As we continue our examination of the 2019 Book of Common Prayer service of Holy Eucharist today we examine the “Words of Institution.”
The Words of Institution directly follow the prayer of consecration and recall our Lord’s own words at the Last Supper as related by St. Paul in 1st Corinthians 11:23-26. In that upper room while celebrating the Passover Supper Jesus identifies the bread as his body and the wine as his blood and he tells his followers to continue in this meal in remembrance of him. Jesus’ words literally “instituted” this rite as a living rite. As believers gather at the table and receive the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, we are reminded of the forgiveness that is ours in His sacrifice.
As the priest says these words and does the manual acts of touching the bread and cup and elevating the elements he is acting “in persona Christi” acting as Christ and for Christ in the community.
As the community gathers to celebrate this holy mystery we join with literally billions of Christians over the past two millennia. These words of institution are reflected in the third-century liturgy referred to as the Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus.
At the following words concerning the bread, the Celebrant is to hold it, or lay a hand upon it, and here* may break the bread; and at the words concerning the cup, to hold or place a hand upon the cup and any other vessel containing the wine to be consecrated.
“For on the night that he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread; and when he had given thanks, he broke it,* and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my Body which is given for you: Do this in remembrance of me.”
Likewise, after supper, Jesus took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink this, all of you; for this is my Blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for you, and for many, for the forgiveness of sins: Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.”
As you gather for worship this Sunday pay special attention to the Words of Institution and the acts of the priest celebrating.In that moment remember Christ’s presence and His love as He says these words to you - “Take, eat; this is my Body which is given for you: Do this in remembrance of me.”