Holy Communion: Christ the Curtain
This is part one in a three part series on Communion. What does it mean when we say that Communion is a sacrament? Why is the sacrament of Communion so important in worshiping Jesus? In part one of this series, let’s explore our understanding of Communion as a sacrament and what that means for us and our worship.
My Methodist/Wesleyan tradition agrees with the majority church (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and most branches of Protestantism) that Communion is more than just a symbol to remember an event. We believe that it is a sacrament: an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. This means that when we go to the table to take Communion, something spiritual actually happens – we believe that by God’s grace, our human spirits receive.
This whole idea of our spirits receiving is incredibly significant! Nearly all other world religions are based on an act of doing or giving; they’re performance based religions. This here is the heart of Christianity, which is first and foremost about receiving Christ. There is nothing we can give to God that is not already his – we first must receive.
Receiving is an act of freedom. It is our choice to respond to God. With this understanding, Communion is an act of worship as we exercise our human will to receive Christ.
To understand how this spiritual something happens when we take Communion, let’s look at Hebrews 10:19-22.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings
By the blood of Jesus. By his body. The very flesh of Christ is the new curtain which has been opened for us. Now remember, the curtain the writer of Hebrews is talking about is the curtain that separated the Most Holy Place, where the presence of God dwelt in the temple, the place that the High Priest entered only once a year. This is the giant curtain that was torn in two immediately upon Jesus’ death (Matthew 27:51).
In other words, we now have access into the Most Holy Place, into the presence of God, through the flesh and blood of Christ. The blood of Christ covers us like the High Priests of the Old Testament before God’s Most Holy presence (Hebrews 9:13-14), and his body is the curtain through which we enter. In Communion, we are walking through the curtain of the Most Holy Place. In Communion, we are entering into the presence of God through our High Priest Jesus Christ. John Calvin says of Communion that Christ, “dwelling in us by his Spirit, he raises us to heaven to himself, transfusing into us the vivifying vigour of his flesh.”
This is what we mean by sacrament: the spiritual grace that God is giving us through these physical elements is the grace of himself, his presence. When we partake in Communion, the presence of Christ in the elements lifts our spirits into the presence of God. We have full access to the Most Holy Place, to the Father, the very throne room of heaven.
About the Author
Kevin Cook is a 4th year student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an Aspirant for Ordination in the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). After graduating, Kevin hopes to plant a contemporary three-streams Anglican Church. He and his wife Nicole attend Wilmore Anglican Church in Kentucky.
Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Master of Business Administration from Florida State University. Kevin enjoys playing music and leading worship, reading fiction and spiritual classics, drinking coffee, and spending time with family and friends.
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