There are different interpretations of the significance of the Eucharist, but "there is more of a consensus among Christians about the meaning of the Eucharist than would appear from the confessional debates over the sacramental presence, the effects of the Eucharist, and the proper auspices under which it may be celebrated."
The phrase "the Eucharist" may refer not only to the rite but also to the bread and wine used in the rite, and, in this sense, communicants may speak of "receiving the Eucharist", rather than "celebrating the Eucharist".
The Last Supper appears in all three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke; and in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, while the last-named of these also indicates something of how early Christians celebrated what Paul the Apostle called the Lord's Supper.
In his First Epistle to the Corinthians (c 54-55), Paul the Apostle gives the earliest recorded description of Jesus' Last Supper: "The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, 'This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'."
Paul recalled this in view of the way in which the Lord's Supper was celebrated at Corinth: middle- and upper-class people, who could come early to the meetings of the Christians, feasted on their better food and drink in a way that shamed the slaves and peasants who could arrive only later. He pointed out that they were all participating in Christ's body and blood, not their own meal, and that to do so in an unworthy manner, with divisions and class distinctions among them, profaned the meal, turning it from the Lord's Supper to a sham.
The synoptic gospels, first Mark, and then Matthew and Luke, depict Jesus as presiding over the Last Supper. References to Jesus' body and blood foreshadow his crucifixion, and he identifies them as a new covenant. In the gospel of John, the account of the Last Supper has no mention of Jesus taking bread and wine and speaking of them as his body and blood; instead it recounts his humble act of washing the disciples' feet, the prophecy of the betrayal, which set in motion the events that would lead to the cross, and his long discourse in response to some questions posed by his followers, in which he went on to speak of the importance of the unity of the disciples with him and each other.
The Didache (Greek: teaching) is an early Christian church order, including, among other features, instructions for Baptism and the Eucharist. Most scholars date it to the early 2nd century. Two separate eucharistic traditions appear in the Didache, the earlier tradition in chapter 10 and the later one preceding it in chapter 9. The Eucharist is mentioned again in chapter 14.
Ignatius of Antioch, one of the Apostolic Fathers, mentions the Eucharist as "the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ", and Justin Martyr speaks of it as more than a meal: "the food over which the prayer of thanksgiving, the word received from Christ, has been said ... is the flesh and blood of this Jesus who became flesh ... and the deacons carry some to those who are absent.
Most Christians, even those who deny that there is any real change in the bread or wafer and wine or juice used, recognize a special presence of Christ in this rite, though they differ about exactly how, where, and when Christ is present.
The Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document of the World Council of Churches, attempting to present the common understanding of the Eucharist on the part of the generality of Christians, describes it as "essentially the sacrament of the gift which God makes to us in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit", "Thanksgiving to the Father", "Anamnesis or Memorial of Christ", "the sacrament of the unique sacrifice of Christ, who ever lives to make intercession for us", "the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, the sacrament of his real presence", "Invocation of the Spirit", "Communion of the Faithful", and "Meal of the Kingdom".
In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, the Eucharist is one of the seven sacraments. The Eucharist not only commemorates the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, but also makes it truly present. The priest and victim of the sacrifice are one and the same (Christ). The only difference is how the Eucharist is offered: in an unbloody manner. The institution of the Eucharist is one of the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary.
The only minister of the Eucharist, that is, one authorized to celebrate the rite and consecrate the Eucharist, is a validly ordained priest (either bishop or presbyter) acting in the person of Christ (in persona Christi). In other words the priest celebrant represents Christ, who is the Head of the Church, and acts before God the Father in the name of the Church. The matter used must be wheaten bread and grape wine; this is essential for validity.
According to the Roman Catholic Church, when the bread and wine are consecrated in the Eucharist, they cease to be bread and wine, and become instead the body and blood of Christ: although the empirical appearances are not changed, the reality is changed by the power of the Holy Spirit who has been called down upon the bread and wine. The consecration of the bread (known as the host) and wine represents the separation of Jesus' body from his blood at Calvary. However, since he has risen, the Church teaches that his body and blood can no longer be truly separated. Where one is, the other must be. Therefore, although the priest (or minister) says "The body of Christ" when administering the host, and "The blood of Christ" when presenting the chalice, the communicant who receives either one receives Christ, whole and entire.
The mysterious change of the reality of the bread and wine began to be called "transubstantiation" in the eleventh century. It seems that the first text in which the term appears is of Gilbert of Savardin, Archbishop of Tours, in a sermon from 1079 (Patrologia Latina CLXXI 776). The term first appeared in a papal document in the letter Cum Marthae circa to a certain John, Archbishop of Lyon,29 November 1202, then in the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and afterward in the book "Iam dudum" sent to the Armenians in the year 1341. An explanation utilizing Aristotle's hylemorphic theory of reality did not appear until the thirteenth century, with Alexander of Hales (died 1245).
Catholics may receive Holy Communion outside of Mass, but then it is normally given only as the host. The consecrated hosts are kept in a tabernacle after the celebration of the Mass and brought to the sick or dying during the week. Occasionally, the Eucharist is exposed in a monstrance, so that it may be the focus of prayer and adoration.
The Eucharist is at the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Orthodox Christians affirm the Real Presence in the Sacred Mysteries (consecrated bread and wine) which they believe to be the actual Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist is normally received in the context of the Divine Liturgy. The bread and wine are believed to become the genuine Body and Blood of the Christ Jesus through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Eastern Orthodox Church has never described exactly how this occurs, or gone into the detail that the Roman Catholic Church has with the doctrine of transubstantiation. This doctrine was formulated after the Great Schism took place, and the Eastern Orthodox churches have never formally affirmed or denied it, preferring to state simply that it is a "Mystery", while at the same time using, as in the 1672 Synod of Jerusalem, language that might look similar as to one that is used by the Roman Catholic Church.
Communion is given only to baptized, chrismated Orthodox Christians who have prepared by fasting, prayer, and confession (different rules apply for children, elderly, sick, pregnant, etc. and are determined on case-by-case basis by parish priests). The priest administers the Gifts with a spoon directly into the recipient's mouth from the chalice. From baptism young infants and children are carried to the chalice to receive Holy Communion.
The holy gifts reserved for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts or communion of the sick are specially consecrated as needed, especially on Holy Thursday. They are kept in an elaborately decorated tabernacle, a container on the altar often in the shape of a church. Generally, Eastern Christians do not adore the consecrated bread outside the Liturgy itself. After the Eucharist has been given to the congregation, the priest or the deacon has to eat and drink everything that is left.
The historical position of the Anglican Communion is found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of 1571, which state "the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ"; and likewise that "the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ" (Articles of Religion, Article XXVIII: Of the Lord's Supper) and that "Transubstantiation is repugnant to Holy Writ". The fact that the terms "Bread" and "Wine" and the corresponding words "Body" and "Blood" are all capitalized may reflect the wide range of theological beliefs regarding the Eucharist among Anglicans. However, the Articles also state that adoration, or worship per se, of the consecrated elements was not commanded by Christ and should not be practiced. It also stated that those who receive unworthily do not actually receive Christ but rather their own condemnation.
Anglicans generally and officially believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, but the specifics of that belief range from transubstantiation, sometimes with Eucharistic adoration (mainly Anglo-Catholics), to something akin to a belief in a "pneumatic" presence, which may or may not be tied to the Eucharistic elements themselves (almost always "Low Church" or Evangelical Anglicans). The normal range of Anglican belief ranges from Objective Reality to Pious Silence, depending on the individual Anglican's theology. There are also small minorities on the one hand who affirm transubstantiation, or on the other hand, reject the doctrine of the Real Presence altogether. The classic Anglican aphorism with regard to this debate is found in a poem by John Donne (sometimes attributed to Elizabeth I):
- He was the Word that spake it;
- He took the bread and brake it;
- and what that Word did make it;
- I do believe and take it.
Anglican belief in the Eucharistic Sacrifice ("Sacrifice of the Mass") is set forth in the response Saepius officio of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to Pope Leo XIII's Papal Encyclical Apostolicae curae
Anglicans and Roman Catholics declared that they had "substantial agreement on the doctrine of the Eucharist" in the Windsor Statement on Eucharistic Doctrine from the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Consultation and the Elucidation of the ARCIC Windsor Statement
On the other hand, the term "Eucharist", which comes from the Greek word "εὐχαριστήσας" in the Words of Institution (cf. 1 Cor. 11:24; Mt. 26:27; Mk. 14:23; Lk. 22:19), appears in catechisms of conservative Lutheran Churches. In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, which distinguishes "eucharistic sacrifice" from "propitiatory sacrifice" (Article XXIV.19), Lutherans declare that speaking of the Lord's Supper as Eucharist denies that it is a propitiatory sacrifice that the church offers to God to earn the forgiveness of sins:
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death; in so much that, to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ.
Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the Supper of our Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith.
The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshiped.
There are various acceptable modes of receiving the Eucharist for Methodists. Some Methodists kneel at the altar, sometimes referred to as the communion table. In other churches, communicants stand or are served in the pew. Most Methodist Churches use unfermented grape juice instead of alcoholic wine (though there is no official restriction for United Methodists), and either leavened yeast bread or unleavened bread. The wine may be distributed in small cups, but the use of a common cup and the practice of communion by intinction (where the bread is dipped into the common cup and both elements are consumed together) is becoming more common among many Methodists.
The followers of John Wesley, himself an Anglican clergyman, have typically affirmed that the sacrament of Holy Communion is an instrumental Means of Grace through which the real presence of Christ is communicated to the believer, but have otherwise allowed the details to remain a mystery. In particular, Methodists reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation (see "Article XVIII" of the Articles of Religion, Means of Grace). In 2004, the United Methodist Church reaffirmed its view of the sacrament and its belief in the Real Presence in an official document entitled This Holy Mystery Of particular note here is the Church's unequivocal recognition of the anamnesis as more than just a memorial but, rather, a re-presentation of Christ Jesus:
This affirmation of Real Presence can be seen clearly illustrated in the language of the United Methodist Eucharistic Liturgy (for example: Word and Table 1) where, in the epiclesis of the Great Thanksgiving, the celebrating minister prays over the elements:
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood.
For most United Methodists — and, indeed, for much of Methodism as a whole — this reflects the furthest extent to which they are willing to go in defining Real Presence. They will assert that Jesus is really present, and that the means of this presence is a "Holy Mystery"; the celebrating minister will pray for the Holy Spirit to make the elements "be the body and blood of Christ", and the congregation will even sing, as in the third stanza of Charles Wesley's hymn Come Sinners to the Gospel Feast:
- Come and partake the gospel feast,
- Be saved from sin, in Jesus rest;
- O taste the goodness of our God,
- and eat his flesh and drink his blood.
Methodists believe that Holy Communion should not only be available to the clergy in both forms (the Bread and the Cup), but to the layman as well. According to Article XIX of the Articles of Religion in the Book of Discipline of the Methodist Church,
The cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay people; for both the parts of the Lord's Supper, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be administered to all Christians alike.
Many Reformed Christians hold that Christ's body and blood are not actually present in the Eucharist. The elements are only symbols of the reality, which is spiritual nourishment in Christ.
Following a phrase of Augustine, the Calvinist view is that "no one bears away from this Sacrament more than is gathered with the vessel of faith." "The flesh and blood of Christ are no less truly given to the unworthy than to God's elect believers", Calvin said. Faith, not a mere mental apprehension, and the work of the Holy Spirit, are necessary for the partaker to behold God incarnate, and in the same sense touch Christ with their hands; so that by eating and drinking of bread and wine Christ's actual presence penetrates to the heart of the believer more nearly than food swallowed with the mouth can enter in. The 'experience' of Eucharist, or the Lord's Supper, has traditionally been spoken of in the following way: the faithful believers are 'lifted up' by the power of the Holy Spirit to feast with Christ in heaven. The Lord's Supper in this way is truly a 'Spiritual' experience as the Holy Spirit is directly involved in the action of 'eucharist'.
The Calvinist/Reformed view also places great emphasis on the action of the community as the Body of Christ. As the faith community participates in the action of celebrating the Lord's Supper they are 'transformed' into the Body of Christ, or 'reformed' into the Body of Christ each time they participate in this sacrament. In this sense it has been said that the term "transubstantiation" can be applied to the Faith Community (the Church) itself being transformed into the real Body and Blood of Christ truly present in the world.
Although Calvin rejected adoration of the Eucharistic bread and wine as "idolatry" later Reformed Christians have argued otherwise. Leftover elements may be disposed of without ceremony (or reused in later services); they are unchanged, and as such the meal directs attention toward Christ's bodily resurrection and return.
Among Latter Day Saints (or Mormons), the Eucharist (in LDS theology it is "The Sacrament") is partaken in remembrance of the blood and body of Jesus Christ. It is viewed as a renewal of the covenant made at baptism, which is to take upon oneself the name of Jesus. As such, it is considered efficacious only for baptized members in good standing. However, the unbaptized are not forbidden from communion, and it is traditional for children not yet baptized (baptism occurs only after the age of eight) to participate in communion in anticipation of baptism. Those who partake of the Sacrament promise always to remember Jesus and keep his commandments. The prayer also asks God the Father that each individual will be blest with the Spirit of Christ.
The Sacrament is offered weekly and all active members are taught to prepare to partake of each opportunity. It is considered to be a weekly renewal of a member's commitment to follow Jesus Christ, and a plea for forgiveness of sins.
The Latter Day Saints do not believe in any kind of literal presence. They view the bread and water as symbolic of the body and blood of Christ. Currently The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints uses water instead of wine. Early in their history the Sacrament wine was often purchased from enemies of the church. To remove any opportunity for poisoned or wine unfit for use in the Sacrament, it is believed a revelation from the Lord was given that stated "it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory — remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins. After this time water became the liquid of choice for all Sacrament uses.
Some Protestant groups regard the Eucharist (also called the Lord's Supper or the Lord's Table) as a symbolic meal, a memorial of the Last Supper and the Passion in which nothing miraculous occurs. This view is known as the Zwinglian view, after Huldrych Zwingli, a Church leader in Zurich, Switzerland during the Reformation. It is commonly associated with the United Church of Christ, Baptists, and the Disciples of Christ. As with the Reformed view, elements left over from the service may be discarded without any formal ceremony, or if feasible may be retained for use in future services.
Some of the Reformed hold that Calvin actually held this view, and not the Spiritual feeding idea more commonly attributed to him; or that the two views are really the same.
The successor of Zwingli in Zurich, Heinrich Bullinger, came to an agreement theologically with John Calvin. The Consensus Tigurinus lays out an explanation of the doctrine of the Sacraments in general, and specifically, that of Holy Communion, as the view embraced by John Calvin and leaders of the Church of Zurich who followed Zwingli. It demonstrates that at least the successors of Zwingli held to the real spiritual presence view most commonly attributed to Calvin and Reformed Protestantism.
Some Christian denominations that hold this view include the United Church of Christ, the Baptist Church, the Disciples of Christ, and the Church of the Nazarene. The Plymouth Brethren hold the Lord's Supper, or the Breaking of Bread, instituted in the upper room on Christ's betrayal night, to be the weekly remembrance feast enjoyed on all true Christians. They celebrate the supper in utmost simplicity. Among 'closed' Brethren assemblies usually any one of the brothers gives thanks for the loaf and the cup. In conservative 'open' Brethren assemblies usually two different brothers give thanks, one for the loaf and the other for the cup. In liberal 'open' Brethren assemblies (or churches/community chapels, etc.) sisters also participate with audible prayer.
Because Jesus Christ is a person, theologies regarding the Eucharist involve consideration of the way in which the communicant's personal relationship with God is fed through this mystical meal. However, debates over Eucharistic theology in the West have centered not on the personal aspects of Christ's presence but on the metaphysical. The opposing views are summarized below.
In many of the provinces and national jurisdictions of the Anglican Church, the Eucharist is designated as the principal service of the Church. The service for Holy Eucharist is found in the Book of Common Prayer for each national Church in the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Church holds the Eucharist as the highest form of worship, the Church's main service. Daily celebrations are now the case in most cathedrals and many parish churches, and there are few churches with a priest where Holy Communion is not celebrated at least once every Sunday. The nature of the ritual with which it is celebrated, however, varies according to the orientation of the individual parish, diocese or national Church.
The bread and "fruit of the vine" indicated in Matthew, Mark and Luke as the elements of the Lord's Supper are interpreted by Baptists as unleavened bread and, in line with their historical stance (since the mid-19th century) against partaking of alcoholic beverages, grape juice, which they commonly refer to simply as "the Cup".
Among Eastern Christians, the Eucharistic service is called the Divine Liturgy. It comprises two main divisions: the first is the Liturgy of the Catechumens which consists of introductory litanies, antiphons and scripture readings, culminating in a reading from one of the Gospels and often, a sermon; the second is the Liturgy of the Faithful in which the Eucharist is offered, consecrated, and received as Holy Communion. Within the latter, the actual Eucharistic prayer is called the anaphora, literally: "offering" or "carrying up" (ἀνα- + φέρω). In the Byzantine Rite, two different anaphoras are currently used: one is attributed to St. John Chrysostom, and the other to St. Basil the Great. Among the Oriental Orthodox, a variety of anaphoras are used, but all are similar in structure to those of the Byzantine Rite. In the Byzantine Rite, the Anaphora of St. John Chrysostom is used most days of the year; St. Basil's is offered on the Sundays of Great Lent, the eves of Christmas and Theophany, Holy Thursday, Holy Saturday, and upon his feast day (January 1). At the conclusion of the Anaphora the bread and wine are held to be the Body and Blood of Christ.
Conventionally this change in the elements is understood to occur at the Epiklesis (Greek: "invocation") by which the Holy Spirit is invoked and the consecration of the bread and wine as the Body and Blood of Christ is specifically requested, but since the anaphora as a whole is considered a unitary (albeit lengthy) prayer, no one moment within it can be readily singled out.
Jehovah's Witnesses commemorate Christ's death as a ransom or propitiatory sacrifice by observing The Lord's Evening Meal, or Memorial, each year on Nisan 14 according to the ancient Jewish calendar. They believe that this is the only celebration commanded for Christians in the Bible. Of those who attend the Memorial a small minority worldwide will partake of the eating of the unleavened bread and the drinking of the wine.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that 144,000 people will receive heavenly salvation and thus spend eternity with God in heaven. They are called the "anointed" and are the only ones who should partake of the bread and wine.
The celebration of the Memorial of Christ's Death proceeds as follows: In advance of the Memorial, Jehovah's Witnesses invite anyone that may be interested to attend this special night. The week of the Memorial is generally filled with special activity in the ministry, such as door-to-door work. A suitable hall, for example a Kingdom Hall, is prepared for the occasion. The Memorial begins with a song and a prayer. The prayer is followed by a discourse on the importance of the evening. A table is set with wine and unleavened bread. Jehovah's Witnesses believe the bread stands for Jesus Christ's body which he gave on behalf of mankind, and that the wine stands for his blood which redeems from sin. They do not believe in transubstantiation or consubstantiation. Hence, the wine and the bread are merely symbols (sometimes referred to as "emblems"), but they have a very deep and profound meaning for Jehovah's Witnesses. A prayer is offered and the bread is circulated among the audience. Only those who are "anointed" partake. The rest are expected to reject the elements as their salvation is mediated through their relationship with the anointed, rather than directly through the sacrifice of Jesus. Then another prayer is offered, and the wine is circulated in the same manner. After that, the evening concludes with a final song and prayer.
It is common for the bread and wine to be passed in a local Kingdom Hall and have no partakers.
In the Reformed Churches the Eucharist is variously administered. Acknowledging that the bread at the Passover celebration was almost certainly unleavened, some Churches use bread without any raising agent (whether leaven or yeast). The Presbyterian Church (USA), for instance, prescribes "bread common to the culture". The wine served might be true alcoholic red wine or grape juice, from either a chalice or from individual cups. Hearkening back to the regulative principle of worship, the Reformed tradition had long eschewed coming forward to receive communion, preferring to have the elements distributed throughout the congregation by the presbyters (elders) more in the style of a shared meal, but some Churches have reappropriated a High Church liturgy in the spirit of Philip Schaff's Mercersburg theology, which held ancient traditions of the Church in higher esteem than did much of the Reformed world. The elements may be found served separately with "consecration" for each element or together. Communion is usually open to all baptized believers, and although often it is reserved for those who are members in good standing of a Bible-believing Church, participation is left as a matter of conscience.
United Methodists are encouraged to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday. In the United Methodist church grape juice is often used instead of wine (though there is no official restriction on the use of wine). The elements may be distributed in various ways. Communicants may receive standing, kneeling, or while seated. Gaining more wide acceptance is the practice of receiving by intinction (receiving a piece of consecrated bread or wafer, dipping it in the blessed wine, and consuming it). United Methodists practice open communion and allow non confirmed youth and adults to receive the Eucharist.
The standard liturgies for the Eucharist (as well as other services) are found in The United Methodist Hymnal and The United Methodist Book of Worship. The standard "Service of Word and Table" is set in a fourfold movement of Entrance, Proclamation and Response, Thanksgiving and Communion, and Sending Forth. The Eucharistic Prayer, as found in the Thanksgiving and Response section, is prayed by an authorized minister as set forth in the Book of Discipline. Generally speaking, the ministry of presiding at the Eucharist is given by the church to the Elders (presybters, priests, or pastors in other traditions). The Eucharistic Prayer of the United Methodist Church takes on an ancient pattern that begins with the "Dialogue" (The Lord be with you/and also with you) and Sursum Corda (Lift up your hearts). Following is a Preface that gives thanks to the Father and ends leading into the "Sanctus et Benedictus" (Holy, holy, holy Lord...Blessed is he who comes....). Then there is a "Post-Sanctus" Prayer which praises the Father for the gift and ministry of Jesus Christ which leads into the Words of Institution (the recalling of the Last Supper). The anamnesis follows, leading into the Memorial Acclamation (Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again). The presiding minister then prays the epiclesis (pour out your Holy Spirit...) and closes with a Trinitarian doxology. The congregation joins in a final "Amen" and recites the Lord's Prayer. Different proper prefaces are provided in the Book of Worship that are appropriate for Holy Days and Seasons of the Church Year.
Variations of the Eucharistic Prayer are provided for various occasions, including communication of the sick and brief forms for occasions that call for greater brevity. Though the ritual is standardized, there is great variation amongst United Methodist churches, from typically high-church to low-church, in the enactment and style of celebration. United Methodist clergy are not required to be vested when celebrating the Eucharist, though it is most often the case that they are.
Christian denominations differ in their understanding of whether they may receive the Eucharist with those with whom they are not in full communion. The famed apologist St. Justin Martyr (c. 150) wrote: "No one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true...." For the first several hundred years, non-members were forbidden even to be present at the sacramental ritual; visitors and catechumens (those still undergoing instruction) were dismissed halfway through the Liturgy, after the Bible readings and sermon but before the Eucharistic rite. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, used in the Byzantine Churches, still has a formula of dismissal of catechumens (not usually followed by any action) at this point.
The ancient Churches, such as the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox exclude non-members from Communion under normal circumstances, though they may allow exceptions, e.g., for non-members in danger of death who share their faith in the reality of the Eucharist and who are unable to have access to a minister of their own religion. Many conservative Protestant communities also practice closed communion, including conservative Lutheran Churches like the Old Lutheran Church. The Landmark Baptist Churches also practices closed communion, as a symbol of exclusive membership and loyalty to the distinctive doctrines of their fellowship.
Most Protestant communities practice open communion, including some Anglican, Reformed, Evangelical, Methodist, and more-liberal Lutherans (such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Church of Sweden). Some open communion communities adhere to a symbolic or spiritual understanding of the Eucharist, so that they have no fear of sacrilege against the literal body and blood of Christ if someone receives inappropriately. Others feel that Christ calls all of his children to his table, regardless of their denominational affiliation. Many Churches that practice open communion offer it only to baptized Christians (regardless of denomination), although this requirement is typically only enforced by the recipients' honesty. Some Progressive Christian congregations offer communion to any individual who wishes to commemorate the life and teachings of Christ, regardless of religious affiliation.
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