Eucharist

The Eucharist (t/; also called Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper, among other names) is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was instituted by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper; giving his disciples bread and wine during the Passover meal, Jesus commanded his followers to "do this in memory of me" while referring to the bread as "my body" and the cup of wine as "the new covenant in my blood".[1][2][3] Through the Eucharistic celebration Christians remember both Christ's sacrifice of himself on the cross and his commission of the apostles at the Last Supper.[4]

The elements of the Eucharist, sacramental bread (leavened or unleavened) and sacramental wine (or by some grape juice), are consecrated on an altar (or a communion table) and consumed thereafter. Communicants, those who consume the elements, may speak of "receiving the Eucharist", as well as "celebrating the Eucharist".[5] Christians generally recognize a special presence of Christ in this rite, though they differ about exactly how, where, and when Christ is present.[5] While all agree that there is no perceptible change in the appearances of the elements (smell, taste, color, weight, fragility, nutritional effects, etc.), Roman Catholics believe that their substances actually become the body and blood of Christ (transubstantiation) while the appearances or "species" of the elements remain. Lutherans believe the true body and blood of Christ are really present "in, with, and under" the forms of the bread and wine (sacramental union).[6] Reformed Christians believe in a real spiritual presence of Christ in the Eucharist.[7] Anglican eucharistic theologies universally affirm the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, though Evangelical Anglicans believe that this is a spiritual presence, while those of an Anglo-Catholic churchmanship believe this is a corporeal presence.[8] Others, such as the Plymouth Brethren, take the act to be only a symbolic reenactment of the Last Supper and a memorial.

In spite of differences among Christians about various aspects of the Eucharist, there is, according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "more of a consensus among Christians about the meaning of the Eucharist than would appear from the confessional debates over the sacramental presence, the effects of the Eucharist, and the proper auspices under which it may be celebrated".[2]

Terminology

The Eucharist has been a key theme in the depictions of the Last Supper in Christian art,[9] as in this 16th-century Juan de Juanes painting.

Eucharist

The Greek noun εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), meaning "thanksgiving", appears fifteen times in the New Testament[10] but is not used as an official name for the rite;[11] however, the related verb is found in New Testament accounts of the Last Supper,[12][13][14] including the earliest such account:[11]

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks (εὐχαριστήσας), he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me". (1 Corinthians 11:23–24)

The term "Eucharist" (thanksgiving) is that by which the rite is referred to[11] by the Didache (late 1st or early 2nd century),[15][16][17][18][19] Ignatius of Antioch (who died between 98 and 117)[18][20] and Justin Martyr (writing between 147 and 167).[16][18][21] Today, "the Eucharist" is the name still used by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Lutherans. Other Protestant or Evangelical denominations rarely use this term, preferring either "Communion", "the Lord's Supper", "Memorial", "Remembrance", or "the Breaking of Bread". Latter-day Saints call it "Sacrament".

Lord's Supper

The Lord's Supper, in Greek Κυριακὸν δεῖπνον (Kyriakon deipnon), was in use in the early 50s of the 1st century,[11][12] as witnessed by the First Epistle to the Corinthians (11:20–21):

When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.

Those who use the term "Eucharist" rarely use the expression "the Lord's Supper", but it is the predominant term among Evangelical, Baptist, and Pentecostal churches, who generally avoid using the term "Communion" due to its use within Catholicism. They also refer to the observance as an "ordinance". Those Protestant churches generally avoid the term "sacrament".[22][23][24]

A Kremikovtsi Monastery fresco (15th century) depicting the Last Supper celebrated by Jesus and his disciples. The early Christians too would have celebrated this meal to commemorate Jesus' death and subsequent resurrection.

Holy Communion

Use of the term Holy Communion (or simply Communion) to refer to the Eucharistic rite began by some groups originating in the Protestant Reformation. Others, such as the Catholic Church, do not formally use this term for the rite, but instead mean by it the act of partaking of the consecrated elements;[25] they speak of receiving Holy Communion even outside of the rite, and of participating in the rite without receiving First Holy Communion. The term Communion is derived from 1 Corinthians 10:16:

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?

Other terms

Breaking of bread

The phrase κλάσις τοῦ ἄρτου (klasis tou artou 'breaking of the bread'; in later liturgical Greek also ἀρτοκλασία artoklasia) appears in various related forms five times in the New Testament (Luke 24:35; Acts 2:42, 2:46, 20:7 and 20:11) in contexts which, according to some, may refer to the celebration of the Eucharist, in either closer or symbolically more distant reference to the Last Supper.[26] It is the term used by the Plymouth Brethren.[27]

Sacrament or Blessed Sacrament

The "Blessed Sacrament" and the "Blessed Sacrament of the Altar" are common terms used by Catholics, Lutherans and some Anglicans (Anglo-Catholicism) for the consecrated elements, especially when reserved in a tabernacle. "Sacrament of the Altar" is in common use also among Lutherans. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the term "The Sacrament" is used of the rite.

Mass

Mass is used in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Churches (especially in the Church of Sweden, the Church of Norway, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland), by many Anglicans (especially those of an Anglo-Catholic churchmanship), and in some other forms of Western Christianity. At least in the Catholic Church, the Mass is a longer rite which always consists of two main parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, in that order. The Liturgy of the Word consists mainly of readings from scripture (the Bible) and a homily preached by a priest or deacon and is essentially distinct and separate from the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which comprises the entirety of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, so the Eucharist itself is only about one half of the Mass. (It is also possible and permissible in the Latin Rite for a priest to consecrate and distribute the Eucharist outside the ritual structure of the Mass—such an event is often called a communion service—but it is much more common to celebrate a full Mass.) Among the many other terms used in the Catholic Church are "Holy Mass", "the Memorial of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord", the "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass", and the "Holy Mysteries".[28] The term mass derives from post-classical Latin missa "dismissal", found in the concluding phrase of the liturgy, "Ite, missa est".[29] The term missa has come to imply a 'mission', because at the end of the Mass the congregation are sent out to serve Christ.[30]

Divine Liturgy and Divine Service

The term Divine Liturgy (Greek: Θεία Λειτουργία) is used in Byzantine Rite traditions, whether in the Eastern Orthodox Church or among the Eastern Catholic Churches. These also speak of "the Divine Mysteries", especially in reference to the consecrated elements, which they also call "the Holy Gifts".[note 1]

The term Divine Service (German: Gottesdienst) is used in the Lutheran Churches, in addition to the terms "Eucharist", "Mass" and "Holy Communion".[31] The term reflects the Lutheran belief that God is serving the congregants in the liturgy.[32]

Other Eastern Rites

Some Eastern rites have yet more names for Eucharist. Holy Qurbana is common in Syriac Christianity and Badarak[33] in the Armenian Rite; in the Alexandrian Rite, the term Prosfora[34] is common in Coptic Christianity and "Keddase" in Ethiopian and Eritrean Christianity.[35]