Holy Communion: Communion has been a blessing for millions of Christians through the ages, and continues to be so. For others, it can be intimidating and confusing. Even if you’ve never experienced a service like ours before, we pray that you will join us and experience it for yourself.
We begin each Sunday with the Liturgy of the Word, which includes the singing of hymns, reading scripture and the sermon. This page is designed to help you understand what many people have the most questions about, Holy Communion. So let’s take a closer look at the second half of our service, called the Liturgy of the Table.
The Liturgy of the Table, or the Holy Communion, contains four parts: the Offertory, the Prayers, the Fraction and Communion.
From the earliest history in the Christian church, the sharing of possessions formed an integral part of the liturgy of the Eucharist. As St. Ambrose says, “Everything belongs to God – both the seeds and the seedlings that grow at his nod, and are multiplied for the use of humankind. It is God, therefore, who gives all things, and God who orders them to be shared with those who need them. This is justice: that we restore to the needy because it is God who gives.”
When we offer our gifts, we are giving back to God what is already God’s. This includes our gifts of bread and wine that we use in the service. These are fruits of the earth, and the work of human hands. They will be returned to God in the Great Thanksgiving, to become the Body and Blood of Christ. In our offerings of bread and wine, we are giving ourselves back to God – all that we have, all that we have done, all that we are. We, too, will become the Body and Blood of Christ.
Liturgy always does three things: it remembers the past, it proclaims what is happening in the present, and it looks forward in hope to the future. The Eucharist is at once a memorial of Christ’s life and death, participation here and now in his resurrection, and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet of the Reign of God. You will hear all of these themes reflected as we pray over the bread and the cup.
We pray together over the gifts. Although most of the Eucharistic Prayer is said by the priest alone, it is said in the name of, and as the prayer of, the whole assembly. This is why we stand for this prayer, indicating that we are all active participants, or concelebrants, of the Eucharist.
Prayer is the second part of the Liturgy of the Table. Our prayer is called The Great Thanksgiving because “Eucharist” means “to give thanks”. It opens with a dialogue in which we all take part.
The prayers of Consecration which follows the Sanctus, are based on the Jewish blessing over bread and wine and include three essential parts: the words of institution said by Jesus at the Last Supper; the anamnesis, Greek for “memorial,” which recalls the passion, resurrection and ascension of Christ; and the epiclesis, the petition which asks God to send the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine and on all of us gathered as the body of Christ.
The third part of the Liturgy of the Table is the Fraction, the breaking of the Body of Christ, reflective of his sacrifice for us on the cross. Therefore, we spend a moment in silence in honor of his gift to us. The bread is broken that it might be shared, and in this broken bread there is a symbol of ourselves.
The final part of the Liturgy of the Table is communion. And so, we come to the sacrament as a grace-filled people, singing with one voice and standing around Christ’s table as a gathering of persons in community, friends of Jesus and friends of one another. We become what we receive.
Here at St. Andrew’s, all baptized Christians are welcome to receive communion at our table. To receive the bread, place the palm of the right hand over the palm of the left. When the chalice is presented, grasp the base to assist in guiding it to your lips. If you do not wish to drink from the chalice, continue to hold the host in your hand and the person administering the chalice will take it from you, dip it in wine, and place it on your tongue. If for whatever reason you are unable to receive the bread and wine, but you would still like to be recognized as a member of this body of Christ, you can come forward to receive a blessing. Simply place your arms across your chest and we will know to pray for you.
We join together in song as a reflection of the joy we feel at having been filled with the presence of Christ. Out of that joy, we give thanks for the gift that has been given to us through Christ by praying the words of the prayer of thanksgiving following communion.
Having prayed that what we have shared may bear fruit in our lives, our celebration is complete. We prepare now to be sent out into the world by the dismissal, to be in all our activities, together and separately, what we have become through our sharing of this sacrament, to work for the coming of Christ’s reign in all the world, that it, too, may be lifted up to become Christ’s body, united in the bonds of love and peace.