Monday, June 19, 2006

What else does "communion" mean?

Many of us think of communion as the ritual begun at the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples before the crucifixion: "Take, eat, this is my body ... Take, drink, this is my blood ... " Jesus told his disciples, "Do this in remembrance of Me." (1 Cor 11:23-25)

"The Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ"; and likewise "the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ" (according to Anglican Articles of 1571)

The word "Eucharist" comes from the Greek noun εὐχαριστία (thanksgiving) and refers to both the rite and the consecrated elements. The Eucharistic celebrations of the early Christians were embedded in, or simply took the form of, a meal, called the Agape Feast. This ritual was apparently a full meal, with each participant bringing a contribution to the meal according to their means. The bread and wine were taken at the beginning or end of the meal.

But what else does communion mean besides taking the elements?

The term communion is derived from Latin communio (sharing in common). The corresponding term in Greek is κοινωνία, which is also translated as "fellowship". The basic meaning of the term communion is an especially close relationship of Christians, as individuals or as a Church, with God and with other Christians.
(excerpts taken from

When we commune we are enjoying a oneness with. This is an even larger picture than participating in a ritual. In our Tuesday group we were challenged to cast our net broadly in thinking about communion and oneness. Images came from the Old and New Testament. We looked at communion being linked to covenant.

The primary covenants mentioned in the Bible are the one between God and the Israelites and the one between Christ and the Church. The covenant was the basis for the Torah, and the status of the Israelites as God's "chosen people." According to the terms of the covenant, Israelites understand that God had promised to undertake certain things on behalf of the people of Israel, and that the Israelites owed God obedience and worship in return. The new covenant is based on the sacrificial life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on behalf of those who "abide in Him." As people in covenant with Christ, we are accorded all that oneness with God means. He fights for us, protects us, counsels us, invites us close, calls us beloved, gives us life and productivity through the Vine, says we are a royal bride, and much more. God chooses to covenant with us.

We discussed the freedom in these images compared to the demands of legalism that we might harbor in our hearts from what we have heard and learned through religious tradition or family. We talked about the cup Jesus submitted to and the cup of blessing which is ours because of it.

Each person was asked to consider the scripture they brought or that they heard that impressed them that night about communion/oneness/covenant. They were then to turn that into a prayer for the person to their right. This became a rich personal ministry time for each one present. Afterwards we moved to the table where the communion elements were set up and we prayed in thanksgiving for what we learned or were reminded of. It was a new way to savor the experiential act of partaking of the bread and wine and was done with much "remembrance" of Him-- and of the larger implications of our oneness with Christ in God and with each other. (a musical soundtrack I had selected for this time was Dark Yet Lovely by Heather Clark which uses the poetry from Song of Solomon throughout the entire CD, but honestly we were so full we never turned on the music.)

The more I learn about communion, the deeper my understanding about the richness of this picture: his body broken and his blood poured out--for me.


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