Earlier today someone posted a comment on the blog topic I’ve been calling “The Eucharist Diet” – a day to day report of my practice of taking daily communion and the corresponding results on my weight. I thought this question was worth highlighting and addressing:
“Hi. I’ve been following your efforts with great interest. I recently gained around 5 pounds over the holidays (and would prefer to be 10 pounds lighter, actually, for better blood pressure control) and I’d love to do what you’re doing. But I’m a lay person, not a pastor like you are. (I’m not Roman Catholic so I don’t believe in actual transubstantiation, but I do believe that Christ’s presence enters into the sacrament when it’s blessed in church. I believe this is a pastoral function.) What do you suggest I do instead?”
Yes, the “lay/clergy” question: How can someone not an ordained minister “administer” the sacraments in communion?
I speak here from my own opinion and theological perspective. I know for many of you my answers will not suffice because your own theologies discourage or forbid partaking of communion in unauthorized settings. So take this with a grain of salt…
I (like the commenter) am not Catholic and I do not hold to a doctrine of transubstantiation. For Catholics there is no real way around this position and celebrating communion outside the sanction of the Church is impossible. For Catholics the option for a “Eucharist Diet” could be 1) go to mass regularly or even every day, or 2) take wine or juice and bread on your own and see it as a symbolic representation (and nothing more) of the real Eucharist, without interpreting it as the actual substance.
The rest of us have other options: As a Lutheran pastor I believe (like the reader) in a “real presence” of Jesus in the bread and the wine. This is not the same as transubstantiation nor is it akin to the representation view of traditional evangelicals, who see communion as a symbol only. Evangelicals might try a “Eucharist Diet” (they should have no issue doing this at home on their own) as a “picture” of what Jesus has done and could invite Jesus at this time to “fill” them with spiritual food accordingly…
That said, again, I do believe in a “real presence” of Jesus in the bread and the wine. I believe that what brings this power of Jesus into the elements themselves is a combination of faith and the Words of God, specifically the words that Jesus himself spoke at the Last Supper:
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (I Corinthians 11:23-26).
I believe it isn’t WHO speaks these words that matters, but the words themselves as coming from Jesus, and my faith which takes those words seriously. I think a child could read these words and the bread and wine would still deliver the presence of Jesus.
Relationships metter too. Communion is intended to be shared with other believers. At times I’ll have communion alone, but generally I believe it should be shared. Still. it’s the message not the messenger that matters. There’s nothing special or sacred about ME as an ordained minister, just something special about the WORD I – or anyone else – might speak in relation to the wine and bread…
Again, take this for what it’s worth in your own theological context. If you have “allergy” to doing communion in your own home, then do it simply as a representational event and ask God to make it more for you himself.