Our Word Eucharist

Our word Eucharist, sometimes called the Lord’s Supper or Communion, comes from a Greek New Testament word meaning thanksgiving or giving thanks. The thanks involved here is twofold: Christ gave thanks at the meal which instituted the Eucharist, and the church throughout the ages has practiced the Eucharist as the supreme act of Christian thanksgiving . . . The “thanksgiving” is completed when the life we receive overflows to others – and they then give thanks for us, for the good they receive from us.

The Eucharist conveys to those who receive it in faith, the body and blood of Jesus, that is, Christ’s life. It transmits by faith all the benefits of his broken body and shed blood, these being sacramental signs of the totality of his virgin birth, life, teachings, works, death, resurrection and ascension. No matter how we might explain it, the Eucharist is meant to be a real continuation of the life of Christ, just as the Passover was a continuation of God’s deliverance from Egypt for the Jews.

The totality of Jesus’ life and the meal he instituted are eschatological events. In Jesus, and now in his meal, the perfected end of God is inaugurated in our present. This means that in the celebration of the Eucharist we partake of not just the life and death of Jesus. We also partake of the presence of the future; we receive life from Jesus’ current life, the first fruits of the life to come. We receive the wholeness of this future life, inaugurated in us because of the death and resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Spirit, as we celebrate the Eucharist. Though “eschatology” may not be a new concept for most of us, it might new in relation to Jesus’ meal. Realizing that in Communion we partake of both the past and the future is the key to repracticing the Eucharist. Doing so provides the vision and power to live in such a manner that others will give thanks for us.

Through participating in the Eucharist we are announcing solidarity with the notion that God’s new world has already broken into this world. N.T. Wright says this would be laughable

if it wasn’t happening. But if a church is . . . actively involved in seeking justice in the world, both globally and locally, and if it’s cheerfully celebrating God’s good creation and rescue from corruption in art and music, and if, in addition, its own internal life gives every sign that new creation is indeed happening, generating a new type of community – then suddenly the announcement makes a lot of sense.

Giving Church Another Chance, Todd Hunter, pp 136-137