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also known as
"The Eucharist" or
"The Lord's Supper"


Words of Institution
Real Presence
Sacramental union

Theologies contrasted
Eucharist (Catholic Church)
Anglican Eucharistic theology

Important theologians
Paul ·Aquinas
Augustine · Calvin
Chrysostom · Cranmer
Luther · Zwingli

Related Articles
Christianity and alcohol
Catholic Historic Roots
Closed and Open Table
Divine Liturgy
Eucharistic adoration
Eucharistic discipline
First Communion
Infant Communion
Mass · Sacrament

Churches and Ecclesial Communities contrasted in relation to Eucharistic theology:

Roman Catholic Church

  • Transubstantiation as a statement of what is changed when the bread and wine are consecrated, not an explanation of the means or mode by which the Real Presence is effected, since "[t]he signs of bread and wine become, in a way surpassing understanding, the Body and Blood of Christ."[1]
  • Christ is really (not just in sign or symbol), truly (not just subjectively or metaphorically) and substantially (not just in his power) present in the Eucharist.
  • Because the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is indeed real, not merely figurative or virtual, Eucharistic adoration (adoration of the Eucharist as the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ) is practised.
  • The Eucharist is a sacrifice in that it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross. [2] The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice. Christ, of course, is not sacrificed again. The Cross cannot be repeated. The Mass is a liturgical representation of a sacrifice that makes present what it represents through the action of God. [3]
  • Theological development: Saint Ignatius of Antioch,[4] Saint Justin Martyr, the first writer to describe the celebration in Rome of the Eucharist,[5] Saint Ambrose,[6] Saint Thomas Aquinas,[7] the Council of Trent.[8]
  • Closed communion, with relaxation of the rule in certain defined circumstances.
  • Frequency: All Catholics are obliged to attend celebration of the Eucharist at least on every Sunday and on other days known as holy days of obligation. Priests generally celebrate the Eucharist daily. Reception of Holy Communion is obligatory at least once a year (at Easter time). No particular conditions apply to assistance at Mass, but conditions for receiving Holy Communion are freedom from unconfessed mortal sin and observance of the rules of fasting. These same rules apply to all celebrations of the Eucharist by a priest.

Eastern Orthodox Church

  • The Eucharistic mystery bears an objective Real Presence. The bread and wine are believed to become the genuine Body and Blood of the Christ Jesus (a mode of thought supported by such verses as John 6:55) through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Eastern Orthodox Church has never described exactly how this occurs: without going into details, it is satisfied in accepting that the change is a mystery beyond human understanding.[9][10]
  • The Church's spiritual and bodily sacrifice (by way of prayer, fasting, and confession) is, in a mystical and inexplicable union, fully one with Christ's actual sacrifice on the cross.
  • The primary theological developments in regard to the Eucharist are mainly derived from earlier Church Fathers, especially the teachings of John Chrysostom, Ignatius of Antioch, and the Cappadocian Fathers, among others.
  • The Divine Liturgy is never celebrated in private, as it is considered necessarily communal; there must be at least two or three people to receive Holy Communion. An exception to this is hermits who have been ordained hieromonks but have no one to serve with them.
  • Closed communion is almost exclusively administered. Communion is given only to baptized, chrismated Orthodox Christians who have prepared by fasting, prayer, and confession. The priest administers the Body and Blood of Christ with a spoon directly into the recipient's mouth from the chalice.[11] From baptism young infants and children are carried to the chalice to receive Holy Communion.[12]
  • The Eucharist is generally celebrated at least weekly on Sundays (and often on Saturdays also), on the "Great Feasts" and on Pascha (Easter). Some laity partake of Holy Communion only four times a year. Members are encouraged to participate as often as it is offered, provided they are properly prepared through prayer, fasting, and recent confession. It is the opinion of some traditionalists that frequent communion is dangerous spiritually if it reflects a lack of piety in approaching the most significant of the Mysteries, which would be damaging to the soul. However, many spiritual advisors advocate frequent reception provided that it is done in the proper spirit and not casually, with full preparation (such as prayer, fasting, and recent confession) and discernment (see Eucharistic discipline).

Anglican Communion

  • There is a divergence of opinion over eucharistic theology which broadly corresponds to the lines of churchmanship within Anglicanism. Transubstantiation, consubstantiationism, Sacramental Union, (Calvinistic) Spiritual Presence, and (Zwinglian) Dynamic Memorialism are all represented. Which of these views is considered to represent "authentic" Anglican eucharistic theology depends on wider theological and ecclesiological understandings of Anglicanism, in particular the role of pre-Reformation doctrine and practices, versus a more reformed theology, in interpreting the Book of Common Prayer (which has its origins in the works of Thomas Cranmer) and the Thirty-nine Articles (an Anglican formulary developed in the sixteenth century).
  • High Church Anglicans tend to believe in the Real (Bodily) Presence. While a minority of Anglo-Catholics adhere to transubstantiation (despite its denunciation in Article XXVIII of the Thirty-nine Articles), the majority of High Church Anglicans do not, and are content simply to let the mystery of the manifestation of Christ remain a mystery. In practice, High Church parishes tend to celebrate the Eucharist weekly (or more frequently) and prefer the term "Eucharist" or "Mass". Reservation and adoration of the sacrament are common practice among many High Anglicans. The pioneering Anglo-Catholic Edward Bouverie Pusey argued for a theology of sacramental union.
  • Low Church Anglicans, on the other hand, tend to reject belief in the Real (Bodily) Presence as well as reservation and adoration of the sacrament and adopt a Calvinistic (Spiritual Presence) or Zwinglian (Dynamic Memorialism) view of the Eucharist, resembling views held by Protestant denominations such as Presbyterians and Baptists. Low Church parishes tend to celebrate the Eucharist less frequently (e.g., monthly, but this varies from place to place) and prefer the terms "Holy Communion" or "Lord's Supper".
  • Between the High and Low Church positions lies the view that Anglicanism (as a Broad Church) permits a range of theological views, each of which (with the possible exception of the Roman Catholic notion of transubstantiation) is an equally welcome expression of Eucharistic theology within the Anglican context. In practical terms, most Broad Church Anglicans believe Christ is spiritually present in the elements — a theology of consubstantionism or Sacramental Union.

Lutherans and Moravians

Why then should we not much more say in the Supper, "This is my body," even though bread and body are two distinct substances, and the word "this" indicates the bread? Here, too, out of two kinds of objects a union has taken place, which I shall call a "sacramental union," because Christ’s body and the bread are given to us as a sacrament. This is not a natural or personal union, as is the case with God and Christ. It is also perhaps a different union from that which the dove has with the Holy Spirit, and the flame with the angel, but it is also assuredly a sacramental union (WA 26, 442; LW 37, 299-300).
  • Body and Blood are "in, with, and under the forms" of bread and wine:
For the reason why, in addition to the expressions of Christ and St. Paul (the bread in the Supper is the body of Christ or the communion of the body of Christ), also the forms: under the bread, with the bread, in the bread [the body of Christ is present and offered], are employed, is that by means of them the papistical transubstantiation may be rejected and the sacramental union of the unchanged essence of the bread and of the body of Christ indicated (FC SD VII, 35; Triglot Concordia, 983; emphasis added). Lutherans do not seek to explain the change, and some designate their beliefs as consubstantiation, while others reject the designation of their doctrine as consubstantiation in contradistinction to the transubstantiation of the Roman Catholic Church, which they also reject (see also, Smalcald Articles [1]).
  • Lutherans do not believe that the eucharistic sacrifice (sacrifice of praise) of the Lord's Supper is propitiatory or that it "repeats" Christ's sacrifice on the cross. However, most Lutheran denominations put a great emphasis on the importance of the Sacrament of Communion, and of the main branches of the Reformation Era, the Lutheran view of "Real Presence" is regarded by many theologians to be the closest in theory and practice to the Sacrament of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. [13]
  • Many Lutheran Church bodies practice closed or close communion. However, the largest Lutheran body in the United States and Canada, the ELCA, allows all believers to partake in the sacrament, as do many of the national Lutheran Churches in the countries of Scandinavia and elsewhere. Also, in recent decades a revival of frequent partaking of the Sacrament has taken place in the mainline Lutheran branches, and the ELCA advises that Communion should be a part of all services. [14]
  • see Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, Book of Concord, [14]

Calvinist (Presbyterian and Reformed)

  • primary theological development from John Calvin, 16th century
  • Eucharistic theology: historically, real spiritual presence, i.e., pneumatic presence.
  • Reformed theology has taught that Jesus' body is seated in heaven at the right hand of God and therefore is not present in the elements nor do the elements turn into his body. When the eucharist is received, however, not only the spirit, but also the true body and blood of Jesus Christ (hence "real") are received in a pneumatic (ghostly) sense, but these are only received by those partakers who eat worthily (i.e., repentantly) with faith. The Holy Spirit unites the Christian with Jesus though they are separated by a great distance.
  • See, e.g., Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. 19; Belgic Confession, Article 35; open communion.
  • Theology in this tradition is in flux, and recent agreements, especially A Formula for Agreement, between these denominations and the Lutherans have stressed that: "The theological diversity within our common confession provides both the complementarity needed for a full and adequate witness to the gospel (mutual affirmation) and the corrective reminder that every theological approach is a partial and incomplete witness to the Gospel (mutual admonition) (A Common Calling, page 66)." Hence, in seeking to come to consensus about the Real Presence, the churches have written:
"During the Reformation both Reformed and Lutheran Churches exhibited an evangelical intention when they understood the Lord's Supper in the light of the saving act of God in Christ. Despite this common intention, different terms and concepts were employed which. . . led to mutual misunderstanding and misrepresentation. Properly interpreted, the differing terms and concepts were often complementary rather than contradictory (Marburg Revisited, pp. 103-104);"
and further:
"In the Lord's Supper the risen Christ imparts himself in body and blood, given up for all, through his word of promise with bread and wine....we proclaim the death of Christ through which God has reconciled the world with himself. We proclaim the presence of the risen Lord in our midst. Rejoicing that the Lord has come to us, we await his future coming in glory....Both of our communions, we maintain, need to grow in appreciation of our diverse eucharistic traditions, finding mutual enrichment in them. At the same time both need to grow toward a further deepening of our common experience and expression of the mystery of our Lord's Supper (A Formula for Agreement)."
  • Communion is generally held less frequently than in some churches. In the Church of Scotland Holy Communion was traditionally held four times a year, the first Sunday of March, June, September and December, though many churches hold it more frequently (though still not usually weekly); it was traditionally taken by all confirmed members of the church, but nowadays is also often open to children baptized in the church.[15][16]


  • primary theological development from John Wesley & Charles Wesley, 18th century Anglicans
  • Because of historical roots, much Methodist Eucharistic thought is similar to "Broad Church" Anglican thought; some elements of "High Church" and "Low Church" Anglicanism can be found among Methodists, with United Methodists tending to be more "High" in theology if not in practice.
  • Eucharist commonly celebrated on Sundays and Holy Days, like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but never without a congregation. While monthly observance was once the most commonly found experience, since the 1980s weekly celebration has become more common, and not just on Sundays.
  • Eucharistic theology: "Jesus truly present in Holy Communion...The divine presence is a living reality and can be experienced by participants; it is not a remembrance of the Last Supper and the Crucifixion only." (from This Holy Mystery), i.e., Real Presence.
  • see John Wesley, Open communion, This Holy Mystery

Baptist and other related Evangelicals

  • primary theological development from 16th & 17th centuries
  • Eucharistic theology: Memorialism
  • Independent Baptist hold to the Relational Presence
  • "The bread and cup that symbolize the broken body and shed blood offered by Christ remind us today of God's great love for us..." [2]
  • see Huldrych Zwingli, open communion

Quakers and the Salvation Army

  • primary theological development from 17th century
  • Eucharistic theology: suspension/Memorialism
  • "The bread and wine remind us of Jesus' body and blood." [3]
  • see George Fox
  • Quakers understand all of life as being sacramental and thus do not practice baptism or holy communion. "We believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and in communion with that Spirit. If the believer experiences such spiritual baptism and communion, then no rite or ritual is necessary. ...The Quaker ideal is to make every meal at every table a Lord's Supper." [4]
  • Quakers and Salvationists do not practice Holy Communion in their worship, believing it was not meant to be a perpetually mandated ritual


  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1333
  2. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1366
  3. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1367
  4. Letter to the Smyrnaeans, 7
  5. First Apology 65-67
  6. On the Mysteries, 52-54
  7. Summa Theologica, III, 73-83
  8. Sessions 13 and 22
  9. Timothy Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church(New Edition), pp. 283-285
  10. Father Michael Pomazansky, in Orthodox Dogmatic Theology p. 183 [p. 279-280 in the English edition]
  11. Ware p. 287
  12. Ware p. 279
  13. ELCA : Worship : FAQ : An Introduction to the Sacraments
  14. 14.0 14.1 ELCA : Worship : FAQ : How Do We Move to Weekly Communion?
  15. "Church of Scotland: Customs and practices", BBC Religion and Ethics, accessed 19 February 2009.
  16. Peter Donald, [ "Holy Communion and the Renewal of the Church"], Church of Scotland, accessed 19 February 2009, paragraph 3.3

External links