The Eucharist is the core of our Christian faith, not for any complicated reasons, nor from one particular theological position or another, but because it is precisely what Our Lord said we should do. Of course doctrine (what the Church teaches) and theology (discourse about God) are important, but fundamentally, when we gather together and celebrate holy communion, we are simply doing what we were told, by Jesus, to do. ‘This is my body….this is my blood….given for you; do this in remembrance of me’ . It is transformative, and by it we come to know we are forgiven, healed, and recreated, to become yet more fully ourselves and the person God calls us to be.
As with other sacraments, the Eucharist – also known as holy communion, communion, Mass, is an outward and visible form and expression of inner grace. The Eucharist itself leads us through the whole story of salvation history: our redemption and salvation through Christ.
The Eucharist is subject to Canons B12 and B15 and B18, in terms of law, which relate to preaching, vestments, and ministry, as well as to structure of the service itself. The basic shape of the Rite is: the people gather (the gathering); the word is proclaimed; the sacrament is shared; and people are sent out (the dismissal) to love and serve the Lord!
For all the structures and ‘method’ of the Eucharist, there is a beauty and rhythm, however, wherever, and whatever scale it is celebrated. Whether outdoors – up a mountain, on a lakeside, at a bedside or in a prison cell; cathedral or small leaky corrugated iron shack, there is a transformational beauty in sharing bread and wine – breaking open God’s word; breaking bread together. As the Dom Gregory Dix , in his classic work ‘the shape of the liturgy’ was to observe, this can and does take place anywhere, where people are.
You can look at the Eucharist structurally, like the parts of a fine flower, or the components of a well-made engine, but it is infinitely more than the sum of its parts. It is a gathering of the people of God, a breaking and sharing of bread, the body of Christ, in order to become or reform as the body of Christ, and so be sent out, literally to ‘live and work to God’s praise and glory’.