Communion: A Gift Received, Not Taken

If one looks at any of the icons designated as “The Communion of the Apostles” (not the Last Supper Icon), one readily sees that it is Christ who distributes the Eucharist to the Apostles.   They don’t take it, but receive the Eucharist as a gift.  And so we call the Body and Blood of Christ “the gifts.”

The great liturgical scholar Robert F. Taft. S.J. says of the rituals surrounding Holy Communion:

“There was, of course, a point to all this seemingly ritualistic minutiae, one long forgotten in modern western self-service clergy communion rituals: Holy Communion is a gift received, not something anyone – not even the presider – just ‘takes’. And since liturgy is supposed to say ritually what it means, this receiving was symbolized – and not just in Byzantium – by having everyone, even the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople, receive communion from the hand of another as from Christ. For Eucharistic communion is not the sacrament of one’s private communion with the Risen Lord. It is the sacrament of our communion with one another in the one Body of Christ, a body at once ecclesial and Eucharistic. This was the original meaning of eucharist koinonia.” Through Their Own Eyes: Liturgy as the Byzantines Saw It, p 108)

It is clear in the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper that Christ gave the bread and the cup of wine to His disciples.  Interesting in the icons of the Last Supper, one disciple is portrayed as reaching to take the bread – it is the apostle Judas.

See also my blog We Receive Holy Communion, We Don’t Take it

The Scriptures Bear Witness to the Word of God

In the blog series which began with the blog The Scriptures Bear Witness to the Word of God  we considered how the authors of the New Testament read and interpreted the Jewish Scriptures (our Old Testament).  That blog series is now available as on document at The Scriptures Bear Witness to the Word of God (PDF).

You can find links to all my blog series which have been converted into PDFs at  Blog Series PDFs.