With the COVID-19 crisis a term you may hear often in churches is spiritual communion, but what is it? Throughout its history the church has always emphasized the importance of the Eucharist. In the Reformation the Anglican reformers intended the Eucharist to be the primary act of worship on Sundays, but over time the standard became Morning Prayer. It wasn’t until the Anglo-Catholic movement in the 19th century that Eucharist started to become a weekly norm.
Unfortunately, there are times in our lives where we’re prevented from coming to church and receiving Christ in the Eucharist. We should do something to celebrate the Lord’s Day, be it praying Morning Prayer, or watching the Eucharist on our TV or computers, but it helps to pray for spiritual communion as well. Spiritual communion is a prayer where you acknowledge you can’t physically receive Christ in the Eucharist, but you ask him to give you the grace you would have received if you did. 19th Century French priest Jean Marie Vianney described spiritual communion by saying,
Spiritual communion has been used by many Christians in times when they were physically prevented from receiving the Eucharist, most recently in the soviet countries during the Cold War when state atheism persecuted the church. Spiritual communion isn’t something new, it’s an old practice acknowledging the centrality of the Eucharist in our lives.
The easiest way to engage in spiritual communion is to follow the prayer in the 2019 Book of Common Prayer on page 677,
While it may be the easiest to follow the set prayer in our BCP, all that’s really needed for spiritual communion is a separation from Christ in the Eucharist and a desire to receive him and have union with him the way we do in the Eucharist. It’s a good reminder that while the Eucharist is central to our life as a church, nothing can separate us from the love of God.