The communal nature of Communion
Is Communion primarily an individual or communal act?
Is Communion primarily an individual or communal liturgical act? The normal answer
is that it is both and in the Church the communal aspects have become very important.
Can we, then, as a lone communicant, think of ourselves as part of a community when
we are guided through Communion via some electronic medium? When we take Holy Communion
in a church, with other people, the communal aspect of Holy Communion is implicit.
When working with the web we often use
the term “virtual” to refer to some non-corporeal activity. Holy Communion
on the web is not a “virtual Communion,” however, because the “communion” in all
cases takes place between the communicant and God. What is “virtual” in a web-based
Communion service is the liturgical guide through the ritual of Holy Communion.
The communicant will be real and corporeal as will be the bread and the wine (the
elements) used in the service.
The communal side of Communion offered via the web involves the collective number
of people who may be guided through the Communion liturgy in a church or on the
web, who have done so in the past, or who will do so in the future. If this is taken
into account liturgically, this point can be presented during a web-based Communion
service so that it is real and important to the communicant. The interpretation
given here is consistent with the Christian concept of the "communion of saints."
Each year we celebrate All Saints' Day.
All Saints' Day, in the Christian church, is a day commemorating all the saints
of the church, both known and unknown, celebrated on November 1 (or the first Sunday
in November) in the Western churches and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in
the Eastern churches. All Saints is a day of remembrance for the saints, with the
New Testament meaning of all Christian people of every time and place. This celebration
commemorates the communion of saints in the Christian church.
When we celebrate Holy Communion we are remembering the death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ and the promise of salvation for "all the saints."
This interpretation is also reasonably
consistent with the views of such early Methodists as Lady D’Arcy Maxwell, a person
who gave considerable thought to the need for and implications of frequent Communion.
Lady Maxwell looked on constant Communion as an act of obedience to Christ. For
her it formed a bond of union among God's faithful followers and the most intimate
participation of God in the life of the believer. The Sacrament also became if not
the primary means of grace certainly one of the most important. It was a practical
avowal of the Christian's attachment to Christ as well as a public renewal of the
covenant between God and his people.
Having said all this, however, we must
recognize that it is difficult to satisfy the communal aspect of Holy Communion
on the Web. The key here is that it is "difficult," but not impossible.
Even before Holy Communion is a communal act, it is a means God has chosen to make
his grace known to people. That grace is available to us independently and
Holy Communion is a rite that helps us center and focus on the acceptance of God's
grace. Holy Communion on the Web should be viewed as a supplement to Holy
Communion in a church, not as a substitute for more institutional forms. If,
however, the communal aspect of Holy Communion on the Web is a problem for you,
I encourage you to use this site with others rather than by yourself.