WEEKDAY EUCHARISTS

A wise and learned priest once remarked that if the Holy Communion service was so important, it should be celebrated either once a week only, or every day of the week.  What is this one weekday Mass?

A daily Mass would be wonderful, but with overstretched clergy covering a number of other church tasks in the deanery, diocese and national church, it was never going to be a realistic possibility in a small rural parish.  One, or in our case two Eucharists during the week allows us to celebrate by turns a Requiem, where we pray for the souls of those who have recently died, Masses of Our Lady and of the Saints, Masses in Latin, Masses with the focus on healing;  none of which are generally possible on a Sunday.

The congregations may be small, and the service short, but it is part of the spiritual life of the whole parish.

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COMMUNION WINE

In case you were wondering.  What is required for communion is wine.  However, too many people suppose that it ought to be red, because it looks like blood.  Understandable, but it leads to confusion.  The chalice is given and shared because it contains the Sacrament of the Blood of Christ.

We take ordinary (usually sweet and fortified because it keeps better) wine and following the forms of the Church and by the power of the Holy Spirit (that’s a rather cavalier summary of the mysteries of eucharistic theology) it becomes the Blood of Christ. 

Either it is or it isn’t.  Being like is a sort of half-way confusion.  Communion is not a simile, a piece of play-acting or a fantasy.  Either we receive the Sacrament, or we don’t.  White wine makes it easier to realize that this is not about ‘being like’.  It is the Sacrament, given by Christ himself. 

Furthermore, we now buy the wine to be used for holy communion from an ordinary wine merchant, and no longer from an ecclesiastical supplier.  It is not the cross on the bottle that makes it holy, but the form of the Eucharist itself.

The reason is the same as for the colour of the wine.  There is nothing holy in the bread and wine we offer;  it is the body and blood we receive that is holy.  There is no need to give the Lord a helping hand, by making what we give look like what he gives us.

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BREAKING THE BREAD

Our sharing in the body and blood of Our Lord is important.  ‘Communion’ is not about individuals receiving individual portions of the sacrament, but about communion, with each other as well as with the Lord.  To share the cup is to follow Christ’s command;  hence the Church of England canon law that disallows the use of individual cups.

But isn’t it a bit hypocritical for pious Anglo-Catholics to mock Free Church people with their little cocktail glasses, when they do much the same thing with the bread, with their individual wafers for each person?

To which the answer is, we always celebrate with at least one large wafer that is broken into four pieces.  But maybe that is not quite enough.

We now use, when numbers warrant it, what are called ‘concelebration hosts’ – nearly six inches across, and indented so that they can be broken into 24 pieces each.  It is a more expensive way of doing things, but does seem to be better theologically.

Each person receives part of the whole.  This is surely closer to Our Lord’s command.