Worship Terminology: Eucharist


At Jesus’ last Supper He gave new meaning to the centuries old tradition of the Passover.  This new meal is referred to in various ways, but the most common are: Eucharist, Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper and the Breaking of Bread.  Today we will look at some of the implications of the title “Eucharist”.

The term Eucharist comes from the Greek word eucharistia, which means “thanksgiving”.  Although the term is not used as a title for communion in the Bible, it is found in the description of the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians.

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks [eucharistia], he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me”. 1 Corinthians 11:23-24

It was also a title for the Lord’s Supper found in early church documents such as those by Ignatious of Antioch, Justin Martyr and the Didache .

The title Eucharist reminds me that the Lord’s Supper is a time of thanksgiving and not one of mourning or even of confession.  Although Paul warns us to examine ourselves before taking communion (1 Corinthians 11:28), confession is not the primary purpose of this meal.  In fact the main point Paul is making is to make sure you are focused on Christ (1 Corinthians 11:29) and not your own pleasure. (Read the whole chapter and notice that Paul is not talking about confessing sin in general, but about the sin of gluttonous feasting in the presence of the hungry under the pretense of celebrating the Lord’s Supper.)

Paul would not have had to make this warning if it wasn’t already the practice of the church to see the Lord’s Supper as a joyful time.  The warning suggests that the practice had been misused but does not necessarily suggest that the joy was misplaced.

The Lord’s Supper is primarily a remembrance of Jesus’ death, but it is a remembrance with a thankful and even joyful heart.  We have a Risen Savior.  We have nothing to mourn.  Christ’s death was a victory.  Next time you take communion, try taking it with joy and thanksgiving!

by Jerry Wyrick, President of Worship Arts Conservatory

Posted in General Worship.