6 Ways the Eucharist Communicates Universally Today

On Holy Week Thursday, Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples where he instituted the Eucharist as the celebration of the new covenant of God with his people. Through the Eucharist, the Triune God extends hospitality to all of us strangers through loving sacrifice. We are brought in from darkness to be reconciled to God and each other. Therefore, we see that God’s act of hospitality through the Eucharist becomes a proclamation of his missional intent to the world. God calls us into covenant and makes provision for our needs. In this proclamatory vein, here are six ways it speaks universally to us today.

First, we see that the Eucharist communicates verbally. In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul affirms to proclaim the same to the Corinthian church that he had received from the Lord (1Cor 11:23). In that occasion, in the Gospels we find that Jesus not only acted, but also spoke of its meaning (v. 24). Paul proclaimed what he heard and was now directing the Corinthian church to do the same to the world (v. 26). This is perhaps the most straightforward way of proclaiming the justice which the Eucharist seeks to celebrate. Verbal communication is direct and precise by nature. Words carry meaning and the Eucharist is therefore a kerigmatic practice. It must be spoken of and declared. It’s proclamation carries the good news that Christ has given himself for us, propitiating for our sin and reconciling the world unto God and itself.

Secondly, the Eucharist communicates artifactually. Biblical worship makes extensive use of artifacts designed specifically to help worshipers experience and proclaim unseen spiritual truths. In the Old Testament, the people of God used every sort of artifacts from incense to instruments. Jesus appropriates the bread and the wine as two artifacts that communicate the Eucharist’s true meaning. Paul explains that tasting of the bread and wine is not just a mere hospitality for the pleasure of eating (v.21). Rather, it was a reflective exercise that celebrated God’s covenant with humanity through Christ’s death and resurrection (v24-25). The artifacts Jesus used carry with themselves a meaning. They are a representation of a deeper truth. The medium becomes the message itself. Thus, the artifact speaks across cultures and perceptions and communicates to the human need when words become insufficient.

Thirdly, the intrinsic value of the Eucharist is communicated kinesically. It is believed that close to 80% of human communication is nonverbal. We communicate constantly using a body language made up of a variety of gestures and postures. The Eucharist calls us into a behavior by summoning its participants to a posture of self-examination (v. 28). This is not only a disposition of the mind but also of the body. Our will is subjected to the need of our neighbor (v.21). The proper practice of missional hospitality calls for gestures of humility and service. The Eucharist is a welcoming of the stranger which requires a posture of acceptance and reciprocity. In the Gospels, Jesus communicates kinesically by washing the disciple’s feet before celebrating the Passover. Behavior and gestures communicate that the Eucharist is a call mutual service.

Fourthly and fifthly, the Eucharist communicates through sight, taste and touch. All of our senses and faculties are involved when we join Christ at the table. The supper is not to be  only spiritualized. As the cup is poured, one witnesses the crimson red of Jesus’ blood and the bitterness of his suffering. At the same time, the bread is broken and those who were once broken themselves, are now called to taste of body of Christ (v.24). By playing to our senses, it speaks a language common to all human beings. The Eucharist triggers a real-life reaction that redemption and reconciliation are the nutrients that sustain a faithful Christian witness and community.

Lastly, the Eucharist communicates God’s missional hospitality through time and space. The Eucharist creates a polychronic culture that calls us to practice “slow church”. The Eucharist prioritizes the other over self. It counters the narratives of consumption and self-satisfaction that have become predominant in market cultures around the world. Tasks are reoriented to serve the person. The Eucharist promotes relational time, for it speaks of our covenant with God and one another (v. 25). It calls us into community where meaningful relationships are built. At the same time, it creates a space where all can partake of love and life of Christ (v. 33) in communion. Ultimately, the Lord’s Supper creates time and space where life-giving practices can thrive.

With all this in mind, we see that the Eucharist is a process of verbal and nonverbal communication that proclaims a renewed and redemptive reality. Its proclamation crosses linguistic and cultural barriers. This sacramental significance makes the Lord’s Supper is probably the most potentially meaningful of the codes regularly employed within Christianity. As we come closer to the end of the Holy Week, may we remember that the Gospel is universal. Christ died for the Jew and Gentile, for those who are near and far. In the end, the Eucharist communicates the Gospel universally across cultures and promotes a reality where we are reconciled to God and each other in Christ’s church.

Related Posts