Eucharist – Behind the Name

Pastoral Reflections

“Why the name, Eucharist?” someone asked, recently, in our conversation.

At the Lord’s Table, what we do is appropriately known by various names – Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Last Supper, etc. We also call it the Eucharist, especially in more Sacramental traditions. Is there a significance that name?

Eucharist derives from a Greek word which means ‘to give thanks’. That was how Jesus began on the night He instituted the meal. Paul used it as he described the tradition he received and handed down to the church in 1 Cor. 11:23-24, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus… took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it…” When Christ directed, “Do this in remembrance of me,” He referred to what He instituted that night, which began with the giving of thanks.

The Eucharist is a celebration of our thanksgiving to God for providing for our redemption through the sacrifice of Christ. Its liturgy usually begins by giving thanks back and forth between Celebrant and people. We proceed to rehearse our redemption story, culminating it at the remembrance of that night in which our Lord was handed over to death, when He instituted and modeled the feast. He began by eucharist-ing.

All this might give fresh meaning to some of the language we use at the Table. For example, we do not take Communion. We receive Communion. The person leading does not perform the Eucharist. They celebrate the Eucharist. We acknowledge that Jesus covered it all, and we only come with open hands… of humility and thankfulness paired together. The Table shapes us in many ways. One of them is that of a thankful heart toward God.