Rector's Update: A Note About Spiritual Communion
As we continue our way through Holy Week, I trust you are benefitting from the Daily Devotions offered by the clergy. Although they are a far cry from the services we customarily offer, I hope you find them to be a blessing and encouragement. As I mentioned in an earlier communication, we will not be offering a Maundy Thursday service this year, but we will be broadcasting the Good Friday liturgy at noon tomorrow, April 10, and an Easter service on April 12 at 10:30 a.m.
Because Easter is a high feast day, Bishop Lawrence has encouraged us to celebrate the Holy Eucharist, the festal celebration of our Lord’s victory over Sin, Death, Satan, Hell, Judgment, and Wrath. We cannot, of course, offer the consecrated wine and bread to the congregation, but the Prayer Book does make provision for what is known as “spiritual communion.” The rubric on page 457 states: “If a person desires to receive the Sacrament, but, by reason of extreme sickness or physical disability, is unable to eat and drink the Bread and Wine, the Celebrant is to assure that person that all the benefits of Communion are received, even though the Sacrament is not received with the mouth.”
The 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which remains the standard for many churches across the Anglican Communion, expands this restriction by allowing for spiritual communion in “the time of plague, sweat or other like contagious times of sickness and disease.” This rubric goes on to say, “But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood: the Curate shall instruct him that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and steadfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed his Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore; he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Savior Christ profitably to his soul’s health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth.” Although written nearly four hundred years ago, this rubric accurately predicts the challenges we face in the present COVID-19 crisis and makes pastoral accommodation for those incapable of physical participation in the Eucharist.
To this end, only the celebrant will receive the bread and wine on Easter. In solidarity with the congregation, the other priests and I will join with you in praying the following prayer from the ACNA Book of Common Prayer 2019: Dear Jesus, I believe that you are truly present in the Holy Sacrament. I love you above all things, and I desire to possess you within my soul. And since I cannot now receive you sacramentally, I beseech you to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to you, together with all your faithful people gathered around every altar of your Church, and I embrace you with all the affections of my soul. Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen.
We are working hard to make Easter a joyous and hopeful occasion even in these strange and anxious times, and I remain confident that the benefits and blessings of the Eucharistic liturgy will not be lost on us due to our unfortunate circumstances. Jesus promised, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”