Holy Communion. Eucharist. The Lord's Supper. This sacred meal is known by a variety of names and is celebrated with varying degrees of regularity across denominational lines.
It's possible you received the bread and wine/body and blood of Jesus a couple days ago. Also possible: You have never experienced communion before or it has been a very long time.
Regardless of where you currently reside on the communion-receiving spectrum, Jesus accepts you and invites you to the table. These are just a few of Jesus' core behavioral trademarks: acceptance and invitation.
Holy Communion is mystery upon mystery. It's eternity, grace, forgiveness, and community all wrapped in one.
Different denominations articulate the logistics of what takes place during the Lord's Supper in a variety of ways. But the truth is, no one church has the monopoly on eucharistic wisdom. Instead, denominations, congregations, and church leaders do their best to utilize the Bible and a strong dose of Holy Spirit guidance to make sense of something that is, at least in part, beyond human comprehension.
Here's what we know. Jesus started it. The idea for a meal involving both bread and wine that would correspond to body and blood came straight from our Savior himself. This meal was instituted by Jesus not long before he died; you can read three different accounts in Mark 14:12-26, Matthew 26:17-30, and Luke 22:7-23. Each version has its own unique slant on the meal details, but there are commonalities between all three.
With his closest friends around him, Jesus first took the bread. His words were: "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." This is almost identical to what most church leaders say during what is called the Words of Institution just before communion is served.
Of special note is the way Jesus described this bread/body as being "for you." It's for each of us, individually and communally.
Jesus then took a cup of wine into his hands. In Luke 22:20, Jesus said the wine was his blood, and it, too, was poured out "for you." Jesus was making it personal for the disciples. His words were a way of conveying to them that they mattered deeply.
When Jesus first said these words, he was still very much alive and hadn't yet been crucified. He also hadn't yet resurrected from the dead.
Nowadays, as we hear Jesus' words about the body and blood, sacrifice and forgiveness, we can understand that he was also giving his disciples a preview of what would soon be happening. Jesus wanted his friends to know that his death and resurrection were intimately tied to this holy meal. He wanted them to catch a glimpse of the reality that somehow, through a deep, unthinkable loss, there would be redemption and healing for all of creation.
When we experience communion, all these realities break into our everyday lives. Jesus breathes into us healing, forgiveness, connection, and hope. Not only are we reconnected with the risen Christ, we are reconnected to one another — ready to head back into the world with the knowledge that God walks with us.
Everyone feels a little different when they receive communion, and that's perfectly OK. Tears, joy, exuberance, confusion, happiness, gratitude. It's all completely appropriate. The presence of Jesus as experienced through the Lord's Supper has a way of filling our spirits with a host of emotions.
We don't earn Holy Communion and we're not expected to fully understand it. It's a gift. And as with all Jesus-style gifts, sometimes the best way to express our gratitude is to allow our often-heavy human hearts the opportunity to encounter the abundant, over-flowing, never-fading love of Christ.