The Eucharist, also called Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance. It is celebrated in accordance with Jesus' instruction at the Last Supper as recorded in several books of the New Testament, that his followers do in remembrance of Him as when he gave his disciples bread, saying, "This is my body", and gave them the cup, saying, "This is my blood".
There are different interpretations of the significance of the Eucharist, but according to the Encyclopedia Britannica "there is more of a consensus among Christians about the meaning of the Eucharist than would appear from the confessional debates over the sacramental presence, the effects of the Eucharist, and the proper auspices under which it may be celebrated."
The word Eucharist may refer not only to the rite but also to the consecrated bread (leavened or unleavened) and wine (or unfermented grape juice in some Protestant denominations), used in the rite. In this sense, communicants may speak of "receiving the Eucharist", as well as "celebrating the Eucharist".
Eucharist, from Greek εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), means "thanksgiving". The verb εὐχαριστῶ, the usual word for "to thank" in the Septuagint and the New Testament, is found in the major texts concerning the Lord's Supper, including the earliest:
- For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." (1 Corinthians 11:23–24)
The Lord's Supper (Κυριακὸν δεῖπνον) derives from 1 Corinthians 11:20–21.
- When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk.
- The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?