Intinction, the Lord’s Table and Sacramental Efficacy

On Christmas Eve, my wife Jennifer and I attended the communion and candlelight service at Woodmont Christian Church in Nashville.  The contemplative combination of Word and Table was what we were seeking that evening and it was a meaningful experience.

The Table was served by congregants coming to the front and receiving the bread from the minister and we were then invited to dip the bread into the wine. The technical name for this is “intinction” (from the Latin intinctio meaning to “dip in”). It has been practiced for centuries in many traditions and is widely practiced in liturgical churches.

We each have our own peculiarities, I suppose, but intinction is not my preferred mode of experiencing communion. I find it much too reductionistic.

I don’t like a dip in wine or grape juice ; I would actually like to drink it. I prefer the experience of drinking.

At the same time, I don’t like eating a pinched piece of bread or cracker; I would actually like to eat it rather than swallow a pill or simply get a taste. I prefer eating and drinking rather than a mere tasting.

Moreover, I actually prefer a meal for the Lord’s Supper; it is called a “supper,” right? It is a called a “table” rather than an “altar”; it is for eating and drinking rather than a procession of ceremonial tasting. I prefer the full experience of a table meal rather than a “wine tasting,” or a minimalistic “snack”.

However….and this is a major point–don’t miss it…the efficacy of the sacrament–the power, meaning, and grace of the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper–does not depend on the quantity and quality of the meal. God’s gracious work through the Lord’s Supper is God’s own work, not ours.

By faith we receive what God gives. Whatever we think God does through the Supper (and opinions vary here), God does it, I think, through faith. Consequently, as we receive the Supper in faith, God is actively at work.

It is unfortunate, as far as I am concerned, that we have reduced the Supper of the Lord to eating and drinking small quantities and have even reworked drinking by virtue of intinction. I think we loose something. We lose, for example, the fullness of the meal experience that is part of a communal act of eating.

Nevertheless, when we come to the table, it is God who graces us. We do not grace ourselves. God can work through eating small quantities and even through intinction.

But if I had it my way, I would…..



7 Responses to “Intinction, the Lord’s Table and Sacramental Efficacy”

  1.   Kim McCall Says:

    Why would you have communion on Christmas Eve?? We are commanded to observe it on the first day of the week in remembrance of his death, burial and resurrection. We celebrate his birth everyday not just at Christmas, it’s just another day religiously speaking. Also there is nothing wrong with the traditional Lords Supper as passed every Sunday. Obviously there is nothing wrong with walking up front to get it either. Like the old saying goes if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!!!!

    • Profile photo of John Mark Hicks  John Mark Hicks Says:

      Why not? If someone wants to keep a day to the Lord, then no one should judge them for that. Romans 14. We celebrate the brith, life, death and resurrection of Jesus every day, and at the same time if one wants to keep a da to the Lord, then let us honor that person’s choice.

      There is no command to eat the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week and exclusively on the first day of the week. But I enjoy the link between Sunday, resurrection and the table and would not give up weekly celebration. I think there is something significant there but it is not exclusive, and there is no command to that end.

      I did not say there was anything wrong with traditional Lord’s Supper modes of celebration. I simply said that I prefer the more original, more biblical form, that is, a table meal. God still works either way as the posts says–and that was the main point of the post. At the same time, I do think we lose something without a table meal and in that sense it is broken and needs fixing. :-)

      We are all broken and need fixing but that does hot hinder God’s work in us as long as we seek God in faith.

  2. Profile photo of Bobby Valentine  Bobby Valentine Says:

    You know I agree.

  3.   Wiley Clarkson Says:

    I agree also. Even though I am not a fan of the intinction method, it is still meaningfull and historical, and I find nothing wrong with it. Our congregation does not do anything on Christmas eve but we do have a candlelight service on the preceeding Wednesday evening–without communion. It was a very meaningful experience this year and I think if communion had been offered as a part of this service, it would have been even better. I can’t think of anything much better for a Christmas service than hearing and singing about the birth, and then connecting it with the death and ressurection. However, if communion had been offered, it would have challenged the comfort zones of too many of our very “traditional” members who did attend. What I really find encouraging is that some congregations are trying to expand their personal comfort zones in their worship experiences outside the traditional Sunday experience and practices. Now if I could just get my congregation to expand into the full meal practice of the earliest Christians, even if it was just once a year………..!

  4.   Nadine Tauri Says:

    Jesus took the cup and instructed to divide it up. Luke 22:17. Intinction is not drinking it is mixing and the thought of many fingers in that bowl…well I hate it!

  5.   Nadine Tauri Says:

    Hmm or slurping or souping ewwww :)

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