Last week I began a short series through this letter, looking at the differences between our Anglican practice of Holy Communion (or the Lord’s Supper) and the Roman Catholic Mass. In that first instalment we identified the “real presence” of Christ in the Mass as the key distinction.
Because Catholics believe Jesus is present in the bread and wine, each Mass is understood to be a renewed sacrifice of Christ’s body for the forgiveness of our sins. Thus, in Catholic buildings, Mass is conducted on an altar made of stone (as used in a sacrifice), whereas Anglican churches have a Holy Table made of wood (as used in a shared meal) – church architecture and furniture are highly symbolic!
In contrast to the Catholic understanding, Anglicans recognise that Jesus died once for sins (Hebrews 9:28), with no need to continue his sacrificial work beyond the first Easter. Suggesting his body needs to be re-sacrificed is not only contrary to the Bible, it casts doubt over the effective nature of Christ’s initial work. In Holy Communion we celebrate that our sins really are done away with once and for all, and not just until next time we take the bread and wine!