Jesus giving communion

The Bible has only 2 ordinances (2 things prescribed for the church).  They are baptism and communion.  There are different names for “Communion” depending on your religious affiliation.  Some of these are the “Eucharist,” “Lord’s Supper,” “Lord’s Table,” or sometimes the “Last Supper.” For this article, I will refer to this as “communion.”

Jesus gave his followers instructions that they should take or practice “communion.” This is a practice still followed by most evangelical churches today.  Earlier I mentioned that it is prescribed as an ordinance.  One thing that Jesus did not prescribe is how often to partake communion.  Some churches do communion every week and others do it anywhere from monthly to quarterly to yearly to just special events.  This is debated and discussed as church leaders seek to have the ordinance of communion regularly but not to have it so often that it looses the special place that it often has during a service.  Listed below are the passages on communion including the Apostle Paul’s dialogue about communion and the strong warning he gives for misuse.  Finally, I listed some Old Testament passages that, although they weren’t specifically celebrating communion, clearly the people of God were accustomed to celebrating a meal together in the presence of God.

It was during the age-old celebration of Passover and on the eve before the crucifixion of the Lord, that Jesus put into place the ordinance of Communion.  Communion must be a key component of worship within the church as it causes us to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus Instituted Communion Through His Disciples

Matthew 26:17-30  Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?”   He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’”  And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.    When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve.  And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?”   He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me.  The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”  Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”  Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”   And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

“Take; this is my body … this is my blood of the covenant …”

Mark 14:12-25  And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?”  And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’  And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.”  And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.  And when it was evening, he came with the twelve.   And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.”  They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?”   He said to them, “It is zone of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.  For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.   And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.  Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

Luke 22:7-20 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.  So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to him, “Where will you have us prepare it?”   He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him into the house that he enters  and tell the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says to you, Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; prepare it there.”  And they went and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.   And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him.  And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”  And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.  For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

John 13:21-30  After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”  The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke.  One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side,  so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking.  So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?”   Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.   Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him.  Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.   So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

Paul Gives More Communion Guidelines and Warns About Misuse

The Gospels are not the only place we see communion written about; this passage shows the apostle Paul giving strong warnings about the ordinance of communion.

1 Corinthians 11:17-34  But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.  For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.  When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk.   What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. 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.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

Old Testament Precedent for Communion

Maybe we ask if there was anything like the taking of the Lord’s Supper (Communion) in the Old Testament? Well there appears to be some instances where the people of God were eating and drinking in the presence of the Lord.

Exodus 24:9-11  Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up,  and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.  And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

Deuteronomy 14:23 And before the LORD your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.

Deuteronomy 14:26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household.

Celebrating communion is very important because of the depth of meaning behind the elements of communion. It was during the age-old celebration of Passover and on the eve before the crucifixion of the Lord, that Jesus put into place the ordinance of Communion.  Communion must be a key component of worship within the church as it causes us to remember the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  There seems to be a trend in society today for some believers to avoid the church worship service.  Some people reason that they can worship God on their own.  This thought has an element of truth to it but one thing that will often be missing when one avoids corporate worship is the partaking of communion together with a church family.  I believe God’s word teaches us to gather together on a regular basis (Heb. 10:24-25) together with other believers and communion needs to be a regular part of what we do.

Resources

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version

“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV)

YouTube video “Behold the Lamb (Communion Hymn)” performed by Keith & Kristyn Getty

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In Holy Communion, Jesus gives Himself to me and becomes mine, all mine, in His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. One day Jesus said to St Gemma Galgani with artless simplicity, “I am Your Master.”

With Communion, Jesus enters my heart and remains corporally present in me as long as the species (the appearance) of bread lasts; that is, for about 15 minutes. The Holy Father teaches that during this time the angels surround me to continue to adore Jesus and love Him without interruption. “When Jesus is corporally present within us, the angels surround us as a guard of love,” wrote St Bernard.

St Therese of the Child Jesus wrote a little Eucharistic poem, “Desires near the Tabernacle,” in which, among other beautiful things, she said, “I would like to be the chalice and adore the Divine Blood therein. I can, however, in the Holy Sacrifice, gather Him in me every morning. My soul is therefore dearer to Jesus, it is therefore more precious than vessels of gold.” And how great was the happiness of the angelic Saint, during an epidemic, daily Communion was given to her!

jesus giving communion

A Day without the Sun

For the angelic youth Aldo Marcozzi, a day without Holy Communion was a day without the sun. In the winter mornings, his mother wanted him to take something hot before leaving for school. In doing so, however, he would not be able to receive Holy Communion (since in those times fasting was required from midnight, and not for only one hour as it is today).

The holy youth would then say to his mother with sorrow: “Mother, you will have to render an account to God for the Communions that you do not let me receive!” Another time a companion asked him if he was not feeling well because he appeared a little sad. “Today is a bad day for me,” replied Aldo, “because I have not been able to receive Jesus.”

“My son, how can you not perceive the fragrance of Paradise which comes forth from the tabernacle?” asked St Philip of a young man in love with the pleasures of the flesh, of dances and amusements. The joys of the Eucharist and the satisfaction of the senses are “opposed to each other (Gal 5:17)” and the “sensual man perceives not these things which are of the Spirit of God (1 Cor 2:14) – that is, he knows not the wisdom which comes from God.

St Philip Neri loved the Eucharist so much that, even when he was gravely ill, he received Holy Communion every day, and if Jesus was not brought to him very early in the morning, he became very upset and could not find any rest. “I have such a desire to receive Jesus,” he exclaimed, “that I cannot have peace while I wait.”

The same happened within our own time with Padre Pio of Pietrelcina; for only holy obedience could make him wait until 4 or 5am to celebrate Mass. Truly, the love of God is a “devouring fire.” (Deut 4:24)

For the souls in Purgatory then, Holy Communion is one precious personal gift which they can receive from us. St Bonaventure made himself an apostle of this truth and spoke about it in vibrant tones: “O Christian souls, do you wish to prove your true love towards your dead? Do you wish to send them a most precious help and golden key to Heaven? Receive Holy Communion often for the repose of these souls.”

Holy Communion is indeed pure love of God and neighbour. It is the true “feast of love,” as St Gemma Galgani said. And in this “feast of love”, the soul in love can exult singing with St John of the Cross, “Mine are the heavens and mine is the earth. Mine are men; the just are mine and sinners are mine. The angels are mine, and also the Mother of God – all things are mine. God Himself is mine and for me, because Christ is mine and all for me.”

jesus giving communion

Holy Communion with Mary

Oh, how much it pleases Jesus to be received by a soul cleaned and clothed with His Divine Blood! And what affectionate delight He takes when such a soul is a chaste virgin! For, remarks St Albert the Great, “the Eucharist came from the Paradise of Virginity” and our Eucharistic Lord does not find such a paradise except in virginity. No one can repeat with the Spouse at the Canticles of Canticles, as can a virgin, at every Holy Communion, “All mine is my true Love, and I am all His; He goes out to pasture among the lilies… and address His love to me (Cant 2:16-17).”

One praiseworthy way of preparing for Holy Communion is to invoke the Immaculate Virgin, to count on her to enable us to receive Jesus with her humility, her purity, her love – praying rather she herself may come to receive Him in us .This pious practice is much recommended by the saints, in particular St Louis Grignon de Montfort, St Peter Eymard, St Alphonsus de Liguori, and St Maximilian Kolbe. “The best preparation for Holy Communion is that which is made with Mary,” wrote St Peter Eymard. A delightful illusion is given by St Therese of Lisieux, picturing her soul as a little three or four-year old girl whose hair and dress were in disarray, ashamed to present herself at the altar rail to receive Jesus. However she appeals to Our Lady and “immediately” the Saint writes, “the Virgin Mary occupies herself with me. She quickly replaces my dirty dress, ties up my hair with a pretty ribbon and enables me to take my place without embarrassment at the Banquet of angels.”

Thanksgiving after Holy Communion

The time of thanksgiving after Holy Communion is the most ideal time for an intimate exchange of love with Jesus. Let it be a love of total self-giving, thus returning Jesus’ love so wholeheartedly that there is no longer two of us but one, so to speak, in soul and body. Let it be a love that vivifies and unites – He in me and I in Him, so that we may be consumed in the unity and uniqueness of His Love.

St John wrote, “Blessed are they that are called to the wedding banquet of the Lamb (Rev 19:9). In truth, Eucharistic Communion rightly received, the soul realises, in a heavenly, virginal union, a nuptial love for the Spouse Jesus, to whom the soul can say with the most tender enthusiasm of the Bride in the Canticle of Canticles “Let Him kiss me with the kiss of His mouth.” (Cant 1:1)

Thanksgiving after Holy Communion is a small foretaste, while on earth, of the love which will be experienced in Paradise. In Heaven, in fact, how shall we love Jesus if not by being one with Him eternally? Dear Jesus, oh how I ought to thank You for every Holy Communion that You grant me! What a miracle of love to be so completely united with You, O Jesus!

At least a quarter of an hour

The saints, chose, when possible, to set no time limit on thanksgiving after Communion, which consequently might last for them at least half of an hour. St Teresa of Jesus told her daughters, “Let us entertain ourselves lovingly with Jesus and not waste the hour that follows Communion. It is an excellent time to deal with God and put before Him the matters that concern our soul. As we know that the good Jesus remains within us until our natural warmth has dissolved the breadlike qualities, we should take great care not to lose so beautiful an opportunity to treat with Him and lay our needs before Him.”

Editor’s note: This article is adapted from a chapter in Fr Stefano Manelli’s book Jesus: Our Eucharistic Love. Visit the Academy of the Immaculate website: academyoftheimmaculate.com

www.catholic.sg

The Church’s Book of Questions and Answers

The Art of the Compendium is a visual synthesis of our Faith

The images for the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church were chosen by Pope Benedict. Each work of art can be seen as a ‘window’ to the Christian mystery expressed in it. Anyone who spent time seeking to understand and appreciate these ‘windows’ would have a rich insight into the truths of the faith which it also sets out in the more matter-of-fact form of Questions and Answers. Subsequent to the opening icon of Jesus Christ depicted as Teacher and ‘Ruler of All’, the art of the Compendium presents a visual synthesis of the Faith of the Church which can be summarised like this:

Part 1: The Profession of Faith

The encounter between God and humankind in Christ (The Adoration of the Magi)
which was in the mind of God from the beginning (The Days of Creation)
culminated in the life-giving death of Jesus on the Cross (The Tree of Life).

Part 2: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery

This life-giving death is celebrated and made present through the ages in the Eucharist (Communion of the Apostles)through the agency of the Church (Mother of the Redeemer Mosaic)                                                                       and her Sacraments: (Seven Sacraments Triptych).

Part 3: Life in Christ

Through union with Christ in the Sacraments (Last Supper) we are able to live the life of Christ. 
We have as our model, Mary, the first and perfect disciple and mother and model of the Church (St John contemplating the immaculate Conception)                                                                                                                                and we have the law of Christ, set out for us most explicitly in the (Sermon on the Mount).

Part 4: Christian Prayer

So, united in the Holy Spirit through prayer (Icon of Pentecost),
to the mysteries of Christ through the Church’s Liturgy (Icon of the Main Liturgical Feasts),
and drawing upon the example of Jesus own prayer and the words he taught us (Jesus at Prayer in Gethsemane),
we are ready to fulfil the purpose for which we were created: to know love and serve God and each other and join in the cosmic hymn of praise (Angelic Singers).

Two other aspects of the Compendium which add to its interest and value are the extracts from the writings of the Saints which are interspersed through out the text and the collection of traditional prayers which conclude it.

Acknowledgements

All images in this unit are used with permission of the Vatican editors of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church excepting the following whose permission we acknowledge:

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp: Triptych of the Seven Sacraments Rogier Van der Weyden

The Toledo Museum of Art: Jesus At Prayer in Gethsemane El Greco
Br Lawrence Lew OP: Photograph of the Tree of Life apse mosaic San Clemente Rome
The Uffizi Gallery: The Adoration of the Magi Gentile Da Fabriano and The Sermon on the Mount Fra Angelico

www.resourcemelb.catholic.edu.au

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