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April 2, 2008

“Why Do We Celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday?”

A lay member of the Standing Committee responds:


The article below, written by the Rev. Clayton Morris, liturgical officer for the Episcopal Church, and titled “Since You Asked: Why Do We Celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday?” (Episcopal Life Daily, March 31, 2008) is shocking in its explanation of the Holy Eucharist.

This explanation could apply to any secular gathering or meal where the goal is to make sure that “all God’s children are safe, fed, nourished, and whole.” This could describe such things as a food bank project or any number of community gatherings or meals.

This has nothing to do with the Christian meaning of the Eucharist! Where is the saving, atoning death of Jesus on the cross in this explanation? Where is there any reminder that we celebrate the Eucharist in obedience to Jesus’ command to “do this in remembrance of me”? Where is any mention of Jesus’ Body which was given for us and His Blood which was shed for us, as a final and complete sacrifice? Where is even a simple word about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? Where is any mention of our part in preparing to receive the Eucharist – “earnestly repenting of our sins, being in love and charity with our neighbors, and intending to lead a new life ... ”? Where is a reminder that we worship on Sunday because this was the day of Christ’s Resurrection, the “first day of the week”? And where is any word about forgiveness of sins, strength, and amendment of life granted to partakers in this blessed sacrament by our Lord and Him alone?

Fr. Morris’s explanation of the Eucharist has nothing to do with the holy sacrifice of Christ’s Body and Blood in this sacrament. It is appalling in its omissions.

    Judy Mayo
Lay Member of the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth
and Senior Deputy to General Convention
TEC shield Since You Asked: Why do we celebrate the Eucharist on Sunday?
March 31, 2008
[Episcopal Life] The Rev. Clayton Morris, liturgical officer for the Episcopal Church, responds:

The worship life of the Episcopal Church is ordered in a series of rhythms. The liturgical year is punctuated by seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost and Ordinary Time.

From Advent to Pentecost, the life and ministry of Jesus is the thematic focus, Sunday by Sunday. From Trinity Sunday until the last Sunday after Pentecost, the weekly gathering of the community reflects on how it can "seek and serve Christ in all persons and strive for justice and peace among all people," in the words of the Baptismal Covenant. The week has its own rhythm.

The Book of Common Prayer calls the church to daily prayer, providing offices for morning, noon, evening and night. The prayer book also calls the church to gather as a congregation once a week to celebrate Eucharist.

Why does the church gather around a table with food and drink in its primary act of worship? Because God calls the church to a ministry of reconciliation. The church is called to restore the dignity of creation. It is all about feeding and being fed. It is all about making certain that all God's children are safe, whole and nourished. The ritual breaking of bread in the midst of the assembly reminds us of our task while it embodies its reality.

In its early history, the church always celebrated the Eucharist on Sunday. For a host of historical and circumstantial reasons, weekly Communion fell out of fashion over time so that, by the time Anglicanism was transplanted to the North American continent, Sunday morning worship without Communion was common. The drafters of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer were very clear about restoring the Eucharist to Sunday morning as a way of underscoring the church's ministry in the world.

So, as faithful Christians, we use the Daily Office in some form, alone or in community, to say our daily prayers. On Sunday, we gather as the body of Christ in the eucharistic assembly. We take bread, bless it, break and share it. Then we take our nourished bodies and souls into the world to do the work God has given us to do.