Summary: The Church teaches that the Lord’s Day is hallowed by the celebration of Eucharist, and reception of Holy Communion.
Thursday of Easter Week 2018
Was it the way in which Jesus broke the bread and gave the cup? Was it more likely that when He did so, He said, “this is my body; this is my blood”? Whatever it was that made them recognize Jesus in the breaking of bread, the Church has not at any time failed to do that, to see Christ in the breaking of the bread, the sharing of the chalice of salvation.
Oh, what a forty-day bible study followed that moment in time, when the Teacher Himself led the eleven remaining apostles and the other men and women disciples on a prayerful review of the Tanach, Torah, the nabi, or prophets, and the wisdom books. In each there are prophecies of the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, the King of David’s line. He showed them that in the psalms God says “You are my Son; this day I have begotten You.” And in another psalm, David spoke of the Lord saying to David’s Lord, “Ask and I shall bequeath to you the nations.” Over and over they saw the fulfillment of every prophecy in their Lord, their Christ, their Jesus.
Weeks later, as the story in Acts relates, Peter and John invoked the name of Jesus to heal a cripple, just as Jesus had done in His ministry. Peter begins his sermon by accusing the onlookers of complicity in the murder of the “author of life,” but he tells them that they acted in ignorance, and makes them a promise, “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness.” This is the promise, that we who are sinners can have confidence in the forgiveness, and healing, and energizing that comes from faith in Christ. It is a faith that is centered in His Eucharistic presence that we share in communion this day.
The Church teaches that the Lord’s Day is hallowed by the celebration of Eucharist, and reception of Holy Communion. Moreover, frequent, even daily reception of communion is recommended as the prime means of being one with Christ sacramentally, and of receiving the grace we need to image Christ in the world. I can affirm that when I have been able to communicate daily, my journey with and in Christ has been closer, and my failings less frequent. The Church’s teaching, then, becomes my personal witness.
As we consider, however, the approach of other ecclesial communions, especially our Protestant brethren, the doctrine of the Eucharist shows not the unity Christ prayed for, but the fragmentation He decried. That is because the whole notion of Church, of sacrament, of the authority of Church and Scripture is all over the place. We teach that the Church is a visible communion of humans on the path to being saints: sinners hoping for and becoming saints. Most others teach that the Church is invisible, its members known to God alone. We teach a ministerial priesthood, without which only two sacraments remain–baptism and matrimony. We teach the real, substantial and enduring presence of Christ under the forms of bread and wine. We are alone in that. Lutherans believe that Christ is present, but that bread is not absent. Most other Protestants hold to Zwingli’s doctrine, or something like it, that the elements only signify the body and blood of Christ.
And underneath all of it is what we believe about the Scriptures. We believe that the Bible is the Church’s book, and that it is inspired by God, as a critical part of God’s self-revelation. But as the Bible came from the oral tradition of the apostles, so there are elements of that tradition, like Mary’s Assumption and Immaculate Conception, that are not in the Bible. The Bible does not tell us everything we need to know. Only Christ can do that, and through the Church He has done and is doing that in every age. So as we celebrate for another day Christ’s Resurrection and enduring presence, let’s listen and read and discuss and proclaim His Truth to all we meet.