The Use of the Means of Grace
A Statement of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
A variety of names demonstrate the richness of Holy Communion. Those names include the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Eucharist, Mass, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Divine Liturgy, and the Divine Service.
Each name has come to emphasize certain aspects of the sacrament. The “Lords’ Supper” speaks of the meal which the risen Lord holds with the Church, the meal of the Lords’ Day, a foretaste of the heavenly feast to come. “Holy Communion accentuates the holy koinonia (community) established by the Holy Spirit as we encounter Christ and are formed into one body with him and so with each other. “Eucharist” calls us to see that the whole meal is a great thanksgiving for creation and for creations redemption in Jesus Christ. “Divine Liturgy” says the celebration is a public action, carried out by a community of people. Yet, “Divine Service” helps us to see that the primary action of our gathering is God’s astonishing service to us; we are called to respond in praise and in service to our neighbor. The term “Mass” is probably derived from the old dismissal of the participants at the end of the service and the sending away of the bread and the cup to the absent: it invites us into mission. “Sacrament of the Altar” invites each one to eat and rink from the true altar of God, the body and blood of Christ given and shed “for you.”
During Lent 2011, we are encouraging the St. Philip the Deacon community to reflect on the Sacrament of Holy Communion — recalling early memories, describing memorable celebrations of Communion, or reflecting on how Communion informs daily life. This post is part of that series. We invite your reflections about Communion, as well. If you would like to submit something for this series, please send it to Pastor Cheryl Mathison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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