Open and Closed Communion

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   Open and Closed Communion - Discourse.

Christian Protestants have varying beliefs. Some feel the Lord is present at the Communion Table, but He does not indwell the elements. His presence alone is celebrated. Some churches believe that the Communion Service is simply a reminder of Christ's sacrifice on the cross, and the promise of salvation and eternal life.The Last Supper was the Passover Seder. For centuries, Jews celebrated the feast of Passover, in remembrance of their ancestors fleeing Egyptian slavery. At the first Passover, Jews were instructed to sacrifice lambs, and spread the lambs' blood over the door of every Jewish residence. The Jews were told to prepare unleavened bread and specific foods to symbolize the importance of the event.

Jesus was the Passover Lamb, thousands of years later. He celebrated the Seder with his family and friends then sacrificed His life for the freedom of all of humanity. Communion is a ritual that remembers that night, and Jesus instruction to his followers. Few events will bring a Christian closer to the Lord, one of which is death and admittance to heaven.

The disciples were familiar with Jesus speaking in metaphors, as he had done throughout his ministry with parables. They did not fully understand what was to take place in the next several days, but they remembered his words to "do this in memory" of Christ. After the feast of Pentecost, when the disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit, they began to practice the rite of Communion, in Jesus name.Over the centuries, different denominations have interpreted the Sacrament of Communion differently. The Roman Catholic Church, and some Protestant sects, have held the belief that although the elements appear unchanged, the priest consecrates the bread and wine into the physical body and blood of Christ, in a process called transubstantiation. Others hold the belief that Jesus is present, in and around the Eucharist, but in a strictly spiritual way. Many others believe the rite of sharing Communion bread and wine (or grape juice) is a symbol of obedience to Christ, and while the essence of Christ is present, there is no physical presence, except in the hearts of the communicants.Just as the beliefs vary, so do the actual Eucharist elements. Catholics have chosen to use specially prepared hosts made of unleavened bread, blessed by a priest. Other faiths keep the tradition of unleavened bread in the form of matzo bread or crackers. Some churches use regular leavened bread.Despite the differences, Christians share the common thread of faith, which symbolizes Christ's sacrifice, and our celebration of thanksgiving. The term "Eucharist" actually means thanksgiving. Although this is a solemn and deeply spiritual celebration, it is also a time of joyful coming together for those who are sharing the communal table.

Communion is the remembrance of our Lord's Last Supper. For some time now, there has been discussion among theologians regarding who could partake in this sacrament. Catholic doctrine maintains closed communion, meaning only Catholics may take part of the Eucharist.

Catholics believe in "transubstantiation," which means the essence of Jesus actually transcends into the elements of the Eucharist. It has been a long tradition to reserve the privilege of communion to non-church members.

Many Christian sects believe communion should be open to all believers, regardless of the doctrine they follow. These Christians believe the elements are simply bread and grape juice, but the ceremony brings a special union with the Christ, as they remember His Last Supper.

Recently, Pope Francis shocked the hierarchy of the Church when a Lutheran woman posed a question on the topic. She explained that her husband was Catholic, and she was a Lutheran. Both faiths share the belief that Christ is present in the elements, but due to Church doctrine, she cannot enjoy Holy Communion with her husband. She spoke eloquently of life's ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, which the couple bore through faith. "What will it take for me to share the joy of Communion with my husband?"

The pontiff answered simply. "One Baptism, one Lord, one faith; Speak with the Lord, and go ahead."

Critics wasted no time accusing Francis of blasphemy, but others have upheld his declaration, showing previous Popes had actually administered the Eucharist to leaders of other churches, believing them to be of like faith, in spite of doctrine.

Traditional Catholics prefer the status quo, but many are open to the idea of open communion. Very progressive churches will allow any Christian to partake in the communion table, but for now, things will not change much.

Pope Francis is a big proponent of unity and a global peace and acceptance. He believes only love and kindness will heal our crumbling world order, so that peace can abide among us. To that end, he says he is ready to fight, but nothing happens overnight.

Perhaps open communion will be universal one day, but in the Roman Catholic Church communion will continue to be a special and unique union with the Lord, reserved for Catholics alone.

Indeed, there is reason to give thanks, just as our Lord did at the Last Supper. Our children will have their first real "communion" with Jesus, as they begin an intimate journey with Him by their side. In order to receive His Body and Blood, the Communicant must be free of any grave sin, which is why Communion generally follows Confession. To receive the sacrament while yet not repentant is to secure one's eternal damnation.

Frequently the two sacraments follow in close succession, as the Church stresses the interconnection between the two. In order to reflect and repent, Catholics abstain from any food or drink (except water and medication) for a minimum of one-hour prior to taking the Eucharist.

By receiving Communion regularly, the grace of our Lord will help to draw us closer to Him, and manifest joy and love in our lives. Of all the Sacraments (Baptism, Confession, Holy Communion, Confirmation, Marriage, Holy Orders and the Anointing of the Sick), only three can be repeated: Confession, Communion, and Anointing of the Sick. With God's grace you may hopefully avoid the last, except once. However, Confession and Communion are meant to be repeated, often. Some people partake in these two sacraments daily. All Catholics are required to take Communion at least two times in the year, at Easter and Christmas.

The mystery of the Eucharist, also called "transubstantiation," as the elements of bread and water miraculously transform into the substance of the Godhead, centering on Christ Jesus is a fundamental foundation of Catholic belief. While each element retains the same essence of taste and appearance, every crumb and drop are divine, and a portion of Christ's substance.

At His Last Supper, Jesus commanded us to partake in regular communion. "Do this in memory of me" were the words He spoke. In obedience, we do as He asked us to do. This is our chance to remember His sacrifice, and the love He displayed. It is also a time for self-examination, reflection, and restoration from sin. Celebrating the Eucharist at Mass shows our unity as the "body of Christ" and participation in the faith