This text is designed for use in conjunction with the eucharistic rite in the Book of Alternative Services and was written especially for children.
This is the easiest way to think of the Eucharist: think of it as a meal at which we get together to talk and to be fed. Therefore we begin the Eucharist as we would begin a social occasion if we were going to someone’s house for dinner: we arrive, and we are greeted.
And so, in the name of Jesus, the priest greets us - -
And then priest and people greet God, with a prayer and a song.
Then the priest collects or gathers together our prayers in a prayer which is in fact called the Collect.
When families and friends gather together to eat, they often sit down first to chat and to exchange news and views and to share memories and family history . That is what we do now, in the readings which follow.
First we have a reading from the Hebrew Scriptures, which are the parts of the Bible we share with our Jewish brothers and sisters. This part of the Bible reflects the faith and prayers and thoughts and deeds of the patriarchs and prophets who lived before Jesus.
Many families have favourite songs which they sing when they get together. The oldest songs of the family of God are called Psalms, and we sing or say one now.
Often at family gatherings people will share letters and postcards they have received from family or friends. The next lesson we will hear is usually taken from one of the letters written by people like Peter or Paul to members of the Christian family in places which they had visited. We call it an Epistle, from the Latin word for "letter".
Then we sing a hymn to prepare us for the most important reading of all, the Gospel. The word "gospel" means "good news" , and it’s good news because it’s about Jesus. That’s also what makes it the most important reading, and we honour its importance by standing to hear it read.
If there’s something that we want to have explained to us, we turn to our parents or older brothers and sisters, or to our most trusted friends. That’s why now the head of our parish family, or someone else in his or her place, will give what is called "the sermon", to explain to us what we have just heard in the lessons.
We then respond to all that we have heard by saying that we believe it. This statement of faith is called The Creed; this particular Creed was written at a place called Nicaea in what is now Turkey 1673 years ago. So we stand now, and show that we share this faith with millions of Christians who have lived before us, as we say together.
Families are concerned about their members: how they are and how they’re doing. As Christians, we express our concern by praying for each other. Our prayers include praying for other parts of the church family at home and broad, praying for peace and justice for all God’s people, praying for the sick and others in pain or trouble, and praying for those who have died but are still part of the family in what we call the Communion of Saints.
Unfortunately another thing we often have to do when we get together is to apologize to each other, if we have done something which has hurt or offended someone else, including God. That is what we do now, in the Confession.
But when we apologize to someone, we do it hoping and expecting that that person will forgive us. God certainly does, and we receive that forgiveness now, in the words of the Absolution which the priest pronounces on God’s behalf.
Just remember that, in receiving God’s forgiveness, we in turn have to forgive others.
And now, having been forgiven, we are really in a position to do two things: we are ready to share the Peace of the Lord with each other, with a kiss or a hug or a handshake; and we are ready to share the Food of the Lord at his table.
So first the priest who will preside at the Lord’s Table will invite us to share the Peace.
And now, while we sing a hymn, the table will be set for the banquet which Jesus will spread for us.
On the altar have been placed a cup and a plate, called a chalice and a paten. They contain the wine and the bread for this special meal. Why is this meal special? We get a clue if we remember that the Lord’s Table is often called an altar, because on this altar, in the Eucharist, we recall the Lord’s sacrifice for us, as he told us to. At his Last Supper with his disciples before he died, Jesus commanded them, and all Christians who followed them, to have this meal so that we would always remember who he was and what he said and what he did for us. It was a very smart thing to do, because it meant that whenever we wanted to remember him, we would have to get together to do the meal. Or, to put the same thing the other way around, whenever we got together to do the meal, we would remember him!
We have already remembered him in the words which we heard in the first part of this service; now we will remember him in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood which we will receive under the form of Bread and Wine in Holy Communion. This bread and wine were offered at the altar, along with money, for God’s work. Now a long prayer of thanksgiving will be said over them. Think of this as the Grace which many people say at the dinner table before they sit down to eat. The difference is that in this prayer we are giving thanks to God not only for this very special food, but also for everything which God has done for us from Creation until now. The word for "thanksgiving" in Greek is Eucharist, and this Grace or Eucharistic Prayer gives its name to this whole service.
Very fittingly we, the family of God, are now invited to pray together the Christian family prayer which Jesus himself taught us, praying to God as our Father:
Now the priest breaks the Bread so it can be given to us in Holy Communion. There are some words for us to say, which vary according to the season of the Church year.
Now we are invited to Communion, and the Communion begins as we sing a song to Jesus as the Lamb of God. It’s important that we realize that this meal isn’t any old meal, and this Bread and Wine aren’t just any old bread and wine. They’re special, and they’re special because at the very first meal like this, Jesus said that the bread which he was breaking and giving to them was a symbol of his body, which he was about to offer for us on the cross; and the wine which he was sharing with them was a symbol of his blood, which he was about to shed for us. He was doing this to show us how much he loved us, because giving up your life for someone is the last word in showing love. That’s why, when you receive Communion, you will hear the words "The Body of Christ" and "The Blood of Christ", and you answer "Amen" to show that you believe this.
Once the Communion is over the service ends very quickly, with two prayers and a blessing and a dismissal. That’s because the important thing for us to do now is to leave the church and get on with being a Christian out in the world, at home or in school or at work.
Being a Christian at home or school or work is not always easy, but nevertheless, when we’re told to do it, at the dismissal, our response is "Thanks be to God". Those are the very last words of the service, and they’re appropriate because they remind us of what the Eucharist is all about, and they remind us of how a Christian is supposed to live: thankfully.
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