I am often amazed at just how little some Christians understand their own church and the theology that church affirms. This is particularly true with regard to the understanding many in the Reformed churches have of communion.
Very few Reformed Christians realize that John Calvin actually held this meal in very high regard. He believed it was more than a memorial of Christ. It was the “real presence” of Jesus with his church. He also hoped weekly communion would become the norm.
For some years I have longed to receive the Eucharist often. Minimally, I want to come to the Table once a week. Ideally, even more often.
I recently looked at the Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America regarding the communion service and found the following words:
Together we proclaim the mystery of the faith:
Christ has died!
Christ is risen!
Christ will come again!
This affirmation is followed by this prayer:
Send your Holy Spirit upon us, we pray, that the bread which we break and the cup which we bless may be to us the communion of the body and blood of Christ. Grant that, being joined together in him, we may attain to the unity of the faith and grow up in all things into Christ our Lord.
And as this grain has been gathered from many fields into one loaf, and these grapes from many hills into one cup, grant, O Lord, that your whole Church may soon be gathered from the ends of the earth into your kingdom. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
This is a magnificent expression of the church’s faith at the Table. It is a catholic expression too. One that seeks to proclaim the mystery of Christ’s presence at the table without engaging in speculation rooted in concepts of philosophy that are not biblical or helpful.
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For the Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America see, https://www.rca.org/sslpage.aspx?pid=5987
If you have not already read it, a book you may find of interest is “This Is My Body: The Presence of Christ in Reformation Thought” by Thomas J. Davis (Baker Acedemic,2008). It is best described as a historical theology of the Lord’s Table focused on Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli. It was vary helpful to me in understanding how the Rerformers thinking about the Lord’s Table developed over their lifetimes.
I am currently converting to Lutheranism (from SBC) and appreciate their emphasis on this topic. The difference between Christian traditions can really be illustrated by going first to texts like these. However, they can also serve to illustrate their unity. I am currently struggling a bit with the traditional Lutheran understanding of the Lord’s Supper (though I find it an improvement on the typical Baptist “divine absence”), and so I will probably read the book you recommended.
Overall, I believe Mana in the desert was a foreshadow of Christ, who is the bread from heaven, whom the eucharist celebrates. As the term “mana” meant “what is it?”, I believe that the exact nature of this christian rite will always remain a bit of a mystery, and no particular doctrine will be able to completely nail it down. We need to listen to and learn from each other’s perspective instead of crucifying each other over articulations.