“We thank you … for assuring us in these holy mysteries that we are living members of the Body of your Son, and heirs of your eternal kingdom” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 366).
It goes by several names: Holy Communion, the Eucharist (which literally means “thanksgiving”), mass. But whatever it’s called, this is the family meal for Christians and a foretaste of the heavenly banquet. As such, all persons who have been baptized, and are therefore part of the extended family that is the Church, are welcome to receive the bread and wine, and be in communion with God and each other. (Source: “Holy Communion” at Episcopal Church)
Liturgy is the term for the church’s sacramental rites and texts used in public worship. The term Liturgy is from the ancient Greek, leitourgia, which means “work of the people” and is the translation of the two words “litos ergos” or “public service.” It is the work of all the people of God — laity and clergy — as they come together to worship God, find spiritual nourishment and renewal, and be sent into the world in mission.
What is Worship?
Worship is the action of uniting ourselves with others to acknowledge the holiness of God, to hear God’s Word, to offer prayer, and to celebrate the sacraments. It is the “work” of the people of God.
What Are the Sacraments?
The Sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace. The two great Sacraments that Jesus gave us are Baptism and Holy Eucharist (Communion). We also celebrate the five other sacraments (Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent, Ministration to the Sick, and Ordination).
What happens in the Celebration of The Holy Eucharist?
Jesus Christ’s presence is revealed to us in The Holy Eucharist. Jesus gives himself to us sacramentally in consecrated bread and wine. As we recall the earthly Body of Christ, now ascended and glorified, so too we receive Christ’s Body and Blood in Communion that we might become the Body of Christ for God in the here and now.
Actions You May Observe in Worship
The Cross: The Cross is a symbol of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. It is carried in procession and worshippers may bow as it passes in procession as a sign of reverence, honor, and worship to God.
Sign of the Cross: A Cross is made by touching the forehead, breast, left shoulder and right shoulder. We acknowledge we are crucified with Christ and through Christ receive eternal life. There are no specific rules, only custom. Worshippers may make the Sign of the Cross at the words: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” used a various points in the liturgy; “…and the life of the world to come” at the end of the Creed; at the Benedictus, “Blessed is he that comes…” You may see it at other times during the service, according to individual piety. A modified sign of the cross is made at the announcement of Gospel reading with three small crosses (using the thumb) on forehead, lips, and breast.
Bowing: Between ministers in the service it is an act of reverence and honor for each other’s actions and participation in the service (a “holy thank you”). When passing in front of the altar, when the Cross passes in a procession, or at the name of Jesus Christ is an act of reverence, honor and worship of God. A deep bow from the waist during the Nicene Creed signifies recognition that God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ in the miracle of the Incarnation.
Kneeling: A natural posture for prayer that allows our body language to assist our focus on prayer in worship.
The Holy Eucharist
The Holy Eucharist: Rite Two begins on page 355 in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) – the red Prayer Book.
The Word of God
(BCP, p. 355)
1. The service begins with a hymn in praise of God as the choir, lay ministers, and clergy enter.
2. The Celebrant extends a greeting to call the congregation’s attention to the beginning of worship.
3. The celebrant offers a prayer (Collect for purity) that asks our hearts to be pure for worship.
(BCP, p. 356) The Gloria in Excelsis, Kyrie Eleison, and Trisagion are songs of praise to God that date from the 4th and 5th centuries C.E.
The Collect of the Day (BCP, p. 357) is a prayer that gathers the congregation into the themes we are praying for today (the prayer is printed in the insert and we all say the prayer together).
The Lessons (BCP pp. 357-58)
The Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures) are read to recall our connection with Judaism and to learn the teachings of the Jewish prophets.
A Psalm (song to God) is said or sung between the OT and NT readings.
The New Testament Epistles (Letters) and other NT books are read so that we are connected to the actions and teachings of the early Church.
The Gospel is the record of Jesus’ life, ministry, teachings, death, resurrection, and ascension. Because of this it is held in highest honor. A procession often precedes the reading of the Gospel to mark its importance in our worship. A Deacon or Priest read the Gospel as a part of their function as ordained ministers.
An illumination of God’s Word for those gathered. The preacher communicates the Church’s understanding of God’s reconciling work and helps us understand Holy Scripture and its implications for our lives today.
The Nicene Creed (BCP pp. 358-59)
A statement of Christian faith adopted by ecumenical councils in the 4th century. In some churches it is the custom to make a deep bow at the point where we say, “ […] by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.” This is a way that we can identify with Christ, who came down from heaven for us and for our salvation.
Prayers of the People (BCP, p. 359)
Anglican worship is active. The people of God offer prayers to God, being especially mindful of what is going on in our lives and the life of our communities, our nation, and our world. The people offer their own intentions at various places in the prayers.
Confession of Sin (BCP, p. 359)
As a corporate body gathered for worship we confess our sins to God. The Bishop or Priest pronounces words of absolution.
The Peace (BCP, p. 360)
St. Paul has encouraged us to greet one another with Christian love as brothers and sisters in Christ. We greet one another with a handshake or hug and words such as: “Peace be with you.”
The Holy Communion (BCP, p. 361-64 or alternative pages as announced)
This is the holiest part of our worship. Jesus comes to us in the elements of bread and wine and we are spiritually nourished by His presence.
The actions of the Holy Communion follow the actions of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper – the first Eucharist:
1. Bread & Wine are Taken — The Offertory
2. Bread & Wine are Blessed – The Great Thanksgiving
(Consecration where Jesus’ presence is revealed in bread and wine)
3. Bread is Broken – The Breaking of the Bread (Fraction)
4. Bread & Wine are Given – Receiving Communion. Communion is received by extending your hands out, placing your open right hand over your open left hand. The cup is received by slightly guiding the cup toward your lips, allowing the Eucharistic Minister to maintain control of the cup.
Post-Communion Prayer (BCP, p. 365 or 366)
We offer our thanks to God for spiritually feeding us in Christ’s Body and Blood in the elements of bread and wine.
Blessing by the Priest
The priest offers a blessing of Christ’s Church on the people.
Dismissal (BCP, p.366)
The Deacon or Priest (if no Deacon is present) offers a dismissal to end the liturgy. The brief nature emphasizes the urgency of going forth into the world to do God’s work.