Celebrating The Lord’s Table – How CCC Does it
Recently, someone from a mainline church background wondered why we don’t “bless the elements” of the Communion observance before taking. I took some moments to explain.
I’d be glad to help clarify what we do during our Communion Observance, and why.
MEANING OF “BLESSING” SOMETHING
The Scriptures found in the New Testament generally all use the same word for “blessing.” The original Greek word in many New Testament verses is “eulogia;” which means “to speak well of, praise” or “extol the virtues of.” When someone presents a eulogy at a funeral, for example, it is usually a statement extolling the virtues of someone who lived life well.
In the Old Testament, a Hebrew word for “blessing” is used quite often, and in a variety of ways. For example, when you entered a home for a time of fellowship, both visitor and host would speak words of “blessing” on each other, expressing joy and praise for the other person and the goodwill of God (e.g., Gen. 47:7). Climatic points in life were evoke a verbal blessing (birth of child, marriage, death). The practice of “blessing” was thought to also have the power of bringing new good into the life or situation. You’ll remember that the prophet Balaam was hired by King Balak to curse Israel, but God’s Spirit prompted the prophet instead to bless Israel, in keeping with the will of God.
Again, in the NT use of the word, it may carry some of the O.T. meanings; still, at the root, the word means to “praise or extol.”
So what was happening when Jesus (or others) broke the bread and “blessed it”? This “blessing” must have been a verbalization of the meaning behind the bread and cup, and a praising of God for what He has done for us.
As Paul reminds the Corinthians — who were not “recognizing the body and blood of the Lord” symbolized in the elements — it was important that these Christians understand what the Bread and Cup symbolized. They were to be understood as a vivid reminder of the bodily and bloody sacrifice of our Lord for our sin. They were to be taken in “in remembrance” of Him.
In essence, we do this every time we take the elements together. One of our Elder leaders reminds us of what communion means–the picture of the loving sacrifice of our Savior–and how we should think and remember this. To this end, we do “bless” the elements – we praise and extol what they symbolize.
BLESSING IN SOME CHURCH TRADITIONS
Some Christians historically have seen the “blessing of the communion elements” as necessary in order to bring special “grace” to those who take them. Some churches even go so far as to insist that this blessing is key to the partakers receiving “saving grace,” that is, God’s forgiveness and salvation through the saving favor of eating the bread and drinking the cup. So “blessing” the elements is seen as necessary for people to be forgiven and saved. The Roman Catholic Church essentially teaches this — that “saving grace” happens when the priest “blesses” the elements and then “dispenses saving grace” through giving the wafer and cup to constituents.
Other Christian denominations, like the Methodists, historically have not believed that “saving grace” comes through the blessing of the elements, but nonetheless some “extra favor” from God comes when the elements of communion are blessed and then taken in.
Evangelical Free Church believers (and Christ Community is an EFCA congregation) historically looked at the Scriptures’ passages and did not agree that “saving grace” nor even “extra favor from God” comes to the Christian who takes in the elements. Paul, for example, simply says that Jesus urged that the elements be taken “in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:25). Jesus wanted his disciples to vividly remember his death for them, and in fact, the passage goes on to say that in so taking the elements we “declare the Lord’s death until He comes.” So we understand the taking of communion to be an important REMEMBRANCE and a DECLARATION, but not an exercise in which “special favor from God is dispensed” because of the elements themselves.
SUMMARY – this means it is important to “bless” the elements in this way: let’s praise and extol the elements for what they are intended to do when we take them; namely, to remember the Lord’s incredible love in his death for us and our sin, and to declare His death until the moment of His return.