In the Name of the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to call for social distancing, participating in corporate worship is increasingly strained. It seems to me that our circumstances are unlikely to change significantly until we have viable vaccines available, or perhaps adequate treatments. At this point, our leading experts are suggesting that we might get there by early 2021. While we have made available a form for Spiritual Communion, it seems that we may need to revisit this as we move into our 5th month. Additionally, we will want to recommend other means of online “participation” in worship, and I will gladly recommend some churches to “visit” for this purpose.
For now, we have made some revisions to our resource for Spiritual Communion, and have decided to use this time to review the value and importance of this ancient practice for our time. We hope that this may deepen your communion with our Lord and his Church.
The New Testament shows that the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Eucharist, Mass, Divine Liturgy), instituted by Jesus on the night before his Crucifixion, had become the central act of Christian Worship on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) by the end of the first century. The priest would consecrate or bless bread and wine, which would become in a miraculous way the Body and Blood of Christ, and the baptized faithful would receive it. In this Sacrament, the people were drawn into a deeper communion with their Lord and also with other Christians in the Church, His Body.
By at least the 5th Century, a subsidiary practice called Spiritual Communion came into use. Based on the theology of Communion, this practice was used as a means by which Christians who, for various reasons, were unable to be present at a Eucharist, would prayerfully acknowledge their debt to Christ’s Sacramental Presence and express their desire to nevertheless be united with him spiritually. There could be many reasons why the believer may not get to a Service: lack of nearby Church, illness, political or other oppression. The importance of being united with Christ in His Church has been understood as so important that this practice spread widely.
Circumstances have varied throughout Christian history and in different cultures, and Spiritual Communion has been adapted in many ways. In our recent Western history, especially among Anglicans, it has mostly been used on a rare occasion in which one may not attend a Church, and the various forms which have been derived normally imply that this will be done by individuals based on their own unique situations.
However, in these last several months, the global response to our Covid-19 pandemic has required Christians on a massive scale to avoid corporate worship. In this situation, some practice of Spiritual Communion has emerged as an inspired means for not just individuals but Christian communities to participate, albeit privately, in a form of communal prayer.
We, in our North County Outreach Initiative Community, have examined the early sources for Spiritual Communion and determined that they needed some enhancement to fulfill this enriched purpose for communal prayer. You will note that we are now recommending: 1) a Creed, 2) a time for Intercessions, and, 3) a more intentional self-examination for Confession. As each of us know that others in our fellowship are worshipping with these same tools, these can add to the corporate dimension of unity with Christ in His Sacramental Presence.
I personally would welcome any responses you might have after using this form for worship. As it has no fixed form in catholic liturgical practice, it may be adapted as needed.
Blessed, praised, worshipped and adored be Jesus Christ, on his Throne of Glory in Heaven, in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, and in the hearts of his faithful people. Amen
FATHER LAWRENCE BAUSCH