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Christianity

The Eucharist: various topics

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About the Eucharist:

The Eucharist is a.k.a. Mass, Lord's Supper, Liturgy, Holy Communion, Holy Mysteries, etc. The word is derived from the Greek word "eucharistian," which means to give thanks. It is a main ritual that almost all Christian faith groups have in common. Most believe that the sharing of bread and wine by Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) and his disciples just before his execution was intended by Yeshua to be replicated by his followers forever.

Two locations in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) where the sharing is described are:

bulletMattthew 26:26-29: "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the 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, 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 that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
bullet1 Corintiians 11:23b-26: "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 also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come."

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Policies:

Various Christian faith groups have different practices concerning the Eucharist:

bulletThe Religious Society of Friends (The Quakers), and the Salvation Army do not perform the ritual during their services. They believe that Yeshua performed the ritual at the time of the Last Supper, but did not expect Christians to repeat those activities subsequently.
bulletJehovah's Witnesses observe The Lord's Evening Meal or Memorial once per year on the 14th of Nisan according to the ancient Jewish calendar. This is approximately the same time as Jews observe their second Seder on the first day of Passover. Everyone, whether they identify themselves as Christian or not, are welcome to attend the Memorial. However,

"...only those in the new covenant—that is, those who have the hope of going to heaven—should partake of the bread and the wine. God’s holy spirit convinces such ones that they have been selected to be heavenly kings. (Romans 8:16) They are also in the Kingdom covenant with Jesus. (Luke 22:29)." 1

During 2006, of the over 16 million who attended the memorial of Christ's death, only 8,524 Witnesses were recorded as partaking of the bread and wine.

bulletThe vast majority of Christian faith groups observe the Eucharist in some form. Some restrict the ritual to church members only -- typically those who have been baptized and confirmed. Some allow adherents to partake of the ritual. Some allow members of other faith groups to join in. For example, the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches allow their members to join in the Eucharist in each other's churches. But Roman Catholics do not allow members of Protestant, Anglican and other non-Catholic denominations to partake, since they do not regard those groups as "churches in the proper sense." Other faith groups also reserve the Eucharist to their own followers and refuse permission to members of other denominations.

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Sharing the Eucharist among all Christians:"

A scandal within Christianity is the division of the religion into tens of thousands of denominations and faith groups who teach different beliefs, perform different practices, and often do not regard eacth other as legitimate Christians. One symbol of this division is that many denominations refuse the Eucharist to those from other faith groups.

Except perhaps for a few years between the execution of Yeshua of Nazareth (circa 30 CE) and the start of Paul's ministry (circa 36 CE), the Christian religion has never been unified.

bulletThroughout the second half of the first century CE,  the Christian religion was divided into three main main religious movements: the Gnostics, Jewish Christians, and Pauline Christians. The Jewish Christians, headed by James the "brother" 2 of Yeshua and including Peter among their leaders, were scattered by the Roman Army circa 70 CE. Gnostic Christians still survive today. All of the rest of today's Christian faith groups trace their history back to the Pauline Christian movement.
bulletCurrently, there are over 1,200 Christian denominations in North America. 3
bulletAccording to David Barrett et al, editors of the "World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200," there are 34,000 separate Christian groups in the world. 4

Various umbrella groups including the World Council of Churches (WCC), National Council of Churches of Christ (NCCC), the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), the Roman Catholic Church and tens of thousands of other Christian faith groups recognize the scandal of division and agree in principle that only the unity of Christianity would fulfill Yeshua's goal, as expressed in the Gospel of John:

John 17: 20-23: Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Some progress towards unity can be detected, although there is a long way to go.

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Hope of the World Council of Churches concerning a shared Eucharist:

On 2008-JAN-25, an interview with Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, the head of the World Council of Churches, was published in the front page of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. He promoted the concept of full sharing of the Eucharist among all denominations by the middle of this century.

Kobia is quoted as saying:

"My vision for the ecumenical movement is that by the mid-21st century we will have reached a level of unity such that Christians everywhere regardless of their confessional affiliations, can pray and worship together and feel welcome to share in the Lord's Table at every church. ... By this example, the church can help humanity to overcome all divisions and people of the world be able to live together in peace and harmony regardless of their backgrounds and identities. ... Ecumenical cooperation and the search for unity among the churches has definitely played a role in overcoming the heritage of two world wars and building peaceful relationships in Europe. ... Who would have thought at the beginning of the last century that only some decades later Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Reformed, Methodists, Baptists and churches of other traditions would be working together in the World Council of Churches? ... Surely, the Second Vatican Council was a watershed and opened the door to meaningful ecumenical co-operation between the Roman Catholic Church and many of the member churches of the WCC."

Maria Mackay of the Christian Post wrote:

"His comments preceded an important meeting with Pope Benedict on JAN-25, and an ecumenical prayer service on the same day to mark the end of the 100th annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. ..."

"Catholics, however, are skeptical that shared communion will become a reality any time soon. Despite Kobia’s article hitting the Vatican broadsheet’s front page, the Pope made no reference to it in his address, saying simply that he hoped Christian unity 'will be ever more fully realized in our time'." 5

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "What Does The Bible Really Teach?," Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, (2005), Page 207.
  2. Note: Christian faith groups differ concerning the relationship of James and Yeshua; most believe that they were full brothers; some say he was a step brother from Joseph's former marriage; others believe that he was a friend of the family or a cousin.
  3. J. Gordon Melton, Ed, "The Encyclopedia of American Religions," 6th edition, Gale Group, (1998). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

  4. David B. Barrett, et al., "World Christian Encyclopedia : A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the

  5. Maria Mackay, "Kobia Advocates Full Communion among All Denominations," Christian Post, 2008-JAN-27, at: http://www.christianpost.com/

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2008-JAN-29
Latest update: 2008-JAN-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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