Communion has been the subject of some recent high-profile debates, ranging from calls to deny the Sacrament to Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry, to a decision to revoke the first communion of an 8-year-old Roman Catholic girl because she ingested a non-wheat wafer. (Broadway, B., 2004)
The meaning of communion and its practices in churches have been a continuous discussion by members of different religions around the world for centuries. While the receiving of Holy Communion may mean different things to different people, globally, the Sacrament is a time when persons of similar beliefs and faith come together to eat of the body of Christ (bread), and drink of His blood (wine) in solemn remembrance of Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross.
This review will focus on the importance of religion in human societies, what is Holy Communion (the Eucharist), the purpose of the Sacrament, misconceptions on receiving communion and who or what determines who receives it. References to church law in the review relate to "Canon Law" which is the body of laws and regulations made by or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of Christian organizations (the church) and its members. (Catholic Encyclopedia, 2003) Religion in Human Societies
Religion is a cultural universal and plays an important role in human societies. Emile Durkheim was perhaps the first sociologist to recognize the importance of religion in human societies. (Schaefer, R. T., 2003). In his research, Durkheim viewed religion as a set of beliefs and practices specifically connected to religion as opposed to other institutions. Following his direction, contemporary sociologists study the norms and values of religion through their own religious beliefs and through the interpretation of the Bible by Christians and the Koran by Muslim groups. Despite the widely spread discussions of conflict between Christians and other religions, most are monotheistic, that is, they base their faith on a single deity and include belief in the afterlife and judgment day. What is Holy Communion?
Holy Communion, the Eucharist, or the Lord's Supper as described from a Christian perspective is the Sacrament established by the Lord Jesus Christ during His last meal with the disciples. The loaf of bread broken into pieces represents the body of Christ in which we partake as believers. The cup of wine signifies the new covenant, a cleansing through the blood of Christ. In the New King James Version of the Bible, we find: "And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me." Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you." (Luke 22:19-22). Christians believe that in partaking of Holy Communion you are accepting Christ as your Lord and Life, yielding yourself to Him. Each person who wishes to partake should come with a humble heart, focused on Him. The significance of the Sacrament for the Presbyterian believer is the spiritual presence of Christ. The bread and wine represent those things that God is doing inwardly in each of us, the most important being feeding us spiritually and uniting us with Christ and each other. The Lord's Supper reminds us that Christ, the Spirit of God, dwells within each one of us, and regardless of denominational and personal theology, and beliefs, we are all connected. Acts 20/20 Ministries defines Holy Communion as "one of two ordinances given to the church by the Lord Jesus Christ," and is observed whenever Christians desire to have special fellowship and communion with the Lord and other Christians. The Purpose of Holy Communion
Holy Communion is celebrated periodically to deeply impress on a believer's heart the great redemptive act Christ performed at Calvary. (Apostolic Christian Church Practices, 2002) The...