As a young person I was taught that “a sacrament is an outward visible sign of an inward spiritual grace.”
With the suspension of public worship at St. George’s due to the pandemic, it has meant we have not been able to celebrate the Eucharist together. We have not been able to receive the bread and wine, the sacramental body and blood of Jesus that Jesus shared with his disciples at the last supper.
The celebration Eucharist, Holy Communion, has been a focus of our worship life at George’s. It has been a wonderful and powerful opportunity to receive God’s grace in our life in a real and tangible way adding touch and taste to the experience of worship. It has nourished our faith.
Without being able to physically receive communion during the pandemic, many folks have felt challenged to address its absence from their spiritual practice.
Enter Spiritual Communion.
As Bishop Susan Bell wrote in her letter to the diocese introducing an new official rite for celebrating Spiritual Communion online, “although spiritual communion is not very familiar in our part of the Anglican Church in Canada, it is practiced in the more northern and remote reaches of our country where distance and travel are issues.”
This is a wonderful and formal way to participate in Spiritual Communion that matches closely how we would celebrate the Eucharist in church on a Sunday.
The truth is that spiritual communion has been a part of our Christian faith and practices from the very early days of the church. St. Augustine (354 AD – 430 AD) spoke formatively about the important the distinctions between the physical and spiritual natures of the “manna” God gave God’s children in the dessert in his writings about Jesus’ statements about being the “Bread of Life” in John’s Gospel.
Augustine wrote, “they understood the visible food spiritually, hungered spiritually, tasted spiritually, that they might be filled spiritually.”1
I am pleased that the Bishop will be offering this celebration of the Eucharist with Spiritual Communion online monthly for all who are feeling the desire for spiritual communion in a way that reflects the rite we have become accustomed to at our regular Sunday worship.
I do also want you to know that your need not wait for your chance to receive your spiritual communion. In fact, you can pray to receive your spiritual communion anytime and anywhere.
The Rt Rev’d Stephen Cottrell, The Bishop of Chelmsford, has an excellent video and message, that explains Spiritual Communion wonderfully and delightfully in a way easy to understand and also provides a short service of prayer you can use on your own or with your family.
God’s grace is always present for us in many ways. If and when you miss receiving it in the form of the Eucharist, these are a couple of wonderful ways to fulfill that sacramental need spiritually.
Be Well and God Bless.
The Rev’d Canon Rob Park
1. Augustine, Tractates on the Gospel of John, tractate 26, no. 11.