Holy Communion Elements
Next Previous Index Tellout Home

20. Holy Communion Elements

Bread Plus Wine

Exalting HolinessWhen the Christian community gathers to celebrate the Lord's Supper, three essential elements must always be present to make it authentic. "God" himself must be present in the person of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 18.20 assures us, "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." The second necessary element is that "Christians" must also be present as Christ's mystical body. Bread and wine must be there as the third Eucharistic element on the holy table. Substitute elements like grape juice in a Protestant church or wafers in a Catholic church, even gluten-free crackers, might also be used instead of bread and wine. These are symbolic items for during the Second World War in Japan, British prisoners of war substituted water and rice for wine and bread in their Communion services because there was nothing else available. Saint Paul emphasizes the symbolism of "bread and wine" as "Christ's blood and body" in 1 Corinthians 10.16-17, where he writes, "Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks, participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf." Saint Paul also warns in 1 Corinthians 10.21 against those involved in sexual immorality as immoral persons cannot even share in the Eucharist. He wrote, "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord's table and the table of demons." Around the World, the people of God who share in the one loaf are the second of the unique elements present at Holy Communion. These are the group of believing Christians meeting around the table bound together by the Head, Jesus Christ. God comes to the table in the form of the Holy Spirit when Christians gather to celebrate and remember Jesus' death and resurrection.✞

Celebration

Bread Plus WineThere are several different names used by various denominations for "Holy Communion" or "Communion." In Roman Catholic Churches, "Communion" is usually called "The Mass," a name derived from the Latin form of dismissal at the end of the service, "Ite, missa est," meaning "Go, you are sent away." For the celebration of the Eucharist in Eastern Christianity, including the Eastern Catholic Churches, other terms such as "Divine Liturgy, Holy Qurbana, and Badarak" are used instead. This sacrament is sometimes called "The Eucharist," which means "thanksgiving." "The Lord's Supper" or "The Lord's Table" are other alternatives and are reminders of the very first Holy Communion at the "Last Supper," which was the final meal Jesus held with his Apostles before his crucifixion. All four Gospels describe the Last Supper. Matthew 26.26-30 reads, "While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which pours out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.' When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives."

Covenant Blood

The Greek phrase "my blood of the covenant" means equally "my blood of the new covenant." No matter where you live, every congregation must contain at least one committed Christian for the Body of Christ to be present. The bread and wine are symbolic of Christian lives offered to God. The bread comes from wheat, water, yeast, salt, and the labor of many hands. The dough is worked and kneaded at the kitchen table and baked to perfection in a hot oven. Grapes are lovingly tended, harvested, pressed, and patiently fermented to be offered back to God as fine wine, the fruit of good soil, hard labor, and time. It is an occasion to be truly grateful as we remember Jesus' life on earth and his sacrificial death on the Cross and his resurrection!

Jesus' Blood

Grapes on a GrapevineThe word "blood" occurs 427 times in the Bible. Jesus' blood in the form of wine is a memorial of Jesus' death on the cross. Saint Augustine (354-430 AD) of Hippo in present-day Algeria writes in his "Confessions," "We take for granted the slow miracles as year by year water irrigating a vineyard becomes wine. We stand amazed when the same process takes place in quick motion in Cana of Galilee." The miracle at Cana, where water is turned into wine by Jesus at a wedding, shows that Jesus has the power, like his Father, to create and recreate. Tiptoeing across the laws of nature, Jesus bends them for his glory and our greater understanding and benefit. The changing of water into wine at the Cana wedding points us to the wine presented at the Last Supper, which signifies his bloodshed at Calvary for our sins. Jesus does not play with his powers like a child in a sand pile. He uses his miracles to induce belief in his disciples, reinforcing their faith by what he does and says. Water, a transparent, clear fluid, is turned into the most delicious and aromatic wine. Jesus retakes the wine chalice at the institution of the Lord's Supper. Saint Paul records in 1 Corinthians 11.25, "In the same way after supper Jesus took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.'" The mere thought of drinking "my blood," as is suggested by this verse, would have been repugnant to Jews because of its cannibalistic overtones.

Sacrifice of Jesus

Blood DropsThe Leviticus commandment strictly prohibits drinking blood. Leviticus 17.10-11 strictly prohibits any contact with blood saying, "I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." In Leviticus 3.17, we read, "You must not eat any fat or any blood." Jews, to this day, will eat no meat other than that specially prepared under the scrutiny of a Rabbi with the blood drained from it. The unique sacrificial nature of Jesus' death on the cross solves the puzzle of Jesus' blood saying.

Jesus Salvation Chalice

A Blood SplatterThe wine vessel or the cup of Jesus called in the movies the 'Holy Grail' emphasizes its real importance in the celebration of Holy Communion. In medieval legend, it is the cup or shallow dish used by Jesus at the Last Supper, and in which Joseph of Arimathea received Christ's blood at the Cross. The Arthurian Legends, written from the early 13th century onward, describe quests for it by medieval knights. At the Exodus from Egypt, each household's lamb's blood marks the doorposts of Israelite houses. As a result, God's vengeful death spirit passes over the home, and the firstborn child saved from death. The blood on the doorpost is considered by Early Church Christians as a symbol of Christ's sacrifice for sin upon the cross so that God's righteous anger might not fall on members of His Mystical Body. Jesus' blood brings about the protection of believing members of the Mystical Body from the penalty of sins committed. Jesus' salvation cup at Holy Communion bears the same tell-tale marks of the cross of Christ. Saint Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1.18-19 that we are redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect." All humans have blood tainted by sin. We are all born in sin, and we must, therefore, all die. Jesus is the only one who can stand in our place at the final judgment because he is sinless. His blood is pure and untainted.

"Holy Communion Elements"
by Ron Meacock © 2020

^Top Page Next Previous