The Holy Communion
The Great Thanksgiving refers to all the parts of the service in which the bread and wine are blessed.
The Offertory brings to the altar money to be blessed in use for ministry as well as the bread and wine to be blessed for our communion. These gifts are used literally, but are also symbols of offering ourselves to God’s love and service.
Sursum Corda (Latin for “Lift up your hearts”) is a phrase dating back to 215 AD to focus our attention on God’s action coming to us and our thoughts ascending to God. The Proper preface is seasonal found on BCP p. 377ff., and the Sanctus (Latin for Holy) begins a hymn of praise dating from the 4th Century echoing the songs of angels in the visions of Isaiah and later St. John the Divine in the Book of Revelation anticipating the heavenly banquet.
There are six Eucharistic Prayers (two in Rite I and four in Rite II). The first part of each recalls the events of salvation history and this is called Anamnesis (meaning “remembering”).
The Words of Institution recall Jesus’ words at the Last Supper (instructing the disciples to do this in remembrance of him.) The words of invocation called Epiclesis is where we ask the Holy Spirit to descend up these gifts and upon us to make the bread and wine holy and to make us part of Christ’s body.
The Great Amen (from the Hebrew meaning “so be it”) is boldly proclaimed by the congregation affirming the actions that have just taken place.
The Lord’s Prayer
When Jesus taught his disciples this prayer it was a summery of all prayers. Placed in our liturgy at this place it again becomes the summation of our prayers to God in blessing the Bread and Wine.
The Breaking of the Bread, also called The Fraction
In the Eucharist the use of silence is active rather than passive and in this silence we break the bread and recall the body of Christ broken for us. The anthem following is a reflection on this action.
All may approach the altar at Communion. If you are not baptized or do not wish to receive communion, cross your arms over your chest, and the priest will give you a blessing. When receiving each element, it is appropriate to respond by saying “Amen.” It is also appropriate and helpful for the person receiving wine to lightly hold the lowest part of the chalice base guiding the chalice to their mouth. Sometimes the question is raised about the possibility of passing germs from using the common cup. There has never been evidence of serious risk. Receiving communion from the common cup is a sign of unity within the body of Christ and among the fellowship of the faithful. When receiving, you are welcome to stand or kneel at the rail. If you prefer not to receive the wine, please cross your arms over your chest so the chalice bearer understands your wishes.
Post Communion Prayer
This concluding prayer thanks God for the gift of communion and recognizes that it inspires and empowers us to live out our Christian mission in the world.
Blessing and Dismissal
The service ends with the blessing by the priest or Bishop and the final words are a dismissal sending us into the world to be a blessing to others.