The sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, and the principal act of Christian worship. The term is from the Greek, “thanksgiving.” Jesus instituted the eucharist “on the night when he was betrayed.” At the Last Supper he shared the bread and cup of wine at a sacred meal with his disciples. He identified the bread with his body and the wine with his blood of the new covenant. Jesus commanded his disciples to “do this” in remembrance of him (see 1 Cor 11:23-26; Mk 14:22-25; Mt 26:26-29; Lk 22:14-20). Christ’s sacrifice is made present by the eucharist, and in it we are united to his one self-offering (BCP, p. 859). The Last Supper provides the basis for the fourfold eucharistic action of taking, blessing, breaking, and sharing. Christ’s body and blood are really present in the sacrament of the eucharist and received by faith. Christ’s presence is also known in the gathered eucharistic community.
In the BCP, the whole service is entitled the Holy Eucharist. The first part of the service is designated the Word of God. It usually includes the entrance rite, the lessons and gradual psalm, the gospel, the sermon, the Nicene Creed, the prayers of the people, the confession of sin and absolution, and the peace. The second portion of the service is designated the Holy Communion. It includes the offertory, the consecration of the bread and wine in the Great Thanksgiving, the communion of the people, and the concluding prayers of thanksgiving and dismissal. A blessing may be given prior to the dismissal.
The Eucharist is also called the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, the Divine Liturgy, the Mass, and the Great Offertory (BCP, p. 859).
You will often hear Episcopalians refer to Sunday (and other) worship as the Liturgy. “Liturgy” is a Greek word that means “the work of the people.” In the Episcopal Church we speak of two distinct forms of liturgy – both of which require our participation. Extensive liturgy is the phrase we use to describe the work to which we are called in the world – how we live out our faith day-by-day between Sunday services. Intensive liturgy is the work of worship, prayer, and praise that we do together most notably on Sunday mornings. The form that it takes is also called liturgy in our tradition.
Intensive liturgy is designed to give us a balanced experience of encountering God through common prayer, in hearing and reflecting on Holy Scripture, and in gathering around a sacred table using outward and visible signs to reflect God’s presence with and within us. Since the mid-to-late 70s the Episcopal Church has returned to the ancient church’s origins of prayer, reflection, and the breaking of bread – of celebrating Holy Eucharist as the principle service of a Sunday. Many of our worship practices today mirror the Jewish synagogue and Temple worship which shaped Jesus’ life and ministry – because we all remember, Jesus was not the first Christian! Jesus lived and died as a Jew, and it is quite some time afterwards that his followers became what we call the Church.