Taken from the Directory of Worship of The Book of Order of the P.C. (U.S.A.)
The Lord’s Supper – also called the Eucharist, or Holy Communion – is the sign and seal of eating and drinking in communion with the crucified and risen Lord. During his earthly ministry Jesus shared meals with his followers as a sign of community and acceptance and as an occasion for his own ministry. He celebrated Israel’s feasts of covenant commemoration.
In his last meal before his death, Jesus took and shared with his disciples the bread and wine, speaking of them as his body and blood, signs of the new covenant. He commended breaking bread and sharing a cup to remember and proclaim his death.
On the day of his resurrection, the risen Jesus made himself known to his followers in the breaking of bread. He continued to show himself to believers, by blessing and breaking bread, by preparing, serving, and sharing common meals.
The Church in the New Testament devoted itself to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to prayers, and to the common meal. The apostle Paul delivered to the Church the tradition he had received from the risen Lord, who commanded that his followers his death until he comes. The New Testament describes the meal as a participation in Christ and with one another in the expectation of the Kingdom and as a foretaste of the messianic banquet.
In the Lord’s Supper the Church, gathered for worship;
- a. blesses God for all that God has done through creation, redemption, and sanctification;
- b. gives thanks (which is what ‘Eucharist’ means) that God is working in the world and in the Church in spite of human sin;
- c. gratefully anticipates the fulfillment of the Kingdom Christ proclaimed, and offers itself in obedient service to God’s reign.
At the Lord’s Table, the Church is;
- a. renewed and empowered by the memory of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and promise to return;
- b. sustained by Christ’s pledge of undying love and continuing presence with God’s people;
- c. sealed in God’s covenant of grace through partaking of Christ’s self-offering.
In remembering, believers receive and trust the love of Christ present to them and to the world; they manifest the reality of the covenant of grace in reconciling and being reconciled; and they proclaim the power of Christ’s reign for the renewal of the world in justice and in peace.
As the people of God bless and thank God the Father and remember Jesus Christ the Son, they call upon the Holy Spirit;
- a. to lift them into Christ’s presence;
- b. to accept their offering of bread and wine;
- c. to make breaking bread and sharing the cup a participation in the body and blood of Christ;
- d. to bind them with Christ and with one another;
- e. to unite them in communion with all the faithful in heaven and on earth;
- f. to nourish them with Christ’s body and blood that they may mature into the fullness of Christ;
- g. to keep them faithful as Christ’s body, representing Christ and doing God’s work in the world.
Around the Table of the Lord, God’s people are in communion with Christ and with all who belong to Christ. Reconciliation with Christ compels reconciliation with one another. All the baptized faithful are to be welcomed to the Table, and none shall be excluded because of race, sex, age, economic status, social class, handicapping condition, difference of culture or language, or any barrier created by human injustice. Coming to the Lord’s Table the faithful are actively to seek reconciliation in every instance of conflict or division between them and their neighbors.
Each time they gather at the Table the believing community;
- a. are united with the Church in every place, and the whole Church is present;
- b. join with all the faithful in heaven and on earth in offering thanksgiving to the triune God;
- c. renew the vows taken at Baptism; and they commit themselves afresh to love and serve God, one another, and their neighbors in the world.
In the life of the worshiping congregation, Word and Sacrament have an integral relationship. Whenever the Lord’s Supper is observed, it shall be preceded by the reading and the proclamation of the Word.
The Lord’s Supper is to be observed on the Lord’s Day, in the regular place of worship, and in a manner suitable to the particular occasion and local congregation. It is appropriate to celebrate Holy Communion as often as each Lord’s Day. It is to be celebrated regularly and frequently enough to be recognized as integral to the Service for the Lord’s Day. It is also appropriate to observe the Lord’s Supper on other occasions of special significance in the life of the Christian community, as long as the celebration of the Sacrament is open to the whole believing community.
The invitation to the Lord’s Supper is extended to all who have been baptized, remembering that access to the Table is not a right conferred upon the worthy, but a privilege given to the undeserving who come in faith, repentance, and love. Baptized children who are being nurtured and instructed in the significance of the invitation to the Table and the meaning of their response are invited to receive the Lord’s Supper, recognizing that their understanding of participation will vary according to their maturity.
In preparing to receive Christ in this Sacrament, the believer is to confess sin and brokenness, to seek reconciliation with God and neighbor, and to trust in Jesus Christ for cleansing and renewal. Even one who doubts or whose trust is wavering may come to the Table in order to be assured of God’s love and grace in Christ Jesus.
In this meal the Church celebrates the joyful feast of the people of God, and anticipates the great banquet and marriage supper of the Lamb. Brought by the Holy Spirit into Christ’s presence, the Church eagerly expects and prays for the day when Christ shall come in glory and God be all in all. Nourished by this hope, the Church rises from the Table and is sent by the power of the Holy Spirit to participate in God’s mission to the world, to proclaim the gospel, to exercise compassion, to work for justice and peace until Christ’s Kingdom shall come at last.