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> Questions of Faith and Doubt: Explore the Church > Eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ ... ?
Questions of faith and doubt

Do Christians really believe they are eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ when they receive Communion?

Yes and No! One of the central characteristics of faith is mystery. We, with our human minds, simply cannot fully comprehend the "mysteries" of God. If God were such that He could be encapsulated in a book or in a formula or in words, and there was no mystery about God, we certainly would not be better off. If God were "linear," if God could be comprehended and apprehended on a computer, God would not be greater than His Creation; God would be just another part of the world.

That said, many hold the spiritual power of the Eucharist truly to be a mystery. How can a wafer and a sip of wine make us stronger for coping with life? How can taking Communion be part of the disciplines that make us stronger "inside"? To try to respond to the question more directly: We believe that the wafer, or the bread, and the wine, once "consecrated (blessed)" ("set aside for God's use") are the Body of Christ and the Blood of Christ, which can feed us spiritually in our body. But we also believe that the wafer is still a wafer and the wine is still the fruit of the grape; we do not deny the evidence of that which God has given us eyes to see. The Lord's Supper is truly a wonderful mystery.

--The Rev. William A. Kolb

In the church of my childhood, communion Sunday was both a welcome departure from the routine and a fearful balancing act. On the one hand, a glass of grape juice and a cube of white bread gave a child something to enjoy during the otherwise dry worship service. On the other hand, if you were to spill the silver tray packed with fifty glasses of Welch's finest (its permanence for staining surpassing that of India ink), how could you hope for God's forgiveness?

Mercifully, adulthood and my church have changed my perspective on the Eucharist. Today, it is a balancing act of the spirit. Partaking of the Eucharist may be the one moment in the week when my willingness to believe and my desire to connect with a power greater than myself outweigh my self-will and late 20th century cynicism. When I accept the invitation to the Lord's table, I acknowledge my hunger for the gifts he has prepared for me. I surrender to my need for His sustenance. The symbolism of the wine and the host are a part of my faith today. I suppose, being an old English major, symbolism feels like second nature to me. But I cannot say with certainty that I experience the literal transfiguration of the elements. But I do know that I leave the altar rail feeling fed, and today, that's more than enough.


There are some Christians who believe in the doctrine of transubstantiation, meaning that when the bread and wine are consecrated, they are actually transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. By contrast, the doctrine of consubstantiation states that the sacrament of Holy Communion represents the union of the elements (bread and wine) with Christ's body and blood. I believe in the latter doctrine.

When I go to the altar to take Communion on Sunday mornings, I believe I am engaging in a symbolic and holy act. By partaking of the bread and wine, which have been consecrated and made holy by a priest, I am symbolically partaking of Christ's body and blood which are represented in the form of earthly elements. At the altar rail during Communion, the priest reminds us that "this is the body and blood of Jesus Christ," to "take them in remembrance that Christ died for us," and to "feed on Him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving." This weekly act serves to nourish us spiritually and is a critical part of my own worship and spiritual growth.


I have never thought that I was literally drinking blood and eating flesh. Christ blessed wine and bread before He was crucified and served them to His disciples at the Last Supper. It was a symbolic act, but it was more than just symbolism because his blessing made them holy. At that meal, He told his disciples to eat and drink not just for physical sustenance but for spiritual sustenance. I believe that the act of communion is a holy ceremony, and I do feel spiritually strengthened by it.



What is Holy Eucharist and why is it so significant?

What is the significance of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus?

Why does the church put so much emphasis on the formal rites of worship?

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