Easter Day is usually the highlight of the Christian calendar, a time when churches are full of people celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. This year churches in the UK and many other parts of the world will be silent. During the current coronavirus pandemic we are having to consider how to live our lives in a new way. We must rethink a lot of our usual activities and find ways of doing them virtually. This is especially true of church services as we are not able to meet together to worship. For most of us this is a completely new experience and one which is hard to come to terms with. However, if we look far enough back in history it is not an unprecedented situation. In the sixteenth century when the Church of England was formed, there were frequent outbreaks of plague. In those situations, everything shut down, and people had to isolate themselves for fear of infection. This was the time when the forerunners of the Book of Common Prayer were introduced. The term 'Spiritual Communion' has been used historically to describe the means of grace by which a person, prevented for some serious reason from sharing in a celebration of the Eucharist, nonetheless shares in the communion of Jesus Christ.
The Book of Common Prayer makes provision for 'spiritual communion'. It instructs us that if we offer ourselves in penitence and faith, giving thanks for the redemption won by Christ crucified, we may truly 'eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ', although we cannot receive the sacrament physically in ourselves. Making a Spiritual Communion is particularly fitting for those who cannot receive the sacrament at the great feasts of the Church, and it fulfils the duty of receiving Holy Communion 'regularly, and especially at the festivals of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun or Pentecost' (Canon B 15).
The Church is not defined by the walls of a building. St Paul writes of believers being the Body of Christ. We are still the church even though we cannot meet together. In making our communion spiritually, we are joining with Christians everywhere to be nourished by the one who tells us, 'I am the Bread of Life'. The form of prayer below offers us an opportunity to give thanks for our communion with Jesus, particularly at times when we would ordinarily be present at the Eucharist.
With every blessing this Eastertide, Joy
In making a Spiritual Communion, you may wish to pray all or part of the following, as you are able.
An act of Spiritual Communion
You may wish to find a space for prayer in front of a cross, a candle, or a special place. You might choose to make your Spiritual Communion at a particular time of day, or after viewing a service online.
Reflect on the day and on your relationships.
- What good things have come from God today?
- Where have I fallen short?
- What might I do tomorrow?
You may wish to say or pray
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Read the following words from Scripture. If you have access to today's readings for Holy Communion, you may wish to read and reflect on them.
Jesus said, 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.'
Pray for the needs of the world, for your local community, and for those close to you. End with the Lord's Prayer.
Give thanks for the saving death and resurrection of Jesus and ask him to be with you now.
Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits you have given me,
for all the pains and insults you have borne for me.
Since I cannot now receive you sacramentally,
I ask you to come spiritually into my heart.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know you more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more nearly, day by day. Amen.
(after the Prayer of St Richard of Chichester)
You might then add one or more of the following prayers:
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your disciples,
'I am with you always'.
Be with me today, as I offer myself to you.
Hear my prayers for others and for myself,
and keep me in your care. Amen.
help me to trust you,
help me to know that you are with me,
help me to believe that nothing can separate me from your love
revealed in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lord, in these days of mercy,
make us quiet and prayerful;
in these days of challenge,
make us stronger in you;
in these days of emptiness,
take possession of us;
in these days of waiting,
open our hearts to the mystery of your cross.
Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you most humble and
for all your goodness and loving kindness.
We bless you for our creation, preservation, and
all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ,
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And give us, we pray, such a sense of all your mercies
that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful,
and that we show forth your praise,
not only with our lips but in our lives,
by giving up ourselves to your service,
and by walking before you in holiness and
righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be all honour and glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
Conclude with the following:
The Lord bless us, and preserve us from all evil,
and keep us in eternal life. Amen.
About the Vicar's Letter
The Vicar's Letter has been appearing in the villages Focus magazine since August 2002.
The Rev. Peter Graham also used to publish The Vicar's Letter in the parish magazine of 1964. Please see the Vicar's Letter area for these.