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7-8-20 A Message from the Reverend Chuck Alley


A Message from the Reverend Chuck Alley
Rev. Chuck Alley
COVID-19 has introduced us to what appears to be a new liturgical service-Spiritual Communion. Although it is as novel to us as is the SARS-CoV-2 virus, in reality, the practice of Spiritual Communion has existed for centuries. Although developed in the Roman Catholic Church before the Reformation, Spiritual Communion has not been confined to Catholicism. Rather, it has been practiced in Eucharistic Protestant Churches, such as those of the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Church, as well as the Methodist Church.
As an ancient practice in churches of the Eucharistic tradition,  it was developed both as a preparatory rite to receiving Sacramental Communion and as an alternative to receiving communion when such an act was prohibited or otherwise impossible. Examples of the latter circumstances would be persecution, plague, individual illness, incarceration, or any situation where a proper celebrant was not available. Spiritual Communion, in the absence of Sacramental Communion, was never envisioned as being optimal, but was thought of as representing an impairment in our relationship with God and the Body of Christ.
In Spiritual Communion, we act out our intention to receive Jesus without the sacramental internalization of Jesus. In short, we ask Jesus, whom we cannot receive in the Sacrament, to be present to us as he is when we can receive Communion. By doing so, we are also reminded of the nature of sacraments. According to The Book of Common Prayer,
The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace (p. 856).
As the people of God, we need the sacraments, and specifically the Holy Eucharist, as aids in sustaining our walk as Christ's witnesses in the world. From a theological perspective, we do not need the sacraments for our salvation, but rather as a means of sanctification. The silver-lining of the cloud of loss pertaining to the absence of Sacramental Communion, is that through Spiritual Communion we are reminded to refrain from replacing the focus on God in our worship with that of the sacrament. The signs (sacraments) are not the destination. They only point beyond themselves to the reality we are to seek. One could say that in Spiritual Communion we are able to keep our eyes on the prize without distraction during this season of fasting from Sacramental Communion.

7-1-20 A Message from The Reverend Charles "Chuck" Alley
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