Jesus and Paul said and taught. I didn’t come to this conclusion lightly, as I had faithfully and knowledgeably entered into an ancient liturgical tradition, based on prayer and my readings of the Scriptures and church history, But I found after a few years that I could no longer hold that belief to be tenable or biblical. Naturally this removes the need for a priest or sacerdotalism of any kind.

    I don’t deny that there is an entering into communion with the Lord and his body in the commemoration of his death and resurrection, but it is not because the bread and wine undergo a change.

    Which is why I am a heretic and an apostate to some.


    • I don’t think there is any magic involved – it just *is.* but hey, I’m Lutheran, so what do I know? 😉

    • Eric, while I am no fan of the debates that try to specify all the metaphysics of communion, I do hold to the understanding that Jesus is really present in the elements. In my opinion it must have been the resurrection that changed the early Christians’ view of the meal. Knowing that Jesus is alive and absent yet also present, and having experienced that presence at the table (as at Emmaus), they must have reflected upon the last supper story with new insight of the Risen Lord’s presence.

      • Of course you do. Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to be a Lutheran pastor in good conscience. 🙂

        I may come to hold some view of a “Real Presence” in the bread and wine again some day, but for the last several years I haven’t been able to, though I’m always open to rethinking it.

  8. I tend to try to look at it from a common sense approach. It must have been part of the oral tradition as Paul talks about it in his letter to those in Corinth before the communities were formulating written thought on Jesus. Three of the four communities writing the canonical Gospels felt compelled to include this in their writings. The fourth, John, talks about it in Chapter 6.

    Justin Martyr wrote about the Eucharist a mere 50 years after the Gospel of John was written. So at least for the early Church this seemed to be important to them or why mention it at all? There was probably so much more material to choose from. Or, from an oral tradition sense this was deemed to be important.

  9. Unlike the Catholics, who claim to know ‘how’ (transubstantiation)…we believe that it “is” His true body and true blood. How? Who knows? God knows.

    We just trust that it is.

    • Steve,
      So which Polemic Synod do you belong to again?
      Or was it just simply St. Polemicus Church?
      Having trouble keeping it straight.

      • Just speaking the truth, flatrocker.

        Does it bother you for some reason?

        Catholics surely ought agree with my statement. Their doctrine claims, without equivocation, how Christ is present in the Eucharist.

        And Lutherans would agree, as well.

        What gives?

        • Steve,
          Your statement is a not so veiled attempt to go front and center on what divides us. Try for a change to lead with what unites us. The subject matter of this post is an easy lob for unity. You on the other hand chose the lesser part.

          btw – transubstantiation has nothing to do with the “how.” The “how” is mysterious to us transubstantiating Catholics as well. Learn the tenets of the doctrine before you throw around big words.

          • How is it that Christ can be present?

            The bread and wine actually turn into (transform) into the body and blood. That’s how, according to Catholics.

            I’m not saying one way or the other if it’s a good belief…or a bad one. I’m just sating a fact.

            I’m also stating the fact that we Lutherans do not claim to know how He can be present…just that He said He was in it…so He is.

            I think it is a good thing for people to know not only what they believe and why…but also what others believe and why.

        • Anglican/Episcopal affirm the same–without trying to “theorize” about it.

  10. When I read stories of the “great” saints, I am always impressed as to how important the Eucharist is to them. They may be people who are known to have a powerful prayer life and they may bring healing to other people, but they never feel that they are beyond needing to take part in receiving Holy Communion. That comforts me, somehow.

    It does appear people in the early days of Christianity took part in some kind of meal that celebrated Jesus’ resurrection before the Church was so organized as to have trained priests. So, I don’t think there are “magic” words that only ordained people can say that make the Eucharist become the Body and Blood of Jesus. I have not come to any conclusions as to how far to take that, though. Can anyone preside over the celebration? Should we see all food as the Body and Blood of Christ? If God is everywhere at all times, then perhaps we need to say that yes, all food is the Body and Blood of Christ and so is everything else in existence. But we cannot really wrap our heads around that and I think we need the formalized, set-aside-times like the Mass to come closer to realizing the love that God has for us all. And I think it helps to have people dedicated to helping people realize Jesus in their midst, like priests and ministers. And, it may in fact be that there is something even more special in receiving the Eucharist in this formal way as a means for God to keep us coming together for worship. I know I am so far from knowing and understanding all this.

    • Joanie, I felt that same comfort when I was Catholic, and I missed it in my sojourn as a Protestant.

      As regards the rest, my understanding of the Orthodox view is that it’s not that the priest himself is intrinsically “special,” but that that person is called to a specific, particular ministry, and part of that ministry is praying on behalf of all of us in the Liturgy; he says the words, but we are to be so present as if we ourselves were uttering them, too. He is given help by God to live a life that can be a summation of prayer, if you will, and for the responsibility the ministry entails. In the “olden days” in the “old country” the priest would be just as likely to go out and finish the plowing his land after Liturgy as he would to be engaged in study.

      All food is like the Eucharist in that we receive it as a gift, with thanksgiving. But the Eucharist is different, and this has to do with Baptism, when we are baptized into Christ and into his Body. So are all other baptized people. So when we receive the Body of Christ in Communion, we are also partaking of one another in a mystical way. This only “works” like this in a sacramental view that is particular: this particular bread and wine are consecrated for a particular purpose and given to particular human Persons who have been baptized into this particular Person of the Trinity and into his particular Body. It’s not generalized, and yes, it can be said to be “exclusionary,” BUT all are welcome to come into the Body of Christ through Baptism. Otherwise, where is the “communion” in Communion? We commune sacramentally not only with the Lord, but with all who are sacramentally in Him. And we are grateful that his Incarnation has touched all humanity, with whom we are in communion in what also could be called a “sacramental” way – but not the *same* way. Hope that makes sense.


      • Thanks, Dana. Yes, it seems to me that there is something more special about the Eucharist than other foods and likely for the very reasons that you state in your post. The whole thing is really quite a mystery, isn’t it! But it’s a wonderful mystery and being mysterious does not make it any less real.

  11. As a cradle SBC’er who has long yielded my soul’s Anglican urgings, my understanding of the “real presence” of Christ within the dominical sacraments is still developing. Traditionally baptism performed even by a non-believer or heretic is considered effectual for the recipient, as long as the Biblical “words of institution” are said, “I baptize you, (name), in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”. Can it also be understood that in a Communion / Lord’s Supper service of a non-magisterial church (Baptist, Pentecostal, Bible, “non-denominational”, etc), Christ is somehow really present in the elements for those recipients who believe He is, as long as the Biblical “words of institution” are said? For many, especially people living & serving overseas, for whom church choices are rare and limited to local non-magesterial congregations, this is not an idle question.

    • I would say no. Baptism and communion do not work the same way just because they are sacraments. Often in churches even where the words of institution are read, the pastor will then go on to explain how they don’t mean what they actually say. Therefore, to partake after that introduction is to give consent to it. With the confession that Christ is not present, I generally think He acquiesces. …but that’s ok, because he’s still spiritually present in our hearts, right? 😛

      • Jesse Reese says

        Miguel, my sacramentally and liturgically conservative side wants to agree with you, but then I’m confused about how baptism is different. In many Baptist traditions, they will use the right words, but ALSO explain that this is an act of obedience by one who is already a disciple, and does not effect grace (the latter either being strongly implied or said outright). How can one right be affected by the denial of (what we believe to be) God’s promises in these sacraments, but the other not be?

  12. David Cornwell says

    I have always appreciated the Methodist understanding of “real presence,” which I believe is essentially the same as the Anglican position. (If wrong, let me know). It is simply this: the presence of Jesus is real, however at the same time refusing to adhere to any particular way, mechanism, or theory as to how this is true. It simply is!

    The eucharistic hymns of Charles Wesley aptly put this into words. One, among many, reads as follows:

    “O the depth of love divine,
    the unfathomable grace!
    Who shall say how bread and wine
    God into us conveys!
    How the bread his flesh imparts,
    how the wine transmits his blood,
    Fills his faithful people’s hearts
    with all the life of God!”

    There are many more examples in his hymns. Another, speaking of the sacrifice we offer back to Jesus says the following:

    “Father, our Sacrifice receive,
    Our Souls and Bodies we present,
    Our Goods, and Vows, and Praises give,
    Where’er they bounteous Love hath lent,
    Thou can’st not now our Gift despise,
    Call on that all atoning Lamb,
    Mixt with that bleeding Sacrifice,
    And offer’d up thro’ JESU’s Name.”

    Gregory S. Neal has written about the sacramental theology of Methodists/Anglicans in his work entitled “Grace upon Grace: Sacramental Theology in the Christian Life”

    • the presence of Jesus is real, however at the same time refusing to adhere to any particular way, mechanism, or theory as to how this is true.

      I thought that was the Lutheran position. I do not believe this is what the 39 Articles of Religion teach.
      The real question for churches of Reformed heritage is: IS He present in the bread and the wine? Many will say he is present in the ritual, but cannot go as far as to specify his location to the elements.

      • David Cornwell says

        I suppose t depends on whch Methodist one discusses it with! I shouldn’t speak for Anglicans.

      • Miguel,
        The 39 Articles are not considered to be binding by most Anglicans in the worldwide communion. Most Anglicans believe more-or-less what David commented. Unlike Lutheranism, Anglicanism does not insist on the literal presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, although it does allow this interpretation to those who believe it to be so. The Presence, in Anglicanism, is not necessarily physical presence, although it may be.

        We are pretty indefinite about how it all works.

        • Right. Anglicans can basically believe whatever they want. You’ll find a little of everything in that tent. But also look at the anaphora of the prayer book – it seems to emphasize symbolic language. The real question is, not what kind of presence it is, but is the presence in the bread and wine? If so, this is what the Lutheran church teaches. We reject any explanations of the how or why as going beyond the teaching of Scripture. I’m not sure what you mean by our insisting on the “literal presence.” In, with, and under is as far as we go.

          • Don’t Lutherans, didn’t Luther, emphasize and insist that the physical body and blood of Jesus Christ are received in the Eucharist? If so, this insistence is missing in Anglicanism, and many Anglicans, along with the 39 Articles, believe that the Body and Blood of Christ are received in Holy Communion “after a spiritual manner,” which would indicate a similarity to Calvinism rather than Lutheranism.

            I don’t think Anglicanism affirms or denies that the Presence is in the bread and wine. This is a fine point of Eucharistic theology that I’m not sure about, but I believe even in this, Anglicanism declines to define in a conclusive way how Christ is present in the Eucharist.

          • If when you say that Lutheranism asserts that the presence of Jesus Christ is in the bread and wine, you are referring to the finite containing the infinite, I can definitively say that Anglicanism does not teach that the finite can contain the infinite.

          • Miguel, I think your statement about Anglicans “believing whatever they want” is less than generous.

            Anglicans believe that the bread and wine are both as a “memorial” and also “the flesh and blood of Christ”. This from the BCM;

            We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful
            Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold
            and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather
            up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord
            whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore,
            gracious Lord, so to at the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ,
            and to drink his blood, that we may evermore dwell in him,
            and he in us. Amen.

            Facing the people, the Celebrant may say the following Invitation

            The Gifts of God for the People of God.
            and may add Take them in remembrance that Christ died for
            you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith,
            with thanksgiving.

            The ministers receive the Sacrament in both kinds, and then immediately
            deliver it to the people.

            The Bread and the Cup are given to the communicants with these words

            The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee,
            preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat
            this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on
            him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.

            The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee,
            preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in
            remembrance that Christ’s Blood was shed for thee, and be

            or with these words

            The Body (Blood) of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you in
            everlasting life. [Amen.]

          • That should have read, “BCPrayer”

            Sure would be nice to have an “edit” button….

          • Tom, all I meant by that is that Anglicans neither have nor seek uniformity on this issue. As Robert said, the 39 articles are not binding, and I’ve personally met Anglican priests who are seriously across the spectrum on this issue (one embracing strict symbolism, the other transubstantiation). The Anglican communion more than tolerates this diversity: it welcomes it. This is sort of a defining characteristic of the tradition, for better or worse – a big tend under a generous orthodoxy (not the Brian McLaren kind either). Because Anglicans are free to disregard their own theological formulations, trying to define authoritatively what “Anglicans believe” on certain kinds of issues is sort of like nailing jello to the wall. They are generally consistent on issues of creedal orthodoxy and the practices of worship and sacraments, but beyond that, they’re nearly as diverse as Evangelicalism.

      • The Articles are not a stand-alone document, but must be taken with the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal. Setting aside the American 1978 version (which was a radical departure from the BCP tradition), every edition of the BCP includes the Praye of Humble Access immediately before the Distribution. This prayer concludes with the following words:

        “Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink of his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.”

        This, of course, is based in John 6 and its Eucharistic theology. The Articles expressly deny memorialism and Transubstantiation as Anglican beliefs, but when taken with the BCP, they aren’t as strictly receptionist as they may appear. Also, the Latin original of the Articles helps clarify this issue. So, while Anglicans who actually uphold the Articles and other Formularies can be receptionist, they do not have to be. In fact, I’d say it’s a less tenable position than having a generally objectivist view of Christ’s Presence in the Sacrament.

  13. There is something just a little bit fake about the eucharistic celebration, and the discussion thereof. For liturgicals, it is one of two major foci of the liturgy, yet it has no obvious purpose. It may follow the form of a meal, but it is not one (agape meals raise their own obvious problems). It may symbolize community, or some such, but since the “community” it symbolizes amounts to little more than partaking of this common symbol, the hollowness of the symbol is revealed. Perhaps its most important function is as a boundary-marker signalling who is “in” and who is “out.” In other words, it is a symbol of hatred and exclusion!

    Although the synagogue service has a blessing of bread and wine, the effect it very different–it is merely the observance of a commandment, not a central devotional act which constitutes the community of celebrants. And then there is the Passover meal, which has an entirely different meaning and context.The Christian eucharist seems to have arisen as part of a general shift at the end of the first century / beginning of the second to a “priest”-driven service, and arguably represents a de-emphasis on the actual teachings of the historical Jesus, whatever these may have been. There is little to be said for it beyond the fact that it has been practiced so ubiquitously throughout Christian history (unlike, say, foot-washing).

    • The fact that you are only concerned to note its purposelessness is why you don’t discern the Holy Eucharist’s meaning. The sacraments don’t yield to utilitarian concerns. Holy Eucharist has no purpose, analogous to the way dancing or playing have no purpose. They exist in the domain of what C.S. Lewis called “Joy,” and Joy is useless precisely because it means everything.

      • Partaking of the eucharist is not inherently pleasurable, as dancing is (for those who enjoy dancing). Perhaps it alludes to a spiritual state which is, but few Christians would have any experience of that. It is a ritual, pure and simple.

        • Partaking of the Eucharist in not inherently pleasurable? How would you know that? For this teetotaler, the little bit of wine in the Communion cup has a very pleasurable effect, and, when the bread is homemade, it’s delicious. But pleasure is not co-extensive with Joy. You are still looking for “uses,” Wexel. The Eucharist has no uses, because it’s an end, a goal. And how would you have any idea what experiences so many Christians have?

    • David Cornwell says

      Robert F has taken the bait. So will I…

      I think rather than revealing the “hollowness” of the symbol, Eucharist rather reveals the “hallowedness” of the what is happening. And you probably are on to something as to it being a boundary-marker as to who is “in” and “out.” However the invitation is not one that is closed, for if I read the gospels correctly, it is just the opposite. For all those who have been refused entry, the poor, the alien, the dispossessed, the sinner, the prisoner. To such the door is now open for to enter. Thus that door has been opened to the likes of me also.

      Harmon L. Smith in “Where two or three Are Gathered” states it like this: (italics replaced with quotation marks)

      “What the gospel, for Christians, is emphatically not one among many alternatives in a game of multiple choice. It claims to be “the” way, “the” truth, “the” precondition of life itself. So…why the Eucharist is necessary for Christians is that it trains and forms us to be the people of the new age, the “laos theo,” a community of shared commitment and devotion to God as we have been given to know God in Jesus Christ.”

      • I think Wexel makes a good point about certain aspects of the form of the Eucharist having been gutted. However, speaking from my experience first as a Campbellite, then as an “Evangelical”, then as a house churcher who emphasized the “Lord’s Supper” which was a full blown sit down meal….I can tell you that each of those prior experiences left me empty because there is an ignorant inability in each of those situations/forms which fall short of getting the essence of the commemoration because of the overwhelming influence of Zwingli in all of low church Protestantism. That damn Swiss-man has been a pox upon the Lord’s Supper and is still tinkering with your head, Wexel.

  14. Form the online Catholic Pulse, a quotation from Pope Francis: “We celebrate the Eucharist not because we are worthy,” said the Pope in his audience talk, “but because we recognize our need for God’s mercy, incarnate in Jesus Christ.”

  15. What happens if we haven’t been raised in a church that views the Eucharist as the “real presence”? Its not that I write it off. It seems like not only do I need to have faith in Christ, but additionally, faith that he’s in the elements of communion. It’s a little discouraging…like because I don’t view the Eucharist properly I’m letting God down. Forgive the ignorance/simplicity of my statement. Just trying to work these things out, along with many other things in this “journey”.

    • Aidan Clevinger says

      I do think that we sin, all of us, when we don’t recognize Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist and the importance thereof – and everyone does that, no matter what tradition they’re in! – but I also think of it more like refusing yourself a gift. He’s set the table for you to have His own self to eat and drink, for your salvation, for the union of your body and soul with His, and for the forgiveness of sins. Why be content with a symbol? Why have a little meat here and there when you can have the Bread of life and the Medicine of Immortality?

      And I don’t think that the Eucharist is “faith in Jesus PLUS faith in this other thing.” The Eucharist is merely “faith in Jesus,” because it’s in the elements that we *find* Christ, perhaps even more so than in the Word.

      • Thanks Aidan. I personally believe there is Great Mystery in communion and I do believe there is something going on there beyond simply “taking communion”, but I don’t claim to know exactly. Is it possible to take this view in any church (Calvary Chapel for me)? Or must I must I join a church that teaches this view?

    • And I think the context of 1 Corinthians 11 is such that it can be argued that the body that one is to recognize/discern is the gathered members, not the “Real Presence” in the bread and wine. I.e., Christ is in all the assembled members of the body – He sits at and as the Head of his assembled body – and to look down upon or mistreat or neglect the weaker or less comely members is to sin against the body and bring judgment upon one’s self. That’s the running theme of the entire epistle.

  16. I don’t recall Michael Spencer ascribing to a Eucharistic view, but rather remained mostly in line with Zwingli. It makes me wonder if introducing a Eucharistic view affects an accurate representation of his Jesus-shaped spirituality. He did write on more than one occasion that he opposed any rite or ritual which puts up fences in front of Jesus.

    At the time, I had various exchanges with Michael endorsing a Eucharistic view, but I think I have come around to his point of view. Hope he’s looking down and laughing at me.

    • Michael remained a Baptist but argued for a more robust understanding and practice than most Baptists subscribe to, one which respected and learned from Catholics, Orthodox, and Lutherans. I would say he was closer to Calvin than Zwingli.