Jump to content
warnik

Communion Experiences

Recommended Posts

Hello,

Some background: my wife and I were married in (and more broadly, officially received into) an Episcopal Church on the East Coast 2 years ago. When we moved to the Midwest about a year ago, we let our challenges (trouble finding others at our stage of life at a church (20-40), struggles with worship formats that are slow to change) get in the way of us finding a new church community.

Today, my wife and I visited an Episcopal Church and now I'm looking for others' experiences with communion. I am gluten sensitive and thus cannot receive communion bread. At our previous church, gluten-free crackers were available as an alternative but I was not sure if that was an option at the church we visited. Instead, I crossed my hands over my chest to indicate I wanted a blessing in order to avoid the bread. However, I was taken aback when I was informed by the minister of the wine that the blessing precluded me from receiving communion in the form of wine only. I was pretty embarrassed and decided not to make a scene during communion.

I guess I have two somewhat related questions:

  • Do I have something wrong in my understanding of Episcopalian theology regarding open communion? Or was this perhaps an innocent mistake (assumption that taking a blessing meant I was not a confirmed Episcopalian)?
  • If I am skeptical of transubstantiation in the first place, should I care about communion? Would it be better to just always accept a blessing instead?

I'm hoping to transform my embarrassment into some growth.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Talk to the priest privately.  I don't know much about Episcopalian liturgy.  

I always found following their liturgy confusing.  Kinda like the horse track and the need to simultaneously manage the program and the Racing Form.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sorry, not having participated in any Episcopalian traditions I'm not sure what the rules are for that type of Church.  Like Burl suggested, I would speak with the priest and clarify.

Whether you should care about communion or not is a personal matter I guess, although when I check out the Episcopalian Church's position on transubstantiation, I see that they don't particularly embrace it either, see https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/glossary/transubstantiation :

The belief that the substance (essence) of Christ's body and blood replaces the substance of the eucharistic bread and wine, although the appearances (known as "accidents" or "species") of the bread and wine continue outwardly unchanged. This eucharistic theology is based on the philosophical categories of Aristotle, elaborated at length by medieval Latin theologians, and regarded as definitive in the Roman Catholic tradition. The term is derived from the Latin trans "across" or "over," and substantia, "substance." The classical explanation of transubstantiation was presented by Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica. Transubstantiation was also defended by the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) and the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Article XXVIII of the Articles of Religion rejected transubstantiation as "repugnant" and unscriptural, asserting instead that Christ is present in the eucharist in a "heavenly and spiritual manner" (BCP, p. 873). The English Test Act of 1673 required a Declaration Against Transubstantiation by all persons holding civil or military office. Some nineteenth-century Tractarians, such as John Henry Newman, found transubstantiation to be compatible with their understanding of the eucharist. But the concept of transubstantiation has generally been avoided and excluded from Anglican theologies of the Real Presence of Christ's body and blood in the eucharist. See Real Presence; see Receptionism.

Hope it works out for you whatever way.

Cheers

Paul

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, warnik said:

Do I have something wrong in my understanding of Episcopalian theology regarding open communion? Or was this perhaps an innocent mistake (assumption that taking a blessing meant I was not a confirmed Episcopalian)?

  • If I am skeptical of transubstantiation in the first place, should I care about communion? Would it be better to just always accept a blessing instead?

I like Burl's idea of the private talk with the priest.

I get what transubstantiation was trying to get at but also recognize that the concept of substance and accidents is outdated. Decades ago, A Catholic priest, named Schillebeeckx, coined and explained a 'modern' take of the eucharist/communion: transignification. Basically it acknowledge both symbolic and real presence. Not a very difficult concept as we transsignify many things in our daily life. Interestingly, I learned this in a Catholic seminary/grad school, where the professor was a brilliant PhD; years later, if I remember correctly, the Catholic hierarchy had problems with this take. Still makes sense to me and many who studied it. Different Christian expressions but if you ever want to know more, let me know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is the crossed arms a common Episcopalan thing?  I thought they had open communion, which means I have screwed up a couple times (big surprise :rolleyes:).  

If somebody crossed their arms at me during the Lord's Supper I would be completely bumfuzzled, and would have to fight the desire to press their nose and say 'beep'.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Burl said:

Is the crossed arms a common Episcopalan thing?  I thought they had open communion, which means I have screwed up a couple times (big surprise :rolleyes:).  

If somebody crossed their arms at me during the Lord's Supper I would be completely bumfuzzled, and would have to fight the desire to press their nose and say 'beep'.

No idea, I'll let warnik take that one. But I do love the image.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Crossed arms I’ve seen at Catholic and Episcopalian Churches. I was raised Catholic and I crossed my arms at my friend’s Catholic wedding for a blessing (mostly because of the wheat/gluten in the wafer, but I was Episcopalian at that point). Many of his other groomsmen (Jewish, atheist) did the same.

I emailed the priest and it sounds like I just confused the Eucharistic minister; I should have been able to receive the wine by itself. Oh well, I’m sure I’m an edge case. 🤷‍♂️

In any case, I’m still curious on what communion means in the context of Progressive Christianity. thormas, I am curious to hear more about transignification.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Peter Abelard described communion as the transformation of God's raw creation into something life-enhancing by the labor of mankind.  Inedible grains transformed into nourishing bread; grapes do not rot but are transformed into storable wine.  I always liked that one.

My personal view is that the Eucharistic liturgy is a sanctification of the congregation and an ensconcement and elevation of Jesus.  God is everywhere, but in the glorification of the Eucharist corruption is stripped away leaving only purity.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
17 hours ago, warnik said:

 I am curious to hear more about transignification.

Transignification is a change in significance. Think of a woman, walking on a beach whose husband, the love of her life, is at war. Alone on a beach, she walks on wet sand, feels the spray of the ocean, the sun is visible through the clouds and it is windy. The woman wears a wedding ring, playing with it on her finger as she walks. Now, that simple wedding band is not worth very much in dollars (the couple never had a great deal of money) but it is a symbol of her love; it is a symbol of 'her love,' the man who is not physically there. Some might be dismissive and say, 'it's only a symbol: but s symbol is never an only. This is obvious if the woman misplaces the ring: she literally tears her house apart, retraces her steps, looks everywhere and is frantic because the ring, once given by the lover, is no longer 'only' a piece of inexpensive metal: it's significance has been changed, it symbolizes a new reality. However, the ring, as symbol, 'points' to and makes present what it now signifies.

Presence is typically defined as proximity, that which is nearest you has the greatest presence. However, this is a 'low(est) form of presence.' Presence means influence or impact: the highest presence is that which has the greatest influence (impact) on who you are and how you live. The ring on her finger 'points to' or is a symbol of he who is not proximate (physically there) but he has a greater (the greatest) influence on the her life than the sand she walks on or the ocean spray, the sun and the wind she feels or even the clothes she wears. The man is present, symbolically and really present. Interestingly, if the ring were lost on a beach and some old guy with his metal detector found it - it would merely signify some small monetary value. It is the woman whose action transignifies or changes the significance of the ring.

In the eucharist, ordinary bread and wine, brought to the altar, is the 'work of human hands' and signifies nourishment. In the mass, that meaning is changed; there is a change in their significance. Bread and wine as symbols now point to not ordinary nourishment but the 'Bread of Life" that nourishes human life. He who is not proximate (there) is symbolically and really present. More than the pew we sit on, the clothes we wear, the church that house us - that which has the greatest influence on our life is Jesus: he is the 'real presence' and the real influence on who we are and how e live. The participants are the equivalent of the woman in our example; they are the ones (if they are paying attention) who acknowledge the change in significance of the bread and wine and who consent to it influencing their lives (just as the woman has given her consent).

This is symbolical and 'real presence.'

One note: I always like it better when the bread was not a weird little wafer but a real piece of bread (always felt the symbol spoke more clearly then).    

Hope that gives you some food for thought to see if it makes any sense for you - although I did it rather quickly.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×