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Holy communion

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Holy communion

For Eucharistic liturgies, see Christian liturgy. For other uses, see Eucharist (disambiguation).
"Lord's Supper" and "Most Precious Blood" redirect here. For other uses, see Lord's Supper (disambiguation) and Most Precious Blood (disambiguation).
Part of the series on the

also known as
"Holy Communion", "The Lord's Supper",
"Divine Liturgy", or "Blessed Sacrament"

Real Presence
Sacramental Union
Words of Institution
Anglican Eucharistic theology
Eucharist (Catholic Church)
Eucharist (Lutheran Church)
Divine Liturgy (Orthodox Church)

Important theologians
Paul · Aquinas
Luther · Calvin
Chrysostom · Augustine
Zwingli · Basil of Caesarea

Related Articles
Origin of the Eucharist
Sacramental bread
Christianity and alcohol
Catholic Historic Roots
Closed and Open Table
Divine Liturgy
Eucharistic adoration
Eucharistic discipline
First Communion
Infant Communion
Mass · Sacrament

The Eucharist /ˈjuːkərɪst/, also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance. It is reenacted in accordance with Jesus' instruction at the Last Supper, as recorded in several books of the New Testament, that his followers do in remembrance of him as when he gave his disciples bread, saying, "This is my body", and gave them wine saying, "This is my blood."[2][3]

In spite of differences between 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]

The word Eucharist may refer not only to the rite but also to the consecrated bread (leavened or unleavened) and wine[4] (unfermented grape juice in some Protestant denominations, water in the LDS church) used in the rite. In this sense, communicants (that is, those who partake of the communion elements) may speak of "receiving the Eucharist", as well as "celebrating the Eucharist".


Eucharist: the Greek noun εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), meaning "thanksgiving," is not used in the New Testament as a name for the rite,[5] however, the related verb is found in New Testament accounts of the Last Supper,[6][7][8] including the earliest such account:[5]

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, 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[5] by the Didache (late 1st or early 2nd century),[9][10][11][12][13] Ignatius of Antioch (who died between 98 and 117)[12][14] and Justin Martyr (writing between 147 and 167).[10][12][15] Today, "the Eucharist" is the name still used by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, Reformed/Presbyterians, United Methodists, and Lutherans. Other Protestant denominations rarely use this term, preferring either "Communion", "the Lord's Supper", or "the Breaking of Bread". The Lord's Supper (Κυριακὸν δεῖπνον) is a name used in the early 50s of the first centuryAnglicans.

Communion or Holy Communion[1]:
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?.

The Breaking of Bread: The phrase appears four times in the New Testament (

Mass: This is used in the Latin Church of the Roman Catholic Church, some Anglicans (Anglo-Catholicism), the Church of Sweden, the Church of Norway and some other forms of Western Christianity. Among the many other terms used in the Roman 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".[18]

Sacrament: In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the term "The Sacrament" is used of the rite.[note 2]

The Divine Liturgy: This 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 3]

The Divine Service: This is the title for the liturgy in Lutheran churches and is used by most conservative Lutheran churches to refer to the Eucharist.


Further information: Origin of the Eucharist

Biblical basis

The Last Supper appears in all three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It also is found in the First Epistle to the Corinthians,[2][19][20] which suggests how early Christians celebrated what Paul the Apostle called the Lord's Supper.

Paul the Apostle and the Lord's Supper

In his First Epistle to the Corinthians (c 54-55), Paul the Apostle gives the earliest recorded description of Jesus' Last Supper: "The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me. ' In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'". [1 Cor. 11:23-25]]


The synoptic gospels,


Agape feast

The expression The Lord's Supper, derived from Jude 12. But The Lord's Supper is now commonly used in reference to a celebration involving no food other than the sacramental bread and wine.

Early Christian sources

The Didache (Greek: teaching) is an early Church treatise that includes instructions for Baptism and the Eucharist. Most scholars date it to the early 2nd century,[25] and distinguish in it two separate Eucharistic traditions, the earlier tradition in chapter 10 and the later one preceding it in chapter 9.[26][note 4] The Eucharist is mentioned again in chapter 14.[note 5]

Ignatius of Antioch (ca. 35 or 50-between 98 and 117), one of the Apostolic Fathers,[note 6] mentions the Eucharist as "the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ",[note 7] and Justin Martyr speaks of it as more than a meal: "the food over which the prayer of thanksgiving, the word received from Christ, has been said ... is the flesh and blood of this Jesus who became flesh ... and the deacons carry some to those who are absent."[27]

Eucharistic theology

Main article: Eucharistic theology

Many Christian denominations classify the Eucharist as a sacrament.[28] Some Protestants prefer to call it an ordinance, viewing it not as a specific channel of divine grace but as an expression of faith and of obedience to Christ.

Most Christians, even those who deny that there is any real change in the elements used, recognize a special presence of Christ in this rite. But Christians differ about exactly how, where and how long Christ is present in it.[29] Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Church of the East teach that the reality (the "substance") of the elements of bread and wine is wholly changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, while the appearances (the "species") remain. Transubstantiation is the term used by Roman Catholics to denote what is changed, not to explain how the transformation occurs, since the Catholic Church teaches that "the signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ".[30] Lutherans believe that the body and blood of Jesus are present "in, with and under" the forms of bread and wine, a concept known as the sacramental union. The Reformed churches, following the teachings of John Calvin, believe in an immaterial, spiritual (or "pneumatic") presence of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and received by faith. Anglicans adhere to a range of views although the teaching on the matter in the Articles of Religion holds that the presence is real only in a heavenly and spiritual sense. Some Christians reject the concept of the real presence, believing that the Eucharist is only a ceremonial remembrance or memorial of the death of Christ.

The Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document of the World Council of Churches,[31] attempting to present the common understanding of the Eucharist on the part of the generality of Christians, describes it as "essentially the sacrament of the gift which God makes to us in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit", "Thanksgiving to the Father", "Anamnesis or Memorial of Christ", "the sacrament of the unique sacrifice of Christ, who ever lives to make intercession for us", "the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, the sacrament of his real presence", "Invocation of the Spirit", "Communion of the Faithful", and "Meal of the Kingdom".

Ritual and liturgy

Roman Catholic

The Catholic Church teaches that once consecrated in the Eucharist, the elements cease to be bread and wine and actually become the body and blood of Christ,[32] each of which is accompanied by the other and by Christ's soul and divinity.[33] The empirical appearance and physical properties are not changed, but for Catholics, the reality is. The consecration of the bread (known as the host) and wine represents the separation of Jesus' body from his blood at Calvary. However, since he has risen, the Church teaches that his body and blood can no longer be truly separated. Where one is, the other must be. Therefore, although the priest (or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion) says, "The body of Christ", when administering the host, and, "The blood of Christ", when presenting the chalice, the communicant who receives either one receives Christ, whole and entire.

The Catholic Church sees as the main basis for this belief the words of Jesus himself at his Last Supper: the , he reiterated that any theological explanation of the doctrine must hold to the twofold claim that, after the consecration, 1) Christ's body and blood are really present; and 2) bread and wine are really absent; and this presence and absence is real and not merely something in the mind of the believer.

On entering a church, Latin Church Catholics genuflect to the consecrated host in the tabernacle that holds the consecrated host, in order to acknowledge respectfully the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, a presence to which a votive candle or sanctuary lamp kept burning close to such a tabernacle draws attention.

Eastern Christianity

Main article: Divine Liturgy

Among Eastern Christians, the Eucharistic service is called the Divine Liturgy (Eastern Orthodox) or similar names (Oriental Orthodox). It comprises two main divisions: the first is the Liturgy of the Catechumens which consists of introductory litanies, antiphons and scripture readings, culminating in a reading from one of the Gospels and, often, a homily; the second is the Liturgy of the Faithful in which the Eucharist is offered, consecrated, and received as Holy Communion. Within the latter, the actual Eucharistic prayer is called the anaphora, literally: "offering" or "carrying up" (ἀνα- + φέρω). In the Rite of Constantinople, two different anaphoras are currently used: one is attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, the other to Saint Basil the Great. Among the Oriental Orthodox, a variety of anaphoras are used, but all are similar in structure to those of the Constantinopolitan Rite, in which the Anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom is used most days of the year; Saint Basil's is offered on the Sundays of Great Lent, the eves of Christmas and Theophany, Holy Thursday, Holy Saturday, and upon his feast day (1 January). At the conclusion of the Anaphora the bread and wine are held to be the Body and Blood of Christ. Unlike the Church of Rome, the Eastern Orthodox Church uses leavened bread, with the leaven symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit.[37] The Armenian Apostolic Church, like the Roman Catholic, uses unleavened bread.

Conventionally this change in the elements is understood to be accomplished at the Epiclesis (Greek: "invocation") by which the Holy Spirit is invoked and the consecration of the bread and wine as the true and genuine Body and Blood of Christ is specifically requested, but since the anaphora as a whole is considered a unitary (albeit lengthy) prayer, no one moment within it can be readily singled out.


Main article: Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana or Qurbana Qadisha, the "Holy Offering" or "Holy Sacrifice", refers to the Eucharist as celebrated according to the East Syrian and West Syrian traditions of Syriac Christianity. The main Anaphora of the East Syrian tradition is the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari, while that of the West Syrian tradition is the Liturgy of Saint James. Both are extremely old, going back at least to the third century, and are the oldest extant liturgies continually in use.


In most churches of the Anglican Communion, the Eucharist is celebrated every Sunday, having replaced Morning Prayer as the principal service. The rites for the Eucharist are found in the various prayer books of Anglican churches. Wine and unleavened wafers or leavened bread is used. Daily celebrations are the norm in many cathedrals and parish churches typically offer one or more Eucharists during the week. Only a small minority of parishes with a priest do not celebrate the Eucharist at least once each Sunday. The nature of the ceremony, however, varies according to the orientation of the priest, parish, diocese or regional church.


The bread and "fruit of the vine" indicated in Matthew, Mark and Luke as the elements of the Lord's Supper[38] are interpreted by many Baptists as unleavened bread (although leavened bread is often used) and, in line with the historical stance of some Baptist groups (since the mid-19th century) against partaking of alcoholic beverages, grape juice, which they commonly refer to simply as "the Cup".[39] The unleavened bread, or matzoh, also underscores the symbolic belief attributed to Christ's breaking the matzoh and saying that it was his body. A soda cracker is often used.

Today, most Baptists do not hold Communion, nor the elements thereof, as sacramental; rather, it is considered to be an act of remembrance of Christ's atonement, and a time of renewal of personal commitment. However, with the rise of confessionalism, many Baptists have denied memorialism as a 19th-century doctrinal novelty, and have taken up a Reformed view of Communion. Confessional Baptists believe in pneumatic presence, which is expressed in the Second London Baptist Confession, specifically in Chapter 30, Articles 3 and 7:

Art. 3. The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use, and to take and break the bread; to take the cup, and, they communicating also themselves, to give both to the communicants.

Art. 7. Worthy receivers, outwardly partaking of the visible elements in this ordinance, do then also inwardly by faith, really and indeed, yet not carnally and corporally, but spiritually receive, and feed upon Christ crucified, and all the benefits of his death; the body and blood of Christ being then not corporally or carnally, but spiritually present to the faith of believers in that ordinance, as the elements themselves are to their outward senses.

This view is prevalent among Southern Baptists, those in the Founders movement (a Calvinistic movement within the some Independent Baptists, Freewill Baptists, and several individuals in other Baptist associations.

As in many churches, Communion practices and frequency vary among congregations. A typical practice is to have small cups of juice and plates of broken bread distributed to the seated congregation by a group of deacons, elders, or ushers. In others congregations, communicants may proceed to the altar to receive the elements, then return to their seats. A widely accepted practice is for all to receive and hold the elements until everyone is served, then consume the bread and cup in unison. Usually, music is performed and Scripture is read during the receiving of the elements.

Some Baptist churches are closed-Communionists (even requiring full membership in the church before partaking), with others being partially or fully open-Communionists. It is rare to find a Baptist church where The Lord's Supper is observed every Sunday; most observe monthly or quarterly, with some holding Communion only during a designated Communion service or following a worship service.


Lutherans believe that the body and blood of Christ are "truly and substantially present in, with, and under the forms" of the consecrated bread and wine (the elements), so that communicants eat and drink the body and blood of Christ himself as well as the bread and wine in this sacrament.[40] The Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence is more accurately and formally known as the "sacramental union". It has been inaccurately called "consubstantiation".[41] This term is specifically rejected by Lutheran churches and theologians since it creates confusion about the actual doctrine and subjects the doctrine to the control of a non-biblical philosophical concept in the same manner as, in their view, does the term "transubstantiation".[42]

While an official movement exists in Lutheran congregations celebrate Eucharist weekly,[43] using formal rites very similar to the Roman Catholic and "high" Anglican services,[44] it was historically common for congregations to celebrate monthly or even quarterly. Even in congregations where Eucharist is offered weekly, there is not a requirement that every church service be a Eucharistic service, nor that all members of a congregation must receive it weekly.[45]

Brethren and Mennonites/Anabaptists

Traditional Mennonite and German Baptist Brethren Churches such as the Church of the Brethren churches and congregations have the Agape Meal, footwashing and the serving of the bread and wine two parts to the Communion service in the Lovefeast. In the more modern groups, Communion is only the serving of the Lord’s Supper. In the communion meal, the members of the Mennonite churches renew their covenant with God and with each other.[46]

Plymouth Brethren

Among Open assemblies, also termed Plymouth Brethren, the Eucharist is more commonly called the Breaking of Bread or the Lord's Supper. It is seen as a symbolic memorial and entirely non-sacramental, and central to the worship of both individual and assembly.[47] In principle the service is open to all baptised Christians, however an individual's eligibility to participate depends on the views of each particular assembly. The service takes the form of non-liturgical, open worship with all male participants allowed to pray audibly and select hymns or readings. The breaking of bread itself typically consists of one leavened loaf which is prayed over and broken by a participant in the meeting,[48] and then shared around. The wine is poured from a single container into one or several vessels, and these are again shared around.[49][50]

Exclusive Brethren

The Exclusive Brethren follow a similar practice to the Open Brethren. The Eucharist they also call the Breaking of Bread or the Lord's Supper.[47]


In the Reformed Churches the Eucharist is variously administered. The Calvinist view of the Sacrament sees a "real presence" of Christ in the supper which differs both from the objective ontological presence of the Catholic view, and from the real absence of Christ and the mental recollection of the memorialism of the Zwinglians[51] and their successors.

The bread and wine become the means by which the believer has real communion with Christ in his death and Christ's body and blood are present to the faith of the believer as really as the bread and wine are present to their senses but this presence is "spiritual", that is the work of the Holy Spirit.[52] There is no standard frequency; John Calvin desired weekly communion, but the city council only approved monthly, and monthly celebration has become the most common practice in Reformed churches today.

Many, on the other hand, follow John Knox in celebration of the Lord's supper on a quarterly basis, to give proper time for reflection and inward consideration of one's own state and sin. Recently, Presbyterian and Reformed Churches have been considering whether to restore more frequent communion, including weekly communion in more churches, considering that infrequent communion was derived from a memorialist view of the Lord's Supper, rather than Calvin's view of the sacrament as a means of grace.[53] Some churches use bread without any raising agent (whether leaven or yeast), in view of the use of unleavened bread at Jewish Passover meals, while others use any bread available.

The Presbyterian Church (USA), for instance, prescribes "bread common to the culture". Harking back to the regulative principle of worship, the Reformed tradition had long eschewed coming forward to receive communion, preferring to have the elements distributed throughout the congregation by the presbyters (elders) more in the style of a shared meal. Wine and grape juice are both used, depending on the congregation. Many Presbyterian Churches, influenced by Philip Schaff's Mercersburg Theology, have adopted a High Church liturgy.

Openness ranges between open communion (any believer may participate, e.g. the PCUSA) to closed (only members of the denomination may partake). Most Reformed churches would practice a balance between these, i.e., all believers who are united to a church of like faith and practice, and who are not living in sin, would be allowed to join in the Sacrament, sometimes with a requirement of pastoral or elder approval.

United Methodist

United Methodists in the United States are encouraged to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday, though it is typically celebrated on the first Sunday of each month, while a few go as long as celebrating quarterly (a tradition dating back to the days of circuit riders that served multiple churches). In the United Methodist church grape juice is used instead of wine. The current Book of Worship of the United Methodist church says that "the pure unfermented juice of the grape, or an equivalent, shall be used during the service of Holy Communion. "[54] The elements may be distributed in various ways. Communicants may receive standing, kneeling, or while seated. Gaining more wide acceptance is the practice of receiving by intinction (receiving a piece of consecrated bread or wafer, dipping it in the blessed wine, and consuming it). The most common alternative to intinction is for the communicants to receive the consecrated juice using small, individual, specially made glass or plastic cups known as communion cups.[55] United Methodists practice open communion, inviting "all who intend a Christian life, together with their children" to receive Communion.[56] Undergoing Baptism is not a prerequisite for receiving Communion, but if unbaptized people "regularly participate in Holy Communion, it is appropriate for pastors to talk with these people" about the possibility of them being baptized.[57]

The standard liturgies for the Eucharist (as well as other services) are found in The United Methodist Hymnal and The United Methodist Book of Worship. The standard Service of Word and Table is set in a fourfold movement of Entrance, Proclamation and Response, Thanksgiving and Communion, and Sending Forth. The Eucharistic Prayer, as found in the Thanksgiving and Response section, is prayed by an authorized minister as set forth in The Book of Discipline. Generally speaking, the ministry of presiding at the Eucharist is given by the church to the Elders (presbyters, priests, or pastors in other traditions). The Eucharistic Prayer of the United Methodist Church takes on an ancient pattern that begins with the "Dialogue" (The Lord be with you/and also with you) and Sursum Corda (Lift up your hearts). Following is a Preface that gives thanks to the Father and ends leading into the "Sanctus et Benedictus" (Holy, holy, holy Lord...Blessed is he who comes....). Then there is a "Post-Sanctus" Prayer which praises the Father for the gift and ministry of Jesus Christ which leads into the Words of Institution (the recalling of the Last Supper). The anamnesis follows, leading into the Memorial Acclamation (Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again). The presiding minister then prays the epiclesis (pour out your Holy Spirit...) and closes with a Trinitarian doxology. The congregation joins in a final "Amen" and recites the Lord's Prayer. Different proper prefaces are provided in the Book of Worship that are appropriate for Holy Days and Seasons of the Church Year.

Variations of the Eucharistic Prayer are provided for various occasions, including communion of the sick and brief forms for occasions that call for greater brevity. Though the ritual is standardized, there is great variation amongst United Methodist churches, from typically high-church to low-church, in the enactment and style of celebration. United Methodist clergy are not required to be vested when celebrating the Eucharist, though it is most often the case that they are vested either in a Geneva gown and stole or an alb and stole.

Seventh-day Adventists

In the Seventh-day Adventist Church the Holy Communion service customarily is celebrated once per quarter. The service includes the ordinance of footwashing and the Lord’s Supper. Unleavened bread and unfermented (non-alcoholic) grape juice is used. Open communion is practised: all who have committed their lives to the Saviour may participate. The communion service must be conducted by an ordained pastor, minister or church elder.[58][59]

Nondenominational Christians

Many nondenominational Christians, including the Churches of Christ, receive communion every Sunday. Some others, however, including Evangelical churches and the Church of God and the Calvary Chapel, receive communion on a monthly basis.

The Churches of Christ use grape juice and practice open communion.

Non-Trinitarian churches

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses commemorate Christ's death as a ransom or propitiatory sacrifice by observing The Lord's Evening Meal, or Memorial, each year on the evening that corresponds to the Passover, Nisan 14, according to the ancient Jewish calendar. They believe that this is the only annual religious observance commanded for Christians in the Bible. Of those who attend the Memorial a small minority worldwide will partake of the eating of the unleavened bread and the drinking of the wine.

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that only 144,000 people will receive heavenly salvation and thus spend eternity with God in heaven, as underpriests and co-rulers under Christ. Paralleling the anointing of kings and priests, they are referred to as the "anointed" class and are the only ones who should partake of the bread and wine.

A table is set with unadulterated red wine[60] and unleavened bread. Jehovah's Witnesses believe the bread represents Jesus Christ's body which he gave on behalf of mankind, and that the wine represents his blood which redeems from sin. The wine and the bread are merely symbols (sometimes referred to as "emblems"), but they have a profound meaning for Jehovah's Witnesses. Only those who are anointed partake as the emblems are passed around the room to all who are present.

Latter-day Saints

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS church), the "Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper",[61] more simply referred to as the Sacrament, is administered every Sunday (except General Conference or other special Sunday meeting) in each LDS Ward or branch worldwide at the beginning of Sacrament meeting. The Sacrament, which consists of both ordinary white bread and water (rather than wine or grape juice), is prepared by priesthood holders prior to the beginning of the meeting. At the beginning of the Sacrament, priests say specific prayers to bless the bread and water.[62] The Sacrament is passed row-by-row to the congregation by priesthood holders (typically deacons).[63]

The prayer recited for the bread is found in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants.

Other denominations

Other Christian denominations who practice communion are the United Churches of Christ, Assembly of God, and Disciples of Christ.

Open and closed communion

Christian denominations differ in their understanding of whether they may receive the Eucharist with those with whom they are not in full communion. The famed apologist St. Justin Martyr (c. 150) wrote: "No one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true...." For the first several hundred years, non-members were forbidden even to be present at the sacramental ritual; visitors and catechumens (those still undergoing instruction) were dismissed halfway through the Liturgy, after the Bible readings and sermon but before the Eucharistic rite. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, used in the Byzantine Rite, still has a formula of dismissal of catechumens (not usually followed by any action) at this point.

The ancient Churches, such as the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox practice closed communion under normal circumstances. However, the Catholic Church allows administration of the Eucharist, at their spontaneous request, to properly disposed members of the eastern churches (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Church of the East) not in full communion with it and of other churches that the Holy See judges to be sacramentally in the same position as these churches; and in grave and pressing need, such as danger of death, it allows the Eucharist to be administered also to individuals who do not belong to these churches but who share the Catholic Church's faith in the reality of the Eucharist and have no access to a minister of their own community.[64] Some Protestant communities exclude non-members from Communion. Most Lutheran churches not only exclude non-members but also require communicants to have been given catechetical instruction.[65][66] However, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) practices open communion.[67]

Some use the term "close communion" for restriction to members of the same denomination, and "closed communion" for restriction to members of the local congregation alone.

Most Protestant communities, including Reformed, United Church of Christ, Church of the Nazarene, Assembly of God, Evangelical, Methodist, the Church of Sweden, Presbyterians, Nondenominational Christianity (including the Churches of Christ), Community of Christ (formally the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and Anglicans practice open communion in the sense of not limiting it to members of their own Church alone, but some of them require that the communicant be a baptized person or a member of a partner church. Some Progressive Christian congregations offer communion to any individual who wishes to commemorate the life and teachings of Christ, regardless of religious affiliation.[68]

Most churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, also practice their own form of open communion, provided those who receive are baptized and believe in the Real Presence.[69][70]

In the Episcopal Church (United States), those who do not receive Holy Communion may enter the communion line with their arms crossed over their chest, in order to receive a blessing from the priest, instead of receiving Holy Communion.[71]

Other issues


Roman Catholic

The Roman Catholic Church requires its members to receive the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation before taking Communion, if they are aware of having committed a grave sin,[72][73] and to prepare by fasting, prayer and other works of piety.[74][75]

Eastern Orthodox

Traditionally, the Eastern Orthodox church has required its members to have observed all church-appointed fasts (most weeks, this will be at least Wednesday and Friday) for the week prior to partaking of communion, and to fast from all food and water from midnight the night before. In addition, Orthodox Christians are to have made a recent confession to their priest (the frequency varying with one's particular priest),[76] and they must be at peace with all others, meaning that they hold no grudges or anger against anyone.[77] In addition, one is expected to attend Vespers or the All-Night Vigil, if offered, on the night before receiving communion.[77] Furthermore, various pre-communion prayers have been composed, which many (but not all) Orthodox churches require or at least strongly encourage members to say privately before coming to the Eucharist.[78]

Protestant confessions

Many Protestant congregations generally reserve a period of time for self-examination and private, silent confession just before partaking in the Lord's Supper.


Seventh Day Adventists, John 13:3-17) as a preparation for partaking in the Lord's Supper. At that time they are to individually examine themselves, and confess any sins they may have between one and another.

Health issues




The Roman Catholic Church believes that grape juice that has not begun even minimally to ferment cannot be accepted as wine, which it sees as essential for celebration of the Eucharist. For alcoholics, but not generally, it allows the use of mustum (grape juice in which fermentation has begun but has been suspended without altering the nature of the juice), and it holds that, "since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite. "[82] As already indicated, the one exception is in the case of a priest celebrating Mass without other priests or as principal celebrant. The water that in the Latin Church is prescribed to be mixed with the wine must be only a relatively small quantity.[83] The practice of the Coptic Church is that the mixture should be two parts wine to one part water.[84]

Many Protestant churches allow clergy and communicants to take mustum instead of wine. In addition to, or in replacement of wine, some churches offer grape juice which has been pasteurized to stop the fermentation process the juice naturally undergoes; de-alcoholized wine from which most of the alcohol has been removed (between 0.5% and 2% remains); or water.[85] Exclusive use of unfermented grape juice is common in Baptist and Presbyterian churches, the United Methodist Church, Seventh-day Adventists, Christian Churches/Churches of Christ and other American independent Protestant churches.

Fear of transmission of diseases

Risk of infectious disease transmission related to use of a common communion cup is low, to the point of being undetectable. No case of transmission of an infectious disease related to a common communion cup has ever been documented. The most likely diseases to be transmitted would be common viral illnesses such as the common cold, however a study of 681 individuals found that taking communion up to daily from a common cup did not increase the risk of infection beyond that of those who did not attend services at all.[86][87]

In influenza epidemics, some churches suspend the giving of communion under the form of wine, for fear of spreading the disease. This is in full accord with Roman Catholic Church belief that communion under the form of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. However, the same measure has been taken also by churches that normally insist on the importance of receiving communion under both forms. This was done in 2009 by the Church of England.[88]

Some fear contagion through the handling involved in distributing the hosts to the communicants, even if they are placed on the hand rather than on the tongue. Accordingly, some churches use mechanical wafer dispensers or "pillow packs" (communion wafers with wine inside them). While these methods of distributing communion are not accepted in Roman Catholic churches, one such church provides a mechanical dispenser to allow those intending to communicate to place in a bowl, without touching them by hand, the hosts for use in the celebration.[89]

Comparative summary of ritual

Denominations Wine, grape juice, water How often celebrated Open or closed communion
Catholic Church wine, unleavened bread in the Latin Church, leavened in some Eastern Catholic Churches daily, except on Good Friday and Holy Saturday closed communion: the Catholic Church holds that reception of Communion is reserved for the baptized and, normally, for those in communion with the Holy See.
Eastern Orthodox Church wine and leavened bread daily outside of Lent, when the Presanctified Liturgy is celebrated closed communion: the Eastern Orthodox Church does not exclude Protestants and Catholics from attending the Divine Liturgy, but does not give them Communion.
Anglican Communion wine with unleavened wafers or leavened bread Most churches in the Anglican Communion celebrate communion weekly, replacing Morning Prayer Most Anglicans, including the United States Episcopal Church, practice open communion, others practice closed communion.
Baptists grape juice with soda crackers, unleavened bread, or leavened bread very few Baptist churches celebrate communion weekly; most celebrate monthly or quarterly with some holding designated services. closed communion; some Baptist churches restrict communion to their own members and require part membership or even full membership and thus members from other Baptist churches will be excluded from participating. Even members from other different churches, especially Catholics will also be excluded. The Strict Baptists in the United Kingdom derive their name from this practice. However, some Baptist churches fully practice open communion allowing members from other churches, including other Baptist churches, to receive communion.
Lutherans wine or grape juice with leavened or unleavened bread or gluten-free wafers. weekly, every other week, or monthly Most Lutherans, including the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and other Confessional Lutheran churches, practice closed communion, excluding non-members, especially Catholics (like Baptists), and requiring catechetical instruction before receiving the Eucharist; However, most churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America practice their own form of open communion, giving the Eucharist to adults without requiring catechetical instruction, provided they are baptized and believe in the real presence.
United Methodist Church grape juice with unleavened bread monthly open communion although it is referred to as Open Table
Presbyterians grape juice or wine with unleavened bread monthly open and closed communion
Calvinists and Reformed Christians wine with leavened bread monthly closed communion
Seventh-day Adventists grape juice with unleavened bread quarterly open communion, but Reformed Seventh-day Adventists practice closed communion.
Churches of Christ grape juice with wafers weekly open communion
Calvary Chapel wine monthly open communion
Jehovah's Witnesses wine with unleavened bread annually closed communion; only the 144,000 who will receive eternal salvation and spend eternity with God in heaven may receive
Latter Day Saints water with white leavened bread weekly closed communion although without forbidding others to participate
United Church of Christ wine or grape juice with gluten free wafers monthly open communion
Assemblies of God, Pentecostals, and Christian and Missionary Alliance grape juice with leavened bread monthly open communion
Evangelical Free Church grape juice with crackers or wafers monthly open communion
Church of the Nazarene wine with leavened bread weekly or monthly open communion
Community Churches grape juice with wafers monthly open communion
Moravian Church alcohol with leavened bread several times per year open communion

See also



Further reading

Chemnitz, Martin. The Lord's Supper. J. A. O. Preus, trans. St. Louis: Concordia, 1979. ISBN 0-570-03275-X
Church, Catholic. "The Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent" Translated by Rev. H.J. Schroeder, O.P., published by Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., P. O. Box 424, Rockford, IL 61105
Dix, Dom Gregory. The Shape of the Liturgy. London: Continuum International, 2005. ISBN 0-8264-7942-1
Cabrera de Armida, Concepcion. I Am: Eucharistic Meditations on the Gospel, Alba House Publishing 2001 ISBN 0-8189-0890-4
Elert, Werner. Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries. N. E. Nagel, trans. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1966. ISBN 0-570-04270-4
Felton, Gayle. This Holy Mystery. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2005. ISBN 0-88177-457-X
Father Gabriel. Divine Intimacy. London, UK: Baronius Press Ltd, 2013 reprint ed. ISBN 9781905574438
Grime, J. H. Close Communion and Baptists
Hahn, Scott. The Lamb's Supper: Mass as Heaven on Earth. Darton, Longman, Todd. 1999. ISBN 0-232-52500-5
Henke, Frederick Goodrich A Study in the Psychology of Ritualism. University of Chicago Press 1910
Jurgens, William A. The Faith of the Early Fathers. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1970. ISBN 0-8146-0432-3
Kolb, Robert and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000. (ISBN 0-8006-2740-7)
Lefebvre, Gaspar. The Saint Andrew Daily Missal. Reprint. Great Falls, MT: St. Bonaventure Publications, Inc., 1999
Löhr, Hermut, ed., Abendmahl (Themen der Theologie 3), Tübingen: UTB / Mohr Siebeck 2012. ISBN 978-3-8252-3499-7
Macy, Gary. The Banquet's Wisdom: A Short History of the Theologies of the Lord's Supper. (2005, ISBN 1-878009-50-8)
Magni, JA The Ethnological Background of the Eucharist. Clark University. American Journal of Religious Psychology and Education, IV (No. 1–2), March, 1910.
McBride, Alfred, O. Praem. Celebrating the Mass. Our Sunday Visitor, 1999.
Neal, Gregory. Grace Upon Grace 2000. ISBN 0-9679074-0-3
Nevin, John Williamson. The Mystical Presence: A Vindication of the Reformed or Calvinistic Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist. 1846; Wipf & Stock reprint, 2000. ISBN 1-57910-348-0.
Oden, Thomas C. Corrective Love: The Power of Communion Discipline. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1995. ISBN 0-570-04803-6
Rasperger (Raspergero), Christopher (Christophorus, Christoph, Christophoro, Christophe) Two hundred interpretations of the words: This is my Body, Ingolstadt, 1577 Latin text. (Latin title: Ducentae paucorum istorum et quidem clarissimorum Christi verborum: Hoc est Corpus meum; interpretationes,; German title: Zweihundert Auslegungen der Worte das ist mein Leib.)
Sasse, Hermann. This Is My Body: Luther's Contention for the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2001. ISBN 1-57910-766-4
Schmemann, Alexander. The Eucharist. St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1997. ISBN 0-88141-018-7
Scotland, N. A. D. Eucharistic Consecration in the First Four Centuries and Its Implications for Liturgical Reform, in series, Latimer Studies, 31. Oxford, Eng.: Latimer House, 1989. ISBN 0-946307-30-X
Stoffer, Dale R. The Lord's Supper: Believers Church Perspectives
Stookey, L.H. Eucharist: Christ's Feast with the Church. Nashville: Abingdon, 1993. ISBN 0-687-12017-9
Tissot, Very Rev. J. The Interior Life. 1916, pp. 347–9.
Wright, N. T. The Meal Jesus Gave Us
Yarnold, G.D. The Bread Which We Break. London: Oxford University Press, 1960. 119 p.

External links


  • Video taken during Adoration in Feasterville, Pennsylvania

Liturgical texts and services

  • The Ordinary of the Mass, Roman Rite according to current edition of the Roman Missal
  • The Ordinary of the Sacred Liturgy according to the Roman Missal of 1962
  • The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom One form of the Orthodox Divine Liturgy.
  • The Book of Common Prayer, used by the Episcopal Church (ECUSA). Contains the liturgy for the Eucharist and other rites.
  • Word and Table I, The Eucharistic Liturgy of The United Methodist Church.

History, theology, practice

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