XVIII: The Holy Communion

Q: Please list and explain some terms used for the Holy Communion.

A:   The meal of the Lord's Body and Blood is known by many names within the Lutheran tradition. Some of these include:

The Holy Communion: Derived from 1 Cor. 10: 16-17, we believe that in this Sacrament we are united with Christ and all Christians (living and dead) through the sharing of His Body and Blood. For this reason our “communion” is “holy.”

The Breaking of Bread: The most ancient title for the Sacrament, and the only specific term used to describe it in Scripture (Acts 2:42).

The Eucharist: From the Greek word for “thanksgiving,” this is the most widely used name for the Communion since the first century. We call this Sacrament the Eucharist both because Christ “gave thanks” (1 Cor. 11:24; Mt. 26:27; Mark 14:23; Luke 22:19), and that it is the supreme act of Christian thanksgiving.

The Lord's Supper: We confess by this term, derived from 1 Cor. 11:20, that it is not our meal that we celebrate but the Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ instituted by and for us. In using this term we confess, also, that Christ is both the Guest and Host, Victim and High Priest of our celebration.

The Sacrament of the Altar: Named for the place this Sacrament is celebrated in our Churches, we confess that the Eucharist is the great sacrifice of praise by which Christ unites the faithful with Himself and includes their prayers with His own.

The Mass: This name derives from the words at the end of the Latin rite (“lte, missa est,” “Go, you are dismissed”). Luther retained the name, it is the principal name for the Sacrament in the Confessions, and it is still used by many Lutherans all over the world to designate the chief service of the Church.

By whatever name we call the Holy Communion, we celebrate the Sacrament in which Christ comes to us, true body and true blood, for the forgiveness of sins.

Adapted from About Being Lutheran © Lutheran Liturgical Renewal 1991. Used by permission.