Why does the rector use titles like “The Lord’s Supper” and “Holy Communion” to refer to the Eucharist? I thought Episcopalians always use “Eucharist” and I don’t understand those other titles.
The catechism in our current prayer book (p. 859) gives six names for this rite: Holy Eucharist, Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Divine Liturgy, Mass, and Great Offering. We can follow the usage of these names by reaching far back into our history. The 1549 prayer book named it “The Supper of the Lord and the Holy Communion, commonly called the Mass.” This was later changed to “Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion.” Our General Convention authorized usage of the title “Holy Eucharist” in 1804, and the Roman church adopted that title in the 1960’s. All of these are appropriate ways to designate the liturgies of Word and Sacrament.
I use these titles interchangeably for two reasons. First, I am sensitive to the fact that many of our members and guests have been reared in Protestant traditions which most commonly refer to the meal as the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. Similarly, many others have come from the Episcopal, Roman, and Orthodox catholic traditions in which “Holy Eucharist” has become more common in recent decades. As a matter of hospitality to our mixed congregation and visitors, I use the titles in such a way that I hope will help all to infer that each of these titles designate the Sacrament.
The second reason is that the different titles enable me to emphasize important aspects of our story in my teaching. The “Lord’s Supper” evokes a table set by Jesus at which we all sit, an image that makes it easy to talk about the nearness of God, our companionship as sisters and brothers, and about our being friends with God and with each other. I will often use “Holy Communion” when I want to emphasize the union in our communion. The “Eucharist” evokes the altar of God around which all Israel gathers to give thanks to the transcendent God who is the source of all things. Usually my selection from our six titles for the sacrament is deliberate and depends on our context; if you notice which one I use, it gives you a cue that I am trying to evoke a particular aspect of our relationship with God and each other.
Tue, January 18, 2011
by Fr Craig David Uffman filed under