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 Issues | Five Fundamentals | Holy Communion

Five Fundamentals of the Faith

by the Rev J.W.Hayes.

The Church Book Room 1924

Holy Communion - Biblical

The Fourth Fundamental of the Faith is The True Conception of Holy Communion.

Here again, “What saith the Scripture”?

Matt. 26,26-29 “As they were eating Jesus took bread and blessed it and brake it, and (gave it to His disciples and said ‘Take, eat, this is My body’; and He took the cup, and gave thanks and gave it to them saying: ‘Drink ye all of it; for this is My blood of the New Testament (covenant) which is shed for many for the remission of sins ; but I say unto you I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.’”

Mark 14, 22. “And as they did eat Jesus took bread and blessed and brake it, and gave it to them and said: ‘Take, eat, this is My body.’ And He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank of it, and He said unto them: ‘This is my blood of the New Testament (Covenant) which is shed for many.  Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of this fruit of the vine until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’”

Luke 22, 15. “And He said unto them ‘With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer. For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ And He took the cup, and gave thanks and said: ‘Take this and divide it among yourselves, for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the Vine until the kingdom of God shall come,' and He took bread and gave thanks and brake it, and gave unto them saying: ‘This is my body which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.’  Likewise also the cup after supper, saying: ‘This cup is the New Testament (Covenant) in My blood which is shed for you.’”

1 Cor. 10, 16. “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? For we being many are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread.”

1 Cor. 11, 23-26. “I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks He brake it, and said: ‘Take, eat, this is My body which is broken for you. This do in remembrance of me.’  After the same manner, He took the cup when He had supped, saying:’  This cup is the New Testament (Covenant) in My blood, this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Then St. Paul adds as a further explanation:- “For as oft as ye eat this bread and drink this cup ye do show the Lord's death, till He come.”

Here, in this four-fold and beautifully simple Bible description of the Institution of Holy Communion, we may note at least eight points. The Blessed Lord (a) instituted it at eventide (it must be kept in mind, however, that the Jewish Passover Feast was only held once a year, and as our Blessed Lord evidently intended that His newly instituted Holy Communion feast should be held more frequently than the Passover Feast, He revealed to St. Paul (1 Cor. 11, 23: “I have received of the Lord”) that the rite was not to be so confined as to time or place; hence the words: “ as oft as,” or “as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup” giving liberty as to the day and hour for the memorial sacrament); (b) after the two hours Paschal supper had almost ended; (c) no one was present who did not partake; (d) the contents of the cup bear the name “fruit of the Vine,” even after blessing ; (e) the Lord says He will drink this fruit of the Vine Himself on a subsequent occasion; (f) the bread was broken small, not given in wafer form (See The Didache); (g) the wine was delivered to each and indicated a pouring out or shedding; (h) and the ceremony was intended as a memorial of the Saviour's death for a limited time, viz.: “until He come.”

Bishop Wordsworth remarks, in connection with this account, that the word “broken” is “a warning against the error which feigns a carnal presence in the Holy Eucharist. If the bread being broken is really His flesh, and not the communion of His body, His body ought to have been broken, which it was not, and it ought to have been broken at that time; whereas it was not crucified till some hours afterwards.”  Moreover, the same argument may be used in reference to the cup. There can be no question but that the reference is to Ex. 24, 8, viz.: “Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you.”  The new covenant was put by Our Lord in contradistinction to the Mosaic covenant which was from that time, like the Paschal Lamb, superseded by something better, and all embracing in its range, like the institution itself.

I might mention that the two parts of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper (the bread and the wine) were never meant to be separated, or only one part administered to believers. This would have completely spoilt the symbolic teaching, and the doing so has given rise to a very gross superstition. It is as if the Jews of old had used only one bird instead of the two, ordered in the cleansing of the Leper. It will be remembered that the second bird was dipped in the blood of the one slain and then released, to signify the free and glorified humanity of the Saviour who was to come, and who was to bear the atoning blood within the veil. (Lev 14.1-7)

The distinctness of the body and the blood is of great importance to bear in mind, both parts being necessary in a symbolic sacrifice as far as the Jews were concerned.

The separation of soul and body at His death is a truth set forth in all the ancient Creeds. Our Lord alluded to it when He spoke of His body being broken, and of His blood being shed. Body and blood were separated in the death on the Cross the one from the other. No sacrifice under the Mosaic Law was offered to Jehovah in which the body and blood of the animal slain were not thus sundered. The flesh of the animal was consumed in the fire kindled on the altar, the blood was not poured upon the altar, but was poured out underneath it at its base. “Church and Faith,” p. 198.

This is the reason why St. John is so careful to mention the piercing of the Lord's side, and the shedding of His precious blood by the side of the Cross which was His altar as it were. (John 19, 34-35).

How then can we reconcile this simple, yet beautiful and spiritual rite instituted by Our Lord, with the complicated and ornate ceremony and superstition which has gathered around it during the dark ages, from which the Reformation happily delivered us, but which certain in our own Church strive, with much casuistry, to bring back again ; together with the doctrine of the Real Presence discarded by the Reformers, and the use of a foreign language, (viz., Latin), instead of English. As well might they use Hebrew, Greek or Erse, as far as the understanding of the people is concerned. The following account of part of the ceremonies with which Archbishop Laud consecrated Creed Church (the Church of St. Catherine Cree), when Bishop of London, on January 16th, 1630, was attested on oath by eye-witnesses before the Lords at the Archbishop's trial. (It is an extreme case, but will all the better illustrate the tendency of the Real Presence theory):-

“As he approached the Communion table, he bowed very near to the ground six or seven times ; and coming up to one of the corners of the table, he there bowed himself three times; then to the second, third, and fourth comers, bowing at each corner three times; but when he came to the side of the table where the bread and the wine were, he bowed himself seven times ; and then, after reading many prayers by himself and his two chaplains (they all this time on their knees by him, in their surplices, hoods, and tippets), he himself came near the Bread, which was cut and laid in a fine napkin, and then he gently lifted up one of the corners of the said napkin, and peeped into it, till he saw the bread, and presently he let it fall, and flew back a step or two, and then bowed very low three times towards it and the table ; when he beheld the bread, then he came near and opened again, and bowed as before. Next he laid his hand upon the gilt cup, which was full of wine, with a cover upon it.  So soon as he had pulled the cup a little nearer to him, he let the cup go, flew back, and bowed again three times towards it. He approached again, and lifting up the cover of the cup, peeped into it. Seeing the wine, he let fall the cover, flew nimbly back, and bowed as before. After these and many other gestures, he himself received, and then gave the Sacrament to several principal men, only they devoutly kneeling near the table.” Prynne's History of the Trial, etc., fol. Lond. 1646. p. 114. See also Cranmer on “The Lord's Supper” (Thyme) and the numerous vols. of  “The Parker Society” (Univ. Press, Camb.)

We will see what additional doctrines and ceremonies have been added even to the above by the Roman, Greek or Russian Churches, later on.

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