Summary: an explanation of the Episcopal Eucharistic rite
WHAT IS THE EUCHARIST?
Let’s start with fundamentals – the Episcopalians call communion ‘Eucharist’, but they are the same thing. It is a remembrance of the meal that Jesus had with his disciples on Maundy Thursday – what Christians call ‘The Last Supper’.
Eucharist is a reenactment of the Last Supper according to Jesus' instruction in Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:17-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:23–25. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles and many of Apostle Paul’s letters show that the early Christians followers believed these institutions included a mandate to continue the celebration as an anticipation in this life of the joys of the banquet that was to come in the Kingdom of God.
The Episcopal Church regards the Eucharist as a memorial of Christ’s death and passion until He comes again. This does not mean to say that the consecrated bread and wine are nothing special. Unlike some religions, we believe that scripture says that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was a once-and-for-all event and communion is a remembrance of His suffering and sacrifice - the bread and wine represent Christ's Body and Blood. In that, they are given some reverence and any remaining bread and wine are consumed reverently. The miracle of the Eucharist is not in the inanimate objects of the Bread and Wine themselves, but in coming to the Lord's Table in faith and humility, and sharing in that spiritual meal where we can meet with God in a special way.
You may wonder why do we use bread and wine?
In John 6:35, Jesus said
"I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."
And in Luke 22:19, during The Last Supper,
Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
So we use bread to remind us that Jesus has not only promised us eternal life, but each time we take the bread, we are remembering His suffering and sacrifice in His death and glory in his resurrection.
In John 15:5, Jesus said
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
As long as we hold Jesus in our hearts, are a part of his connected family, He will enable us to do great things.
After breaking and dispensing the bread at the Last Supper, Jesus
Likewise took another cup of wine, saying,
“This is My blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.. Do this also in remembrance of me." (Matthew 26:28)
We know that in Jesus’ time, the people drink a variation of wine, since grape juice would quickly spoil without preservatives. So most churches use either grape juice or wine in communion. When we are at Mass In The Grass we will be using grape juice.
The Jesus gave us the following warning in John 6:53:
"Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”
So not only did Jesus tell us, at the Last Supper, to celebrate communion with each other, but He also warned us that if we did not, we would not have eternal life and live with Him in the Kingdom of God.
The Eucharist Prayer
We have a solemn ceremony when we celebrate the Eucharist, which we call the ‘Eucharist Prayer’ which reminds us of the importance of the commemoration of the Eucharist. The first part of the Eucharistic Prayer we are reminded of Christ’s suffering and his instructions at the Last Supper.:
"At the time he was betrayed and entered willingly into his Passion, He took bread, and, giving thanks, broke it and gave it to his disciples saying, "Take this, all of you and eat of it, for this is my body which will be given up for you." In a similar way, when the supper was ended, He took the chalice and once more giving thanks, He gave it to his disciples and said, "Take this all of you and drink from it, for this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins."
After that we confess that we are sinners, but also ask for forgiveness:
"Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us; that we may delight in your will, and walk in your ways, to the glory of your Name. Amen."