Thursday 5 May 2016

Holy Communion - what is happening depends on conviction

Within the Anglican communion there are both Catholics and Protestants with the views of the nature of Holy Communion that you would associate with each of those.

The Catholics believed in the real and mystical presence of Christ in the bread and wine - so long as the Mass was conducted properly by a priest who has been ordained in a direct lineage from the Apostles. The Protestants regard Holy Communion as a memorial meal.

I used to attend an Anglo Catholic church for a short Mass at least once a week, and found the service and the actual taking of bread and wine very effectual: my feelings validated my own belief and that of those who conducted the service. Later I attended a Protestant (Evangelical) Anglican church and found that the Holy Communion was... mildly pleasant but inessential: my feelings validated the beliefs of those who conducted the service.

It seems to me that with Holy Communion, as a broad generalization, you get what you sincerely want and believe; if it is 'taken fully seriously' - as Anglo Catholics used to do (before most of them liberalized/ secularized), it is a renewal and a mystical communion. If you think of it as an optional-extra - the Lord's Supper performed, infrequently, simply because the Bible tells us to do it; then it functions as a memorial, but lacks any mystical aspect.

It seems to me that our hearts can discern these truths.

Once, not long after my conversion - and before I had recognized and rejected the anti-Christianity dominant in the Church of England, I participated in a Holy Communion conducted by a priestess. I wasn't thinking or worrying abut it, it was mostly experienced as a fairly normal service (for that church) until I took the bread and wine; at which point I was shocked by a powerful sense of wrongness.

That was, in fact, the exact moment when I became aware that women were not priests and that it was wrong to assert that they were priests - and that therefore I must stop prevaricating and delaying and 'sitting on the fence - must pick-my-side in the great Christian disputes of our era.

Because I currently attend a Protestant church, I seldom nowadays participate in Holy Communion; and when I do find myself indifferent to it (the 20 minute sermon is the focus of the service - whereas there was no sermon in the short Masses I used to attend); and I miss Mass.

But it is interesting that I reached a view on the validity of Mass by means of a very 'Protestant' exercise of individual conscience! I find a 'real' Mass objectively valuable to theosis, but Mass is not objectively necessary to salvation.

This may be supposed to be self-contradictory - that I would personally and subjectively evaluate the (small c) catholic church as objectively valid... but to me it seems obvious that this is how things are and ought to be. In a world created by God our loving Father for our benefit: honest, heart-felt understandings will converge upon truth.


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

It's probably for the best that you've never experienced the Mormon version of Communion -- white bread and tap water blessed and administered by teenage boys. (I don't mean to denigrate the Mormon sacrament, only to say that it is about as un-Catholic as you can get.)

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - The Anglo Catholics (and indeed most Anglicans) use wafers of unleavened 'bread' (tasteless and very difficult to swallow, sometimes even difficult to chew having been stamped with the cross symbol), otherwise 'wrapped white pap' seems to be the norm. In sum, the nature of the bread is not a factor in the impact of the communion meal.

The only time I had decent quality bread was at Russian/ Greek Orthodox services where they had a crusty loaf torn into chunks - it is the Orthodox tradition to feed the (fasting) congregation on the blessed bread left-over after communion has been taken - even the unbaptized/ unchrismated (such as myself) are encouraged to participate.

As for wine - it is possible that the potent wine used in most communion meals, acting on an empty stomach, may *partially* explain the psychological effect of Anglo Catholic/ traditional Anglican Eucharist... of course traditional (pre Vat II) Roman Catholic laity don't partake of the wine.

Chent said...

"The Anglo Catholics (and indeed most Anglicans) use wafers of unleavened 'bread'"

And Catholics too. If I have understood well, ancient Jews used unleavened bread for the Passover meal too. I think it's in the Bible. (Exodus 12:15)