Many of the churches within our federation have celebrated the Lord’s Supper in the past couple of weeks. This celebration is a command of our Lord Jesus Christ, who told us through His apostle Paul: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” (1 Corinthians 11:24)
We know that when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we have communion with Christ and communion with each other. Paul speaks about the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 11, of which we are all part. That is so beautifully symbolised in the Lord’s Supper.
We have a beautiful hymn in our Book of Praise, Hymn 61, where we sing:
As grain, once scattered on the hillsides,
was in the broken bread made one,
so from all lands your church be gathered
into your kingdom by your Son.
This hymn was probably sung in several congregations on the Lord’s Supper Sunday. The element of being one with the church of all times and places receives even more emphasis when we realise that the words of this hymn were taken from an old liturgy, which probably originates from the first century: the first generation after the apostles. We can find it in the Didache, or The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations. Most scholars date this document to the first century.
I take over two chapters from this document. If you open your Book of Praise at Hymn 61, you will notice that the entire first verse and the first half of the second verse can be found in chapter 10 verses 2-5 and the second half of the second verse in chapter 9 verse 4.
CHAPTER IX: THE THANKSGIVING (EUCHARIST).
1. Now concerning the Thanksgiving (Eucharist), thus give thanks. 2. First, concerning the cup: We thank Thee, our Father, for the holy vine of David Thy servant, which Thou madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. 3. And concerning the broken bread: We thank Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. 4. Even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let Thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into Thy kingdom; for Thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever. 5. But let no one eat or drink of your Thanksgiving (Eucharist), but they who have been baptized into the name of the Lord; for concerning this also the Lord hath said, Give not that which is holy to the dogs.
CHAPTER X: PRAYER AFTER COMMUNION.
1. But after ye are filled, thus give thanks: 2. We thank Thee, holy Father, for Thy holy name which Thou didst cause to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality, which Thou madest known to us through Jesus Thy Servant; to Thee be the glory for ever. 3. Thou, Master almighty, didst create all things for Thy name’s sake; Thou gavest food and drink to men for enjoyment, that they might give thanks to Thee; but to us Thou didst freely give spiritual food and drink and life eternal through Thy Servant. 4. Before all things we thank Thee that Thou art mighty; to Thee be the glory for ever. 5. Remember, Lord, Thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in Thy love, and gather it from the four winds, sanctified for Thy kingdom which Thou hast prepared for it; for Thine is the power and the glory for ever. 6. Let grace come, and let this world pass away. Hosanna to the God (Son) of David! If any one is holy, let him come; if any one is not so, let him repent. Maranatha. Amen. 7. But permit the prophets to make Thanksgiving as much as they desire.
This is taken from the translation by Philip Schaff et al. which can be found at https://ccel.org/ccel/anonymous/teaching/anf07
Rev. Anthon Souman