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The Communion
The Communion

Taking part in Communion improves mental health

Whenever Jesus instructed his followers at the Last Supper to drink the wine and eat the bread, he set up an important practice for all Christians called Communion.

What are some of the deeper implications of Communion and why should we still care? I herein explore in this article. 

Context

The Lord’s Supper is traced back to the Gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, where Christ is eating and talking with his disciples about what will happen to him. 

Jesus had referenced before what would happen to him, but this will be the last time before those prophecies take place. Here are the most common Communion Bible verses: Luke 9:21-22; Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 10:32-34; and Luke 18:31-34.

He took bread and broke it and said that it was his body. Each person took the bread and consumed it. 

The reason he predicted his death is to show a sign of divinity and the ultimate purpose of fulfilling prophecies. “And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe." (John 14:29, ESV)

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Prophecies 

Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand. For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.― Malachi 1:10-11, ESV

Some Bible scholars believe that these verses in Malachi point to the establishment of practising Communion. The Book of Malachi is believed to have been written after the Babylonians allowed the Jews to return to their homeland around 450 BC. 

The text illustrates that "a pure offering" will be made through Jesus Christ and replace the old system of offerings. Christians take part in the Holy Communion to represent that we have accepted this sacrifice for our sins.

In the Book of Exodus, the Hebrews were told to smear blood on their doorframe to have their firstborn spared from God's plague on Egypt (Exodus 12:7). 

They were also commanded to eat the Passover lamb with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8). These actions mimic what is to come with the new covenant Jesus founds.

Jesus is "the Passover Lamb" (1 Corinthians 5:7) of the new covenant. He instructs us that "Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:58, ESV)

Purpose 

Communion, also known as the Lord’s Supper, is a practice that the whole church observes in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice. 

So, why do we take Communion? With Jesus dying on the cross for everyone’s sins, it's crucial to remind ourselves of that sacrifice. The Holy Communion is an important way to understand and continue to acknowledge Christ's act. 

This sacrifice is the basis of the Christian worldview and should not be downplayed. The Lord’s Supper signifies the New Covenant with Jesus Christ being the sacrificial lamb for humanity (1 Corinthians 5:7).

The ceremony is a fulfilment of prophecy. (Genesis 3:15, Psalm 22, Isaiah 53).

Science

Koenig HG(2020) study found a beneficial effect of religiosity on immune functioning and mental health. 

Other studies (Anyfantakis et al., 2015; Koenig. 2020) proved that faith and trust in the plan of God have been correlated with positive emotions, such as, hope, optimism, happiness, lower depression and a higher sense of internal control. 

Side effects 

Consequences of taking holy communion unworthily: one will be guilty of the body of Christ. (1 Cor.11:28), and it can cause weakness, sickness and untimely death. (1Cor.11:30)

We are advised to be extremely careful and prayerful before participating in Holy Communion as it serves for good and bad depending on one's stand with God.

In science,  Anyfantakis, 2020; Spantideas et al., 2020 study found that when the same cup is used to give Communion, infections can be transmitted. 

Another old study by Loving and Wolf (1997) examined 681 individuals and compared illness rates among the following groups: those who receive Communion; those who go to church but do not receive Communion; and individuals who do not attend Christian services. 

In addition to supplying demographic information, participants answered detailed questions regarding respiratory, intestinal, skin, systemic, and other illnesses; physician consultations; and medications. 

Respondent also reported church attendance and participation in Holy Communion every week for 10 weeks. 

No significant difference in health was found among these groups, indicating that receiving Holy Communion daily does not increase one's risk of infection.

The writer is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare/medical journalist/author, and a science writer.

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