A meal to remember

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Between Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday, area Christians will have had ample opportunity to share in communion. Whether it's called Eucharist, communion, the Last Supper or the Lord's Supper, the service is aimed at remembrance of Jesus Christ's sacrifice.

Most liturgical churches hold communion as part of their Holy Week services, beginning with Palm Sunday. Other churches only have communion on a set schedule: once a month or once a quarter.

Communion gets its origins from the Passover meal. At that meal, the Bible says Jesus shared bread and wine with his disciples and then explained a new covenant he was making with them. Scripture says that as Jesus broke the bread, he told the disciples it was his body; as he passed the cup of wine, he said it was his blood.

"He offers himself at that meal," said the Rev. Paul Short, senior pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church.

Communion is about receiving the body and blood of Christ and knowing he is "really present" with us, Short said.

"It's a way of putting us in touch with the spiritual," he said.

Jesus offers earthly elements -- bread and wine -- that can symbolize spiritual connections.

Many denominations believe the bread and wine are Jesus' body and blood when shared during communion. Taking communion is a sacrament of the Catholic Church. Other faiths believe the bread and wine are shared in remembrance of Jesus' sacrifices.

Communion is a part of Maundy Thursday services because those services reflect on the Passover meal Jesus shared with disciples before his betrayal. The services try to "establish the setting of that night," said Short.

But it's unlikely that the disciples actually understood the depth of Jesus' statements when he made them, Short said. The night of Jesus' betrayal was full of emotion and mysteries.

And communion still has an air of mystery. Pastors and priests refer to the bread as Jesus' body and the wine, or grape juice in many churches, as Jesus' blood.

But the requirements for who can partake in communion vary among denominations. Many Protestant churches offer "open communion," meaning that any Christian can participate in the service. Only baptized members of the Lutheran and Catholic churches can participate in communion.


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