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A Mass by any other name 2

EucharistThe words “Holy Communion” never occur in the New Testament! Like the title “Lord’s Supper“, “communion” (κοινωνία), is not regularly connected to the Christian service with bread and wine in the New Testament. The connection appears only once.

Communion, κοινωνία, is normally translated “fellowship”. NRSV, in 1 Cor 10:16-17, translates it as “sharing”:

16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?
17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Using the word “communion” focuses on the act of receiving the elements, and on the elements themselves.

The Book of Common Prayer 1662 (350 years celebration this year) titles the service “The order of the administration of the Lord’s Supper, or Holy Communion” a title it has had there since the 1552 Prayer Book.

It is notable that titles commonly used now are the ones little used in the New Testament.

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8 thoughts on “A Mass by any other name 2”

  1. Barry Smithson

    I note the Prayer Book of 1549 says
    The Supper of the Lorde
    and The Holy Communion,
    Commonly called the Masse.

  2. Ross McComish

    Actually, Bosco, the 1549 Prayer Book used the same title. And according to the OED, “communion” has been used since about the fifteenth century in all three senses – the relgious observance, the consecrated elements, and paticipation in the observance specifically by reception of those elements. Isn’t it a bother, the way words won’t just sit quietly where we’d like them to?

    1. Thanks, Ross. As Barry has just pointed out in the previous comment, 1549 was slightly different which is why I said there’d been no change since 1552. Blessings.

  3. Ross McComish

    Sorry, Bosco, I thought your point was about the use of the terms “Lord’s Supper” and “Holy Communion”. And if we’re being really precise, 1552 says “The Order for the Administracion . . .” and 1662 “The Order of the Administration . . .” Not that we want to split hairs, of course. What I find more interesting is that 1549 has “The Supper of the Lorde and the Holy Communion”, implying that they are two different things, while 1552 has “. . . the Lordes Supper, or Holye Communion”, implying that they are the same thing. What changed in their theological understanding or terminology between 1549 and 1552?

    1. Well, if you know the two texts well, you’ll know a lot changed in the texts from 1549 to 1552. I really like what you have pointed out, thanks. I will have to think further about this. Blessings.

  4. >>It is notable that titles commonly used now are the ones little used in the New Testament.<<

    And the significance of this is? (I'm not saying it's not interesting, just that I feel that this is leading up to something or that there is some sort of obvious conclusion I'm supposed to be reaching and I'm not.)

    1. I’m not sure, Robert, if there is a single “obvious conclusion”; but I think that, for some, this would be quite a surprise? Some of the Bible-only types, eschewing, for example, the word “Mass” (with some sort of internal reasoning that it’s not a “Biblical” term) may never have paused with their own usage of titling it “Holy Communion”… As just one example… Blessings.

  5. Brian Poidevin

    Growing up in the RC church I received First Communion and thereafter took communion when attending Mass. Communion was something that you could take during Mass but it was not an alternative name for Mass. Communion or Holy Communion was to do with your relationship with Christ not with a communion of fellow worshippers/attendees. The Mass was designed to send you forth into the day to day world as a more effective Christian which may have been strengthened by taking Communion. Now as a member of the Anglican Communion (Another use of word) I realise that between 1549 and 1662 “Communion” was invested with another meaning. Actually the 1549 form noted by Ross McComish suggests that while the words “The Lord’s Supper’ was used as an alternate to Mass, Holy Communion was still something that occurred within it. In my AUstralian parish we normally use the word “Eucharist”, occasionally Mass without any sense of horror. I have never heard “The Lord’s Supper” used and “Holy Communion” by a few old timers.. Well words are words but what is occurring is what matters.

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