Recently I was chatting to a friend, who has just become a mum to the most beautiful little boy (Congrats Team Parry!!), and I had asked her if she wanted someone from church to visit in hospital for communion. Her reply got me thinking about why I place such high value on the act of Holy Communion, and I thought I would share that thinking here.
I grew up in a fairly ordinary, traditional Anglican family, with my dad ordained throughout my life and my mum later joining him. We attended church each week and, when there wasn’t Sunday School, I took great delight in reading the liturgy alongside my dad, under my breath so only God and I could hear. From the age of about 7 I received communion, because my parents knew that I understood what it meant. I wasn’t confirmed until I was 13, but by that point I was away at boarding school and the thrill of reading liturgy and going up for communion had long since passed.
The school I attended, though Christian in its philosophy (and advertising), would not allow those who weren’t confirmed to receive communion. Furthermore, you could only be confirmed once you were 13, and so for almost 3 years I only took part in the communion part of the Anglican service when I was at home during the holidays. Perhaps it was just me, but at that time I became quite shut off during the spoken and sung liturgies, simply because I couldn’t take part in the fullness of it. And from there, I began to believe that communion wasn’t a big deal.
When I arrived in my current city for university (6 years ago in September!!), I attended a church where communion was part of the service once a month. Given my school experiences, this didn’t bother me in the slightest. I didn’t give it a second thought, and delved into the rich life of worship (spoken and sung) offered at this church. Right up until 19 months ago, if someone had asked me, “How do you connect best with God?” I’d have probably talked about sung worship, how singing and listening to others singing helps me to tune into God.
Not anymore though. I mean, singing still helps me to experience the full breadth of my emotion and feeling at that time. Music enables me to sob if I am feeling wounded or vulnerable, whilst also helping my spirit to soar and delight in the good times of life. Now, though, something else has taken the place of singing: communion.
Surely, it’s just bread and wine. Just some words.
It isn’t, though. It is so much more than just bread and wine. And I don’t mean in a transubstantiation way (though I respect those who do believe in that).
For me, it is through eating that bread and drinking that wine that I am fed and watered. Clearly, a simple bread wafer and sip of wine will not fill and satisfy me. It would be ludicrous to suggest so. And yet, it does. Not physically, but spiritually. That broken wafer represents Jesus’ broken body; the wine his blood poured out. It represents the brokenness which allows me wholeness and fullness of life.
When Jesus broke that bread, it was a sign of what was to come. A sign of his brokenness. A sign of his sacrifice, for me. For you. For all of creation.
When I take communion now (weekly, at a new church), I am beyond thankful as I think of the innumerable ways God has shown me grace in my life. I am nourished spiritually, because of the act of communion. I am reminded of just how imperfect I am; so imperfect that the only way God could make things right again was to break someone perfect in my place. And I am reminded of the wholeness that I now experience freely, because of Him.