The Eucharist /ˈjuːkərɪst/ (also called Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper, among others) is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches. According to the New Testament, It was instituted by Jesus Christ during His Last Supper. Giving His disciples bread and wine during the Passover meal, Jesus commanded His followers to "do this in memory of Me" while referring to the bread as "My Body" and the wine as "My Blood". Through the Eucharistic celebration Christians remember Christ's sacrifice of Himself on the cross.
- Breaking of Bread
- Sacrament or Blessed Sacrament
- Divine Liturgy
- Biblical basis
- Paul the Apostle and the Lords Supper
- Agape feast
- Early Christian sources
- Eucharistic theology
- Roman Catholic
- Eastern Christianity
- Mennonites and Anabaptists
- Open Brethren and Exclusive Brethren
- NondenominationalEvangelical Christians
- Seventh day Adventists
- Jehovahs Witnesses
- Latter day Saints
- Non observing denominations
- Open and closed communion
- Eastern Orthodox
- Protestant confessions
- Fear of transmission of diseases
The elements of the Eucharist, bread (leavened or unleavened) and wine (or grape juice), are consecrated on an altar (or Communion table) and consumed thereafter. Communicants (that is, those who consume the elements) may speak of "receiving the Eucharist", as well as "celebrating the Eucharist".
Christians generally recognize a special presence of Christ in this rite, though they differ about exactly how, where, and when Christ is present. While all agree that there is no perceptible change in the elements, Catholics believe that they actually become the body and blood of Christ. Others believe the true body and blood of Christ are really present in, with, and under the bread and wine which remain physically unchanged, others believe in a real but purely spiritual presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and still others take the act to be only a symbolic reenactment of the Last Supper. Some Protestants view the Eucharist as an ordinance in which the ceremony is seen not as a specific channel of divine grace, but as an expression of faith and of obedience to Christ.
In spite of differences between Christians about various aspects of the Eucharist, there is, according to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "more of a consensus among Christians about the meaning of the Eucharist than would appear from the confessional debates over the sacramental presence, the effects of the Eucharist, and the proper auspices under which it may be celebrated."
The Greek noun εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), meaning "thanksgiving", is not used in the New Testament as a name for the rite; however, the related verb is found in New Testament accounts of the Last Supper, including the earliest such account:
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". (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)The term "Eucharist" (thanksgiving) is that by which the rite is referred by the Didache (late 1st or early 2nd century), Ignatius of Antioch (who died between 98 and 117) and Justin Martyr (writing between 147 and 167). Today, "the Eucharist" is the name still used by Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Lutherans. Other Protestant denominations rarely use this term, preferring either "Communion", "the Lord's Supper", or "the Breaking of Bread".
The Lord's Supper, in Greek Κυριακὸν δεῖπνον (Kyriakon deipnon), was in use in the early 50s of the 1st century, as witnessed by the First Epistle to the Corinthians (11:20-21):
When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.
Those mentioned above in relation to the term "Eucharist" rarely use the expression "the Lord's Supper", but it is the predominant term among Baptist groups, who generally avoid using the term "Communion", and is preferred also by some evangelical Anglicans and Methodists.
Communion or Holy Communion are used by some groups originating in the Protestant Reformation to mean the entire Eucharistic rite. Others, such as the Catholic Church, do not use this term for the rite, but instead mean by it the act of partaking of the consecrated elements: they speak of receiving Holy Communion even outside of the rite, and of participating in the rite without receiving Holy Communion. The term "Communion" is derived from Latin communio ("sharing in common"), which translates Greek κοινωνία (koinōnía) in 1 Corinthians 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?.
Breaking of Bread
The phrase (Greek: του κλασαι αρτον) appears five times in the New Testament (Luke 24:35; Acts 2:42, 2:46, 20:7 and 20:11) in contexts which, according to some, refer to celebration of the Eucharist. It is the term used by the Plymouth Brethren.
Sacrament or Blessed Sacrament
The "Blessed Sacrament" and the "Blessed Sacrament of the Altar" are common terms used by Catholics, Lutherans and some Anglicans (Anglo-Catholicism) for the consecrated elements, especially when reserved in a tabernacle. "Sacrament of the Altar" is in common use also among Lutherans. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the term "The Sacrament" is used of the rite.
Mass is used in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, some Anglicans (Anglo-Catholicism), the Church of Sweden, the Church of Norway, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, and some other forms of Western Christianity. Among the many other terms used in the Catholic Church are "Holy Mass", "the Memorial of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord", the "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass", and the "Holy Mysteries". The term "Mass" is probably derived from the fact that the Roman rite celebrates the Eucharist with unleavened bread (in Hebrew: matzah). This explains why the Eastern Catholic Liturgies are never referred to as the "Mass". Eastern rite Liturgies are celebrated with leavened bread. Although the prevailing theory is that it is derived from the Latin word missa (dismissal), a word used in the concluding formula of Mass in Latin: Ite, missa est ("Go; it is the dismissal"). The reverse is probably more likely. The word 'dismissal' probably came about because the Mass signaled the time for the Catechumens to leave. Thus, the term "Misa" came to imply a 'mission', because at the end of the Mass the congregation are sent out to serve Christ.
The term Divine Liturgy is used in Byzantine Rite traditions, whether in the Eastern Orthodox Church or among the Eastern Catholic Churches. These also speak of "the Divine Mysteries", especially in reference to the consecrated elements, which they also call "the Holy Gifts".
The Last Supper appears in all three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It also is found in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, which suggests how early Christians celebrated what Paul the Apostle called the Lord's Supper. Although the Gospel of John does not reference the Last Supper explicitly, some argue that it contains theological allusions to the early Christian celebration of the Eucharist, especially in the chapter 6 Bread of Life Discourse but also in other passages.
Paul the Apostle and the Lord's Supper
In his First Epistle to the Corinthians (c. 54-55), Paul the Apostle gives the earliest recorded description of Jesus' Last Supper: "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 he took the cup also, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'".[1 Cor. 11:23-25] Those interested might note that the Greek word for remembrance is ἀνάμνησιν or "anamnesis," which itself has a much richer theological history than the English word for "remember." The liturgical setting of the passage (a pastoral letter to an early Christian congregation) implies that Paul is referencing an already-present eucharistic-type practice among early believers. If this is true, it should also be kept in mind as contextual background to the later Gospel accounts (below).
The synoptic gospels, Mark 14:22-25, Matthew 26:26-29, Luke 22:13-20, depict Jesus as presiding over the Last Supper. The versions in Matthew and Mark are almost identical; but Luke's Gospel presents a textual problem in that a few manuscripts omit the second half of verse 19 and all of v.20 ("given for you … poured out for you"), which are found in the vast majority of ancient witnesses to the text. If the shorter text is the original one, then Luke's account is independent of both that of Paul and that of Matthew/Mark. If the majority longer text comes from the author of the third gospel then his version is very similar to that of Paul in 1 Corinthians, being somewhat fuller in its description of the early part of the Supper, particularly in making specific mention of a cup being blessed before the bread was broken.
Uniquely, in the one prayer given to posterity by Jesus, the Lord's Prayer, the word epiousios — which does not exist in Classical Greek literature — has been interpreted as meaning to mean "super-substantial," and most literally interpreted as a reference to the Bread of Life, the Eucharist.
In the gospel of John, however, the account of the Last Supper does not mention Jesus taking bread and "the cup" and speaking of them as his body and blood; instead, it recounts other events: his humble act of washing the disciples' feet, the prophecy of the betrayal, which set in motion the events that would lead to the cross, and his long discourse in response to some questions posed by his followers, in which he went on to speak of the importance of the unity of the disciples with him and each other. In John 6:26-65, the evangelist attributes a long discourse to Jesus that deals with the subject of the living bread and in verses 52-59 contains echoes of Eucharistic language. The interpretation of the whole passage has been extensively debated due to theological and scholarly disagreements. Sir Edwyn Hoskyns notes three main schools of thought: (a) the language is metaphorical, and verse 63: "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life" gives the author's precise meaning; (b) vv 51-58 are a later interpolation that cannot be harmonized with the context; (c) the discourse is homogeneous, sacrificial, and sacramental and can be harmonized, though not all attempts are satisfactory.
The expression The Lord's Supper, derived from St. Paul's usage in 1 Cor. 11:17-34, may have originally referred to the Agape feast (or love feast), the shared communal meal with which the Eucharist was originally associated. The Agape feast is mentioned in Jude 12. But The Lord's Supper is now commonly used in reference to a celebration involving no food other than the sacramental bread and wine.
Early Christian sources
The Didache (Greek: teaching) is an early Church treatise that includes instructions for Baptism and the Eucharist. Most scholars date it to the late 1st century, and distinguish in it two separate Eucharistic traditions, the earlier tradition in chapter 10 and the later one preceding it in chapter 9. The Eucharist is mentioned again in chapter 14.
Ignatius of Antioch (born c. 35 or 50, died between 98 and 117), one of the Apostolic Fathers, mentions the Eucharist as "the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ", and Justin Martyr speaks of it as more than a meal: "the food over which the prayer of thanksgiving, the word received from Christ, has been said ... is the flesh and blood of this Jesus who became flesh ... and the deacons carry some to those who are absent."
Many Christian denominations classify the Eucharist as a sacrament. Some Protestants (though not all) prefer to instead call it an ordinance, viewing it not as a specific channel of divine grace but as an expression of faith and of obedience to Christ.
Most Christians, even those who deny that there is any real change in the elements used, recognize a special presence of Christ in this rite. But Christians differ about exactly how, where and how long Christ is present in it. Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and the Church of the East teach that the reality (the "substance") of the elements of bread and wine is wholly changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, while the appearances (the "species") remain. Transubstantiation (change of the reality) is the term used by Catholics to denote what is changed, not to explain how the change occurs, since the Catholic Church teaches that "the signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ". Lutherans and Reformed Christians believe that the whole Christ, including the body and blood of Jesus, are present in the supper, a concept known as the sacramental union. Lutherans specify that Christ is "in, with and under" the forms of bread and wine. Anglicans adhere to a range of views although the teaching on the matter in the Articles of Religion holds that body of Christ is present, yet only in a heavenly and spiritual manner. Some Christians reject the concept of the real presence, believing that the Eucharist is only a ceremonial remembrance or memorial of the death of Christ.
The Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document of the World Council of Churches, attempting to present the common understanding of the Eucharist on the part of the generality of Christians, describes it as "essentially the sacrament of the gift which God makes to us in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit", "Thanksgiving to the Father", "Anamnesis or Memorial of Christ", "the sacrament of the unique sacrifice of Christ, who ever lives to make intercession for us", "the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, the sacrament of his real presence", "Invocation of the Spirit", "Communion of the Faithful", and "Meal of the Kingdom".
The Catholic Church teaches that once consecrated in the Eucharist, the elements cease to be bread and wine and become the "Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity" of Christ, "whole and entire" indeed under the species of bread, and of wine, via a conversion called transubstantiation. Each of which is accompanied by the other and by Christ's soul and divinity, as long as the Eucharistic species subsist, that is, until the Eucharist is digested, physically destroyed, or decays by some natural process (at which point Aquinas argued that the substance of the bread and wine cannot return). The empirical appearance and physical properties (called the species or accidents) are not changed, but in the view of Catholics, the reality (called the substance) indeed is; hence the term transubstantiation to describe the phenomenon. The consecration of the bread (known as the Host) and wine represents the separation of Jesus' Body from his Blood at Calvary. However, since he has risen, the Church teaches that his Body and Blood can no longer be truly separated. Where one is, the other must be. Therefore, although the priest (or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion) says "The Body of Christ" when administering the Host and "The Blood of Christ" when presenting the chalice, the communicant who receives either one receives Christ, whole and entire.
The Catholic Church sees as the main basis for this belief the words of Jesus himself at his Last Supper: the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20) and Saint Paul's 1 Cor. 11:23-25) recount that in that context Jesus said of what to all appearances were bread and wine: "This is my body … this is my blood." The Catholic understanding of these words, from the Patristic authors onward, has emphasized their roots in the covenantal history of the Old Testament. The interpretation of Christ's words against this Old Testament background coheres with and supports belief in the Real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
In 1551, the Council of Trent definitively declared, "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread,[Jn. 6:51] it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation." The Fourth Council of the Lateran in 1215 had spoken of "Jesus Christ, whose body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the forms of bread and wine, the bread being changed (transsubstantiatis) by divine power into the body and the wine into the blood." The attempt by some twentieth-century Catholic theologians to present the Eucharistic change as an alteration of significance (transignification rather than transubstantiation) was rejected by Pope Paul VI in his 1965 encyclical letter Mysterium fidei. In his 1968 Credo of the People of God, he reiterated that any theological explanation of the doctrine must hold to the twofold claim that, after the consecration, 1) Christ's body and blood are really present; and 2) bread and wine are really absent; and this presence and absence is real and not merely something in the mind of the believer.
On entering a church, Latin Church Catholics genuflect to the tabernacle that holds the consecrated host in order to respectfully acknowledge the presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, a presence to which a votive candle or sanctuary lamp kept burning close to such a tabernacle draws attention.
Within Eastern Christianity, the Eucharistic service is called the Divine Liturgy (Byzantine Rite) or similar names in other rites. It comprises two main divisions: the first is the Liturgy of the Catechumens which consists of introductory litanies, antiphons and scripture readings, culminating in a reading from one of the Gospels and, often, a homily; the second is the Liturgy of the Faithful in which the Eucharist is offered, consecrated, and received as Holy Communion. Within the latter, the actual Eucharistic prayer is called the anaphora, literally: "offering" or "carrying up" (ἀνα- + φέρω). In the Rite of Constantinople, two different anaphoras are currently used: one is attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, the other to Saint Basil the Great. In the Oriental Orthodox Church, a variety of anaphoras are used, but all are similar in structure to those of the Constantinopolitan Rite, in which the Anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom is used most days of the year; Saint Basil's is offered on the Sundays of Great Lent, the eves of Christmas and Theophany, Holy Thursday, Holy Saturday, and upon his feast day (1 January). At the conclusion of the Anaphora the bread and wine are held to be the Body and Blood of Christ. Unlike the Latin Church, the Byzantine Rite uses leavened bread, with the leaven symbolizing the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Armenian Apostolic Church, like the Latin Church, uses unleavened bread.
Conventionally this change in the elements is understood to be accomplished at the Epiclesis (Greek: "invocation") by which the Holy Spirit is invoked and the consecration of the bread and wine as the true and genuine Body and Blood of Christ is specifically requested, but since the anaphora as a whole is considered a unitary (albeit lengthy) prayer, no one moment within it can be readily singled out.
Anglican eucharistic theology, unlike in many Protestant traditions, is not memorialist (the belief that nothing special happens at the Lord's Supper other than devotional reflection on Christ's death). Rejection of doctrines of change in the bread and wine does not imply that Anglicanism rejected the doctrine of the real presence which is repeatedly asserted and referred to in various ways in the editions of the Book of Common Prayer from 1559. It is assumed that the Christ is present, either as the real presence, truly and essentially present, pneumatically present, or that the bread and wine are outward symbols of an inward grace conferred on the faithful, all of which can in typical Anglican fashion be subscribed to at the same time as having something to offer: partaking of Christ by faith takes precedence over any theory of presence.
In most parishes of the Anglican Communion, the Eucharist is celebrated every Sunday, having replaced Morning Prayer as the principal service. The rites for the Eucharist are found in the various prayer books of the Anglican churches. Wine and unleavened wafers or leavened bread is used. Daily celebrations are the norm in many cathedrals and parish churches typically offer one or more Eucharists during the week. Only a small percentage of parishes with a priest do not celebrate the Eucharist at least once each Sunday. The nature of the liturgy, however, varies according to the theological tradition of the priests, parishes, dioceses and regional churches.
The bread and "fruit of the vine" indicated in Matthew, Mark and Luke as the elements of the Lord's Supper are interpreted by many Baptists as unleavened bread (although leavened bread is often used) and, in line with the historical stance of some Baptist groups (since the mid-19th century) against partaking of alcoholic beverages, grape juice, which they commonly refer to simply as "the Cup". The unleavened bread also underscores the symbolic belief attributed to Christ's breaking the bread and saying that it was his body. A soda cracker is often used.
Most Baptists do not consider the Communion or its elements to be sacramental; rather, it is considered to be an act of remembrance of Christ's atonement, and a time of renewal of personal commitment.
However, with the rise of confessionalism, many Baptists have denied memorialism as a 19th-century doctrinal novelty, and have taken up a Reformed view of Communion. Confessional Baptists believe in pneumatic presence, which is expressed in the Second London Baptist Confession, specifically in Chapter 30, Articles 3 and 7. This view is prevalent among Southern Baptists, those in the Founders movement (a Calvinistic movement within the some Independent Baptists, Freewill Baptists, and several individuals in other Baptist associations.
Communion practices and frequency vary among congregations. A typical practice is to have small cups of juice and plates of broken bread distributed to the seated congregation. In other congregations, communicants may proceed to the altar to receive the elements, then return to their seats. A widely accepted practice is for all to receive and hold the elements until everyone is served, then consume the bread and cup in unison. Usually, music is performed and Scripture is read during the receiving of the elements.
Some Baptist churches are closed-Communionists (even requiring full membership in the church before partaking), with others being partially or fully open-Communionists. It is rare to find a Baptist church where The Lord's Supper is observed every Sunday; most observe monthly or quarterly, with some holding Communion only during a designated Communion service or following a worship service. Adults and children in attendance, who have not made a profession of faith in Christ, are expected to not participate.
Lutherans believe that the body and blood of Christ are "truly and substantially present in, with, and under the forms" of the consecrated bread and wine (the elements), so that communicants eat and drink the body and blood of Christ himself as well as the bread and wine in this sacrament. The Lutheran doctrine of the Real Presence is more accurately and formally known as the "sacramental union". It has been inaccurately called "consubstantiation". This term is specifically rejected by Lutheran churches and theologians since it creates confusion about the actual doctrine and subjects the doctrine to the control of a non-biblical philosophical concept in the same manner as, in their view, does the term "transubstantiation".
While an official movement exists in Lutheran congregations to celebrate Eucharist weekly, using formal rites very similar to the Catholic and "high" Anglican services, it was historically common for congregations to celebrate monthly or even quarterly. Even in congregations where Eucharist is offered weekly, there is not a requirement that every church service be a Eucharistic service, nor that all members of a congregation must receive it weekly.
Mennonites and Anabaptists
Traditional Mennonite and German Baptist Brethren Churches such as the Church of the Brethren churches and congregations have the Agape Meal, footwashing and the serving of the bread and wine two parts to the Communion service in the Lovefeast. In the more modern groups, Communion is only the serving of the Lord's Supper. In the communion meal, the members of the Mennonite churches renew their covenant with God and with each other.
Open Brethren and Exclusive Brethren
Among Open assemblies, also termed Plymouth Brethren, the Eucharist is more commonly called the Breaking of Bread or the Lord's Supper. It is seen as a symbolic memorial and entirely non-sacramental and central to the worship of both individual and assembly. In principle, the service is open to all baptized Christians, but an individual's eligibility to participate depends on the views of each particular assembly. The service takes the form of non-liturgical, open worship with all male participants allowed to pray audibly and select hymns or readings. The breaking of bread itself typically consists of one leavened loaf, which is prayed over and broken by a participant in the meeting and then shared around. The wine is poured from a single container into one or several vessels, and these are again shared around.
The Exclusive Brethren follow a similar practice to the Open Brethren. They also call the Eucharist the Breaking of Bread or the Lord's Supper.
In the Reformed Churches the Eucharist is variously administered. The Calvinist view of the Sacrament sees a real presence of Christ in the supper which differs both from the objective ontological presence of the Catholic view, and from the real absence of Christ and the mental recollection of the memorialism of the Zwinglians and their successors.
The bread and wine become the means by which the believer has real communion with Christ in his death and Christ's body and blood are present to the faith of the believer as really as the bread and wine are present to their senses but this presence is "spiritual", that is the work of the Holy Spirit. There is no standard frequency; John Calvin desired weekly communion, but the city council only approved monthly, and monthly celebration has become the most common practice in Reformed churches today.
Many, on the other hand, follow John Knox in celebration of the Lord's supper on a quarterly basis, to give proper time for reflection and inward consideration of one's own state and sin. Recently, Presbyterian and Reformed Churches have been considering whether to restore more frequent communion, including weekly communion in more churches, considering that infrequent communion was derived from a memorialist view of the Lord's Supper, rather than Calvin's view of the sacrament as a means of grace. Some churches use bread without any raising agent (whether leaven or yeast), in view of the use of unleavened bread at Jewish Passover meals, while others use any bread available.
The Presbyterian Church (USA), for instance, prescribes "bread common to the culture". Harking back to the regulative principle of worship, the Reformed tradition had long eschewed coming forward to receive communion, preferring to have the elements distributed throughout the congregation by the presbyters (elders) more in the style of a shared meal. Wine and grape juice are both used, depending on the congregation.
Openness ranges between open communion (any believer may participate, e.g. the PCUSA) to closed (only members of the denomination may partake). Most Reformed churches would practice a balance between these, i.e., all believers who are united to a church of like faith and practice, and who are not living in sin, would be allowed to join in the Sacrament, sometimes with a requirement of pastoral or elder approval.
The Catechism for the use of the people called Methodists states that, "[in the Eucharist] Jesus Christ is present with his worshipping people and gives himself to them as their Lord and Saviour". Methodist theology of this sacrament is reflected in one of the fathers of the movement, Charles Wesley, who wrote a Eucharistic hymn with the following stanza:We need not now go up to Heaven, To bring the long sought Saviour down; Thou art to all already given, Thou dost e’en now Thy banquet crown: To every faithful soul appear, And show Thy real presence here!
In the United Methodist church grape juice is used instead of wine to include those who do not take alcohol for any reason. Variations of the Eucharistic Prayer are provided for various occasions, including communion of the sick and brief forms for occasions that call for greater brevity. Though the ritual is standardized, there is great variation amongst United Methodist churches, from typically high-church to low-church, in the enactment and style of celebration. Methodist clergy are not required to be vested when celebrating the Eucharist, though the alb and stole is common.
John Wesley, a founder of Methodism, said that it was the duty of Christians to receive the sacrament as often as possible. Methodists in the United States are encouraged to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday, though it is typically celebrated on the first Sunday of each month, while a few go as long as celebrating quarterly (a tradition dating back to the days of circuit riders that served multiple churches). Communicants may receive standing, kneeling, or while seated. Gaining more wide acceptance is the practice of receiving by intinction (receiving a piece of consecrated bread or wafer, dipping it in the blessed wine, and consuming it). The most common alternative to intinction is for the communicants to receive the consecrated juice using small, individual, specially made glass or plastic cups known as communion cups. United Methodists practice open communion, inviting "all who intend a Christian life, together with their children" to receive Communion.
Many non-denominational Christians, including the Churches of Christ, receive communion every Sunday. Others, including Evangelical churches such as the Church of God, Calvary Chapel, and many forms of Baptist, typically receive communion on a monthly or periodic basis. Many non-denominational Christians hold to the Biblical autonomy of local churches and have no universal requirement among congregations.
The Churches of Christ, among others, use grape juice and unleavened wafers or unleavened bread and practice open communion.
Holy Qurbana or Qurbana Qadisha, the "Holy Offering" or "Holy Sacrifice", refers to the Eucharist as celebrated according to the East Syrian and West Syrian traditions of Syriac Christianity. The main Anaphora of the East Syrian tradition is the Holy Qurbana of Addai and Mari, while that of the West Syrian tradition is the Liturgy of Saint James. Both are extremely old, going back at least to the third century, and are the oldest extant liturgies continually in use.
In the Seventh-day Adventist Church the Holy Communion service customarily is celebrated once per quarter. The service includes the ordinance of footwashing and the Lord's Supper. Unleavened bread and unfermented (non-alcoholic) grape juice is used. Open communion is practised: all who have committed their lives to the Saviour may participate. The communion service must be conducted by an ordained pastor, minister or church elder.
Jehovah's Witnesses commemorate Christ's death as a ransom or propitiatory sacrifice by observing a Memorial annually on the evening that corresponds to the Passover, Nisan 14, according to the ancient Jewish calendar. They believe that this is the only annual religious observance commanded for Christians in the Bible.
Of those who attend the Memorial a small minority worldwide partake of the wine and unleavened bread. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that only 144,000 people will receive heavenly salvation and immortal life and thus spend eternity with God and Christ in heaven, as under-priests and co-rulers under Christ the King and High Priest, in Jehovah's Kingdom. Paralleling the anointing of kings and priests, they are referred to as the "anointed" class and are the only ones who should partake of the bread and wine. They believe that the "other sheep" of Christ's flock also benefit from the ransom sacrifice, and are respectful observers of the Lord's Supper Remembrance, with hope of receiving everlasting life in Paradise restored on a "New Earth".
The Memorial, held after sundown, includes a sermon on the meaning and importance of the celebration and gathering, and includes the circulation and viewing among the audience of unadulterated red wine and unleavened bread (matzo). Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the bread symbolizes and represents Jesus Christ's perfect body which he gave on behalf of mankind, and that the wine represents his perfect blood which redeems fallen man from inherited sin and death. The wine and the bread (sometimes referred to as "emblems") are viewed as symbolic and commemorative; the Witnesses do not believe in transubstantiation or consubstantiation; so not a literal presence of flesh and blood in the emblems, but that the emblems are simply symbolisms denoting spiritual realities.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the "Holy Sacrament of the Lord's Supper", more simply referred to as the Sacrament, is administered every Sunday (except General Conference or other special Sunday meeting) in each LDS Ward or branch worldwide at the beginning of Sacrament meeting. The Sacrament, which consists of both ordinary bread and water (rather than wine or grape juice), is prepared by priesthood holders prior to the beginning of the meeting. At the beginning of the Sacrament, priests say specific prayers to bless the bread and water. The Sacrament is passed row-by-row to the congregation by priesthood holders (typically deacons).
The prayer recited for the bread and the water is found in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants.
While the Salvation Army does not reject the Eucharistic practices of other churches or deny that their members truly receive grace through this sacrament, it does not practice the sacraments of Communion or baptism. This is because they believe that these are unnecessary for the living of a Christian life, and because in the opinion of Salvation Army founders William and Catherine Booth, the sacrament placed too much stress on outward ritual and too little on inward spiritual conversion.
Emphasizing the inward spiritual experience of their adherents over any outward ritual, Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends) generally do not baptize or observe Communion.
Open and closed communion
Christian denominations differ in their understanding of whether they may receive the Eucharist with those with whom they are not in full communion. The famed apologist St. Justin Martyr (c. 150) wrote: "No one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true...." For the first several hundred years, non-members were forbidden even to be present at the sacramental ritual; visitors and catechumens (those still undergoing instruction) were dismissed halfway through the Liturgy, after the Bible readings and sermon but before the Eucharistic rite. This ancient custom is still evident in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, where the Mass is divided into two parts; the Mass of the Catechumens, and the Mass of the Faithful. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, used in the Byzantine Rite, still has a formula of dismissal of catechumens (not usually followed by any action) at this point.
Churches such as the Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Churches practice closed communion under normal circumstances. However, the Catholic Church allows administration of the Eucharist, at their spontaneous request, to properly disposed members of the eastern churches (Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Church of the East) not in full communion with it and of other churches that the Holy See judges to be sacramentally in the same position as these churches; and in grave and pressing need, such as danger of death, it allows the Eucharist to be administered also to individuals who do not belong to these churches but who share the Catholic Church's faith in the reality of the Eucharist and have no access to a minister of their own community. Some Protestant communities exclude non-members from Communion.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) practices open communion, provided those who receive are baptized, but the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) practice closed communion, excluding non-members and requiring communicants to have been given catechetical instruction. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Evangelical Church in Germany, the Church of Sweden, and many other Lutheran churches outside of the US also practice open communion. Some use the term "close communion" for restriction to members of the same denomination, and "closed communion" for restriction to members of the local congregation alone.
Most Protestant communities (including Congregational churches, the Church of the Nazarene, the Assemblies of God, Methodists, most Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Churches of Christ and other non-denominational churches practice various forms of open communion. Some churches do not limit it to only members of the congregation, but to any person in attendance (regardless of Christian affiliation) who considers himself/herself to be a Christian. Others require that the communicant be a baptized person, or a member of a church of that denomination or a denomination of "like faith and practice". Some Progressive Christian congregations offer communion to any individual who wishes to commemorate the life and teachings of Christ, regardless of religious affiliation.
In the Episcopal Church (United States), those who do not receive Holy Communion may enter the communion line with their arms crossed over their chest, in order to receive a blessing from the priest, instead of receiving Holy Communion. This practice is also used in the Roman Catholic church at funeral masses, where attendees frequently include non-Catholics.
Most Latter-Day Saint churches practice closed communion; one notable exception is the Community of Christ, the second-largest denomination in this movement. While The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the largest of the LDS denominations) technically practice a closed communion, their official direction to local Church leaders (in Handbook 2, section 20.4.1, last paragraph) is as follows: "Although the sacrament is for Church members, the bishopric should not announce that it will be passed to members only, and nothing should be done to prevent nonmembers from partaking of it."
The Catholic Church requires its members to receive the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation before taking Communion if they are aware of having committed a mortal sin and to prepare by fasting, prayer, and other works of piety.
Traditionally, the Eastern Orthodox church has required its members to have observed all church-appointed fasts (most weeks, this will be at least Wednesday and Friday) for the week prior to partaking of communion, and to fast from all food and water from midnight the night before. In addition, Orthodox Christians are to have made a recent confession to their priest (the frequency varying with one's particular priest), and they must be at peace with all others, meaning that they hold no grudges or anger against anyone. In addition, one is expected to attend Vespers or the All-Night Vigil, if offered, on the night before receiving communion. Furthermore, various pre-communion prayers have been composed, which many (but not all) Orthodox churches require or at least strongly encourage members to say privately before coming to the Eucharist.
Many Protestant congregations generally reserve a period of time for self-examination and private, silent confession just before partaking in the Lord's Supper.
Seventh-day Adventists, Mennonites, and some other groups participate in "foot washing" (cf. John 13:3-17) as a preparation for partaking in the Lord's Supper. At that time they are to individually examine themselves, and confess any sins they may have between one and another.
Eucharistic adoration is a practice in the Roman Catholic, Anglo-Catholic and some Lutheran traditions, in which the Blessed Sacrament is exposed to and adored by the faithful. When this exposure and adoration is constant (twenty-four hours a day), it is called Perpetual Adoration. In a parish, this is usually done by volunteer parishioners; in a monastery or convent, it is done by the resident monks or nuns. In the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist is displayed in a monstrance, typically placed on an altar, at times with a light focused on it, or with candles flanking it.
The gluten in wheat bread is dangerous to people with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders, such as non-celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat allergy. For the Catholic Church, this issue was addressed in the 24 July 2003 letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which summarized and clarified earlier declarations. The Catholic Church believes that the matter for the Eucharist must be wheaten bread and fermented wine from grapes: it holds that, if the gluten has been entirely removed, the result is not true wheaten bread, For celiacs, but not generally, it allows low-gluten bread. It also permits Holy Communion to be received under the form of either bread or wine alone, except by a priest who is celebrating Mass without other priests or as principal celebrant. Many Protestant churches offer communicants gluten-free alternatives to wheaten bread, usually in the form of a rice-based cracker or gluten-free bread.
The Catholic Church believes that grape juice that has not begun even minimally to ferment cannot be accepted as wine, which it sees as essential for celebration of the Eucharist. For alcoholics, but not generally, it allows the use of mustum (grape juice in which fermentation has begun but has been suspended without altering the nature of the juice), and it holds that "since Christ is sacramentally present under each of the species, communion under the species of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. For pastoral reasons, this manner of receiving communion has been legitimately established as the most common form in the Latin rite."
As already indicated, the one exception is in the case of a priest celebrating Mass without other priests or as principal celebrant. The water that in the Latin Church is prescribed to be mixed with the wine must be only a relatively small quantity. The practice of the Coptic Church is that the mixture should be two parts wine to one part water.
Many Protestant churches allow clergy and communicants to take mustum instead of wine. In addition to, or in replacement of wine, some churches offer grape juice which has been pasteurized to stop the fermentation process the juice naturally undergoes; de-alcoholized wine from which most of the alcohol has been removed (between 0.5% and 2% remains); or water. Exclusive use of unfermented grape juice is common in Baptist churches, the United Methodist Church, Seventh-day Adventists, Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Churches of Christ, Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) some Lutherans, Assemblies of God, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, the Christian Missionary Alliance, and other American independent Protestant churches.,
Fear of transmission of diseases
Risk of infectious disease transmission related to use of a common communion cup is low, to the point of being undetectable. No case of transmission of an infectious disease related to a common communion cup has ever been documented. The most likely diseases to be transmitted would be common viral illnesses such as the common cold, but a study of 681 individuals found that taking communion up to daily from a common cup did not increase the risk of infection beyond that of those who did not attend services at all.
In influenza epidemics, some churches suspend the giving of communion under the form of wine, for fear of spreading the disease. This is in full accord with Catholic Church belief that communion under the form of bread alone makes it possible to receive all the fruit of Eucharistic grace. However, the same measure has also been taken by churches that normally insist on the importance of receiving communion under both forms. This was done in 2009 by the Church of England.
Some fear contagion through the handling involved in distributing the hosts to the communicants, even if they are placed on the hand rather than on the tongue. Accordingly, some churches use mechanical wafer dispensers or "pillow packs" (communion wafers with wine inside them). While these methods of distributing communion are not accepted in Catholic Church parishes, one such church provides a mechanical dispenser to allow those intending to communicate to place in a bowl, without touching them by hand, the hosts for use in the celebration.