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More on Communion as the Main Order of Worship

In his reply to my last post, Robert Easter makes the following comment on the Holy Communion:

The earliest records show that weekly Communion was standard from the very first. John Wesley stressed it as still being important for the Methodists to take it weekly, and he took it several times during the week.

That line of thinking has led many churches–most notably Roman Catholicism but also Orthodox and Anglican churches–to make the Holy Communion the normal order of worship.  I discussed this relative to the Diocese of Sydney’s dilemma about lay administration of Communion in Move to empower laity raises church ire, where I argued against this practice.

A liturgical approach to this problem is probably the simplest way to resolve this.  Generally speaking, Eucharistic liturgies in Anglican and Catholic practice are divided into two parts: the ante-Communion (up to the Creed) and the Communion itself (after the Creed.)  It was common practice in the Patristic Church to dismiss the catechumens and other "beginners" at the end of Ante-Communion, as they were not full members of the church.

In a society where Christianity wasn’t completely out in the open and where the influence of mystery religions (which had steps of initiation, much like we see in Masonry) made this kind of exclusion more acceptable.  In an open society like ours, such a dismissal would be seen as snobbish.

This is why the Anglican solution of having Morning/Evening Prayer and the Holy Communion separate is more sensible.  It is noteworthy that both of these prayer services can be seen as "ante-Communions" in their own right, and are used this way from time to time.  Parishes can still offer Holy Communion early on Sunday, during the week and as a monthly (or whatever) observance for those who feel as Wesley did.

It’s interesting to note that, in the Episcopal Church, the monopoly of Communion (the "Holy" part is debatable) has been paralleled by the erosion of many other Anglican practices, i.e., Communion only available to the confirmed (they even allow the unbaptised to receive it in many places,) etc.  But then again many things have been eroding in TEC as of late.  Including the membership.


2 Replies to “More on Communion as the Main Order of Worship”

  1. Well, Don,

    My own views a probably more reflective of Nairobi than Manhattan (or wherever that woman with the clown suit has her office), but I think the Fathers had a good idea with their split services- They would have singing, prayers, and teaching in the (all!) morning, then have a shared lunch, then go back for the Eucharist. The more practical approach today, at least until we get back to the point of wanting to spend the day, is just to stress the fear of the Lord, understanding the Invitation,

    You who are in love and charity with your neighbors,and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God,and walking from henceforth in His holy ways, draw near with faith, taking this holy sacrament to your comfort, and make your confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.

    as also being a warning against “receiving unworthily” as in 1 Cor. 11, that, “for this cause many among you are sick, and some are sleeping (dead).” Taking what is holy into an un-sanctified vessel is not the best idea, but at any service there are apt to be some carrying sin in their life, no matter when we “communicate” or how often.


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