What does the Holy Communion mean to you?” a divinity student once asked me in Trinity College, Dublin. In a moment I recognized that one’s views on this subject both epitomize and express one’s whole spiritual outlook.

“It means five things,” I replied. “It is an outward sign of the Gospel. It is a remembrance of the Lord’s death. It is a feeding of the soul on him. It is a sign of the unity of all true believers in him. It is a reminder of his return.”

Later I began to wonder whether my impromptu answer to so important a question was accurate and adequate. Was any major thought omitted? I think perhaps there was one—to which I shall refer later. Meanwhile, consider these other points.

“As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup,” says St. Paul, “ye do shew the Lord’s death.” “You proclaim the Lord’s death” is the Revised Standard Version. The partaking of bread and wine is a sign of the Gospel.

Children love to see as well as to hear. What they see enforces and illustrates what they hear. Christ has been pleased to provide for God’s children, in the most impressive manner possible, an outward sign of the central truth of their faith. The language is charming in its simplicity—food and drink, the oldest language in the world—and employs the three senses: sight, taste and touch. The breaking of the bread and the pouring out of the wine typify the wounding of the body and the shedding of the blood of Jesus. Hence the title: the breaking of bread. When Christians break the bread and pour out the wine, God proclaims to them and they proclaim to others the sacrifice of Christ by which they have been saved.

The symbols, moreover, proclaim, not the fact of his death only, but also its significance. It was in connection with the ...

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