Most of the main line churches are celebrating the Holy Communion by distributing bread and serving wine in one cup called chalice to all of its confirmed congregant members. Many churches instead of chalice have started using separate mini cups for each individual to serve the wine. Some catholic churches distribute wafers/bread to the congregation and reserve the right for drinking of wine, the blood of Jesus, only for the priests. During the spread of any communicable diseases, this practice was temporarily withheld.
Maundy Thursday 2020 has become a challenge for the Churches to administer Holy Communion because of the lock down prevailing in many countries. Some liberal Churches are advising their congregant members to do it on their own at their respective places by eating the bread and drinking some juice while giving thanks to God, remembering the words of Jesus Christ (Luke 22:14-23). Many others are wondering as to how they can exercise their authority to consecrate the bread and wine. Above all, the congregant members are puzzled as they are unable to participate in the Sung Eucharist.
The Lord’s Supper commemorates the meal where Jesus broke bread and distributed wine to his 12 disciples as a symbol of his body and blood. This is a tradition of remembering how God saved the Israelites from the cruel hands of the Egyptians. How did this tradition, which the early Christians called the Lord’s Supper or Last Supper, transition into what Christians today commonly call the Sung Eucharist, Holy Communion or a sacrament? How did it evolve from a full meal to a ritual in the early Christian church?
In the early churches, believers of Christ Jesus mostly assembled in one of the believer’s house, probably one that was big enough to hold many people. In those days, breaking of bread and drinking the wine was a normal meal that was taken after a thanksgiving prayer. Because of the social imbalance the following teachings of Jesus Christ ascribed to the institution of the Last Supper, were absolutely missing :
- Humility (Feet washing)
- Giving thanks (total submission)
- eating the bread (mediating the word)
- drinking the wine (deriving life out of His word)
- New covenant (released from law and coming under His grace)
- Whenever your eat and drink remember me (frequent remembrance of the provision of forgiveness)
- Part-taking in His suffering and death (Preparedness to face the worldly challenges)
So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!1 Corinthians 10:20-22
To overcome the situation, Paul reduced the meal to a bite of a piece of bread and just a sip in a cup and would have owned the authority of administering this to himself and the disciples. This was established 25 years later, after Jesus had practised the Passover meal in the upper room. In due course of time this practice had become a ritual and the authority of administering the Sung Eucharist bestowed upon the church leaders.
In this act, believers are prohibited from administering the Sung Eucharist and the non-baptised or the non-believers are prohibited from taking part in it.
When the whole world is under the fear of the spread of a pandemic, the word of God is the only way out for people to obtain hope and peace. In the absence of religious rituals, people are in panic and are feeling guilty about missing their fellowship and lament about their inability to participate in the Sung Eucharist. Because of the rituals, the source for peace has now turned into a source for fear and doubt. To get rid of our fear and doubt, first we have to understand the concept of eating His body and drinking His blood in a spiritual way.
God sent His only begotten son to this world in order to save mankind. John in his Gospel clearly brought out how the word has become flesh and accomplished the purpose of God’s redemption plan on the earth. After accomplishing His father’s will, Jesus ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of His father.
… so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.Isaiah 53:11
Again, John in His vision found the name of Jesus as the Word.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.Revelation 19:13
New covenant is nothing but consuming Jesus through the light of His word. The word ignites our faith and the blood of Jesus shed on the cross cleanses every sin in us and starts flowing in our veins and gives us life, an eternal life.
Jesus said to them, “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.John 6:53
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.John 6:68
This is the time to come out of our rituals and consume the Living Word to rejuvenate our spiritual life with the flow of His precious blood.
Hebrews 9:1-8 gives us a picture of the first covenant. The first room and the second room, the most holy place, and he goes on explaining how the high priest enters the most holy place once in a year with the blood offered for himself and for the people. Specifically he writes that Holy Spirit is telling us that those arrangements are only till the establishment of the new covenant.
This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings —external regulations applying until the time of the new order.Hebrews 9:9-10
God is Holy and He is in Spirit. Therefore, Jesus is saying,
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.John 4:23-24