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Questions of faith and doubt

What is Holy Eucharist and why is it so significant?

You are asking about one of the Church’s major sacraments, the Holy Eucharist. Just as our bodies require food and drink for physical nurture and growth, so for nurture and growth our souls need “soul” food. Sensing this deep need of the human soul, and aware of his approaching death on a cross, Jesus shared a farewell meal with his beloved companions. This meal, called the Last Supper, becomes the First Supper for the Christian Church. In this sacred meal, Jesus takes ordinary table bread and wine, gives God thanks (Eucharist is a Greek word for thanksgiving), beseeches God to bless it, and distributes it with these astounding and eternal words: “This bread is my body. This wine is my blood. Every time you eat this bread and drink this wine in my name, I will be present with you.”

And, so it is for people of faith. Ordinary bread and the wine become, by the grace of God, the body and blood of the Christ. In this timeless, eternal food, the Christ of faith is present with us. It is his spiritual "Real Presence." How does that happen, exactly? I don’t know. It is Holy Mystery. But this I can say. For 2000 years, since that First Supper, Christ has touched and fed and revealed himself in the breaking of bread. By grace that is amazing, souls are fed and nurtured and changed by this sacrament of his Holy and Risen Presence.

A quick, closing story. Several years ago, a couple with several young children were visiting the church where I was rector and seeking to become familiar with the Eucharist. In the Liturgy of that Sunday, when it was time for the congregation to come forward to the altar rail to receive the sacrament, their five-year-old son, sitting at the edge of the aisle, stage-whispered to his parents, “Hurry Mom and Dad, lets go get some Christ!” Out of the mouths of babes.

--The Rev. Dr. Douglass M. Bailey

At its most basic, Holy Eucharist is the physical reenactment of Christ's Last Supper with his apostles. But symbolically, it represents so much more: the sharing of the gifts of God with God, the continued presence of Christ in our midst, a sacred meal to which we are all invited, a source of grace.

The Eucharistic celebration also reminds us of the last hours of Christ's life on earth: There is a washing of hands reminiscent of Pilate's ridding himself of responsibility in the death of Christ. The bread is lifted up as was Christ's body lifted onto the cross. The bread is broken as was his body, and the wine poured out as was his blood.


For me, Holy Eucharist is a coming together as disciples of Christ to receive bread and wine, just as Jesus and the apostles gathered at the Last Supper. It's a symbolic reminder of God's love and the fact that God sent Jesus to show us how we should live on this earth. Eucharist also reminds us that Christ was persecuted and killed for living according to God's Will, and yet he survived death to be followed to this day.


Holy Eucharist is, among other things, a way Christians remember together what Jesus did for us and give thanks. When we gather for Eucharist, we recall the things Jesus said and did that are special to us.

Recently, my parents-in-law hosted a small, intimate family gathering in their home to celebrate my birthday and the anniversary of my wedding to their daughter. A special meal was prepared, and as we gathered around their table, lots of loving things were spoken and shared. At the end of the meal, we shared a beautiful cake in commemoration of the events we were celebrating. After we'd eaten all we wanted, I was given several generous slices of the cake to take home.

Later that same night, my father-in-law suffered a heart and attack was rushed to the hospital. He died very suddenly and unexpectedly. My wife and I, along with the rest of her family, were overwhelmed with grief and spent the next few days in shock and sadness.

Our hearts were still aching with that feeling of profound absence a few days later, when I felt my irrepressible sweet tooth clamoring for something special. I looked in the cupboard and saw the extra slices of birthday cake that were given to me on the night my father-in-law died and realized that the last time we had eaten the cake, he had been our host. My wife was struck too with the significance of this bit of birthday cake. Through our tears, we shared the cake and shared memories of that special evening, and of the father whose love made it all happen.

This is what the first Christians may have felt when they held their Eucharists, because they remembered a special night with a caring Host who was no longer with them. They recalled the things He had said, and the blessings that had come to their lives from His hands. And they felt, when they did this, no matter how many times they did so, that He was there with them.


To me, the Eucharist is a comfort. It serves as a beautiful reminder that we are all connected through the Body and the Blood of Jesus Christ, a sort of intrinsic bond that holds all believers of the Faith as one.


Our church has a lot of beautiful but confusing descriptions of worship. I think of the Holy Eucharist as Communion. Technically, I suppose it includes all of the preparation prior to the act of actually drinking wine and eating bread.

As a layperson, I do not really know all the reasons for the Eucharist's significance, but I do know why it's important to me. First, I think the word "Communion" is very descriptive. I think it would be hard for anyone who is not a professed Christian to understand, but I feel as though I am experiencing some sort of connection to God through the act of Communion. For me, it is often, but not always, an intensely personal, spiritual act. I often feel refreshed and strengthened during and after receiving the wine and the bread.

I do not know whether most people feel the same. I believe God speaks to all of us in different ways. Maybe the reason I feel closer to God through the act of Communion is because it helps me to listen.


Because Holy Eucharist is an outward and visible sign, participation demonstrates communication with God and others/the community. Essentially it is a feast or celebration of our lives in Christ. It is both reminder and renewal of that inward and spiritual grace.



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

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

I am uncomfortable with some of the doctrines professed in organized religion. Is believing certain creeds really what
Christianity is all about?

Eating and Drinking?...
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and the Wine

by The Rev. Margaret B. Gunness

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by The Rev. Bill Kolb

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