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Do people actually understand what is happening at the Eucharist?

Do people actually understand what is happening at the Eucharist?

I recently helped facilitated some focus groups in which some of the newer members of an Episcopal community said that they found the liturgy of the Holy Eucharist difficult to comprehend. They weren’t saying that they didn’t like it, just that they had a hard time understanding it.


Then, this morning, I received the newsletter from St. Paul’s Cathedral in Erie informing me that their dean, the Very Rev. John Downey, would be doing a brief “liturgical teaching” before services this summer.

Do you think most people in our churches understand what is happening during the Eucharist? Does the Eucharist scare people away? Bore them? If so, is there something we can do about this without diluting one of the two central sacraments of our faith?

Is the answer to leave the Eucharist alone and concentrate on education? What kinds or educational approaches have worked for you?

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Adam Spencer

Offer a "Why We Do What We Do On Sunday" class on a couple-of-times-a-year basis for newcomers and other interested parties? Put notes in the sidebar of the bulletin? Print off little educational booklets/pamphlets? We do, after all, vow to "continue in the Apostles' TEACHING and fellowship..." at our Baptism.

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Paul Woodrum

By tradition we veil lots of things including people. In olde Rome, married women wore veils to distinguish them from unmarried, a practice now diluted to the veil worn by brides for their wedding. Nuns wear veils as a symbol of spiritual marriage to Christ. During Lent and/or Holy Week we veil crosses and other ornaments to dress down before the big Easter reveal.

More to the point of this quintessential Episcopal discussion, veils are used to signify the holiness of vessels associated with the Eucharist, originally only the ciborium when holding the consecrated bread, then transferred to the empty cup that will hold the wine. Or, maybe its because Almy's includes a veil as part of the set with the burse or as a matching accessory for the frontal. The burse is practical; it's a container or purse for carrying the communion linens, corporal and towels, to the altar.

I'm a bit leery about pop liturgical questions to priests who, hating to admit ignorance, tend to make things up like two candles on the altar represent the two natures of the Christ. That's the sort of Eucharistic ed we don't need.

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Frank Logue

As a parish priest, I found it helpful to have a booklet available which offers teaching on the Eucharist. This is not to replace answering questions, conversations about what we do and why or appropriate classes, but to augment all of these things. The one I created is online here: http://kingofpeace.org/resources/annotatedeucharist.pdf

Not perfect, but it proved a useful tool for me.

-Frank Logue

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Frank Logue

As a parish priest, I found it helpful to have a booklet available which offers teaching on the Eucharist. This is not to replace answering questions, conversations about what we do and why or appropriate classes, but to augment all of these things. The one I created is online here: http://kingofpeace.org/resources/annotatedeucharist.pdf

Not perfect, but it proved a useful tool for me.

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Apps 55753818692 1675970731 F785b701a6d1b8c33f0408

Re Ann Fontaine: "Why do you put a burse and veil over the chalice?" I don't know. One would have to ask the altar guild.

-Cullin R. Schooley

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