Service of the Lord's Table

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

Ancient Christian worship was based on the celebration of the Lord's Supper; the service of the Word was followed by the service of the Lord's Table. Participation in the rites of the Lord's Supper was limited to baptized believers; those still receiving instruction as new converts to the faith were dismissed following the service of the Word. The eucharistic liturgies of the historic denominations include a variety of acts of the Lord's Table deriving from ancient practice and ultimately...

The Exchange of Peace

Most contemporary Christian liturgies include an exchange of peace, in which worshipers greet those around them with expressions such as "The peace of the Lord be with you. " The exchange is usually accompanied by physical contact such as a handclasp or, where appropriate, an embrace. This act is of ancient origin and was originally known as the "kiss of peace"; other terms for it are "passing the peace" or "sign of peace. " It often takes place at the beginning of the service of the Lord's Table as an expression of the reconciliation of believers with one another through their common reconciliation with God in Christ.

The Great Thanksgiving

The sequence of liturgical actions immediately preceding the partaking of the Lord's Supper has often been called the "great thanksgiving. " These acts may include the Sanctus ("Holy, Holy, Holy"), the eucharistic prayer incorporating the invocation of the Spirit (epiklsis), and the words of institution. The great thanksgiving may be concluded by the Lord's Prayer. The order of these components varies in the practice of different churches, and they may not all be present. The constant element is the words of delivery, which occur in almost all observances of the Lord's Supper, regardless of Christian tradition.

The Lord’s Prayer (Our Father)

The "Lord's Prayer" and "Our Father" are traditional names given to the set of petitions and doxologies recorded in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:24, which Jesus gave his disciples as a model or example for prayer. The prayer has been included in the catechisms and liturgies of most Christian traditions since the period of the apostolic fathers, usually in close association with the partaking of the Lord's Supper.

Acts of Receiving

Several traditional acts of worship accompany the receiving of the Lord's Supper. Some form of "fraction," or breaking of the bread, is found in most observances of the rite. In addition, the distribution of the Eucharist may incorporate the Agnus Dei ("Lamb of God"), the acclamation "Christ Our Passover," and a concluding prayer of thanksgiving.

Benediction (Blessing)

As traditional Christian worship begins with acts of entrance, it also closes with acts of dismissal, chiefly a benediction. The benediction invokes the blessing of the Lord upon the congregation and sends the worshipers forth in the strength of God.