Notes on Communion

A friend read over the draft of this site and came to me with the following query about the description from the Home page:

“You said you take communion every day around noon & (coming from a catholic place) I’m wondering what that looks like?  For us it would be a community thing, not any more a one-person thing.  How is that for you?”

These are good and important questions. My own theology and outlook on the Eucharist will probably always be evolving as I learn and live more, so I will speak to my understanding of it in this moment.

I tend to prefer the term “communion” for describing this divine meal, but it’s worth starting with the meaning of the word “Eucharist”. The Greek word from which it is translated means “thanksgiving” -and indeed thanksgiving is often foregrounded in communion liturgies. At its core then, taking communion is an act of giving thanks.

This act of giving thanks for me transcends the actual circumstances of the moment. I might be alone, but I am (always) integrally connected in my act of thanksgiving to the community of Christians all around the world. If we are indeed one body – as I believe we are, even across all of our differences – that body is not absent even when it is not visible.

The writer Phyllis Tickle puts it another way in discussing another form of liturgical practice, fixed hour prayer or the Divine Office. In the Introduction to her manual for prayer, The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime, she writes “To participate in such a regimen with such an awareness is to pray, as did the Desert Fathers, from within the spiritual community of shared texts as well as within the company of innumerable other Christians, unseen but present, who have preceded one across time or who, in time, will follow one.”

I suppose then the basic answer to the question is that I do not consider myself alone in the act, even if in my particular moment in time and space, no other people are physically present with me. It remains a communal act of joining with others to give thanks and to participate in the divine mystery (and no, I do not believe Christ to be physically present in the bread and the wine, but have perfect respect for those who do so believe).

There are many other questions and topics for conversation embedded in this conversation. I’ll stop for now since I’ve addressed this specific query and know that there will be opportunities for further discussions in the future.

For a variety of reasons I have not set up a comment section on this site. However, please feel free to send me thoughts or questions from the Contact page or to add comments on the What the Heart Holds facebook page.