Questions From Readers
● We have received a number of inquiries as to details of the celebration of the Lord’s evening meal. In response we present the following:
For true Christians the annual celebration of the Lord’s evening meal is a significant event. It is both serious and joyous. Yet there is no ritualistic formalism or mysticism about it. When one reads the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ institution of the celebration, one finds a simplicity and a dignity that are appropriate.—Matt. 26:26-30; Luke 22:19, 20; 1 Cor. 11:23-26.
Basically, the celebration today follows this form: As is customary with the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses, the program opens with song and prayer. The speaker then explains from the Scriptures the meaning of the occasion and the emblems, keeping in mind his audience. A brief and simple prayer is said over the bread, and it is passed among the audience. Then a blessing is briefly said over the wine, and it is passed. Appropriate concluding comments are made, and the meeting closes with song and prayer.
Since this especially is a meeting in which spirit-anointed Christians have a share, male Christians with the heavenly hope often deliver the discourse, though those of the “other sheep” may give it. Sometimes aged anointed ones who are not able to give the talk are in position to offer one of the prayers. But such matters can be worked out locally in accord with the circumstances and the capabilities of those involved.
There is no need to have the bread and wine covered and unveil them just as they are to be passed. They are not in themselves “holy,” but only symbols. They should be on a clean and presentable table near the speaker or convenient to those who will pass them. And they are returned to the table when the serving is completed.
As to the emblems themselves, let us first consider the bread. In instituting the Passover celebration, Jehovah directed that the Jews use “unfermented cakes.” (Ex. 12:8) And in view of their being “bread of affliction,” these unleavened cakes would hardly have salt or seasoning added to make them more tasty. (Deut. 16:3) Jesus used this type of unleavened bread when establishing the evening meal in commemoration of his death. Today some Jewish matzos are made with only wheat flour and water, and such may be used by Christians in the Memorial celebration. But we would not use matzos made with added ingredients, such as salt, sugar, malt, eggs, onions, and so forth.
Some Witnesses have preferred to make a small quantity of unleavened bread out of flour and water. This can be done as follows: Mix one and a half cups of (whole wheat) flour with one cup of water, making a moist dough. On a flat surface well dusted with flour, roll the dough to about one-sixteenth of an inch thickness, or as thin as possible. Place this on a baking pan or cookie sheet, oiled to keep the dough from sticking. Generously fork small holes in the dough and form it into a flat loaf, Mideast style. Bake in an oven at 350’ F. until dry and crisp.
Regarding the wine, Jesus used real wine, not unfermented grape juice. (See Awake.! of March 8, 1960, page 14.) Red grape wine would be an appropriate symbol of Jesus’ shed blood. Some red wines are fortified with brandy or spirits or have spices and herbs added. Thus wines such as sherry, port, Marsala, Malaga, Madeira, Muscatel, Vermouth and Dubonnet would not be suitable for this purpose. Christ’s blood was sufficient without additives; the wine used should be just unsweetened red wine. Wines such as Chianti, Burgundy, claret, cabernet and zinfandel could be used, as could homemade, unsweetened red wine.
At the institution of this celebration Christ invited his faithful disciples to drink out of a common cup. (Matt. 26:27) Today, with thousands of congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses having the celebration on the same night, just one cup cannot be used for all. But the principle is maintained by having the cup or cups (in large congregations a number might be used so that all can be served in a reasonable amount of time) passed among the audience. The glass or goblet itself need not be of some specific design. In accord with what is available locally, it can reflect the honor and dignity of the event. It would be best to avoid filling the cup to the point that an unnecessary danger of spilling exists when it is passed.
After a brief prayer is said over the bread, those selected to do so can pass it in the audience. It appears that Jesus broke the bread, evidently in two, so as to give some of it to those reclining on each side of him, because there was only one loaf used. (Matt. 26:26) But there is no need for the speaker to break the bread prior to its being passed. Probably it will be passed on a plate or plates, and if someone present is of the anointed, he or she can take or break off a small piece. The men serving the emblems should have opportunity to partake if of the anointed, and, naturally, the speaker should have opportunity to partake. The serving of the wine proceeds in the same orderly manner as with the bread.
In the case of an anointed Christian who was infirm and so unable to attend, a mature Christian male could take an individual portion of the bread and wine to that person that same night before sunrise. Depending on the circumstances, some fitting comments could be made and then the emblems presented after prayers. As was allowed under the Law in reference to the Passover, in an extreme case where an anointed one could not observe the Memorial on Nisan 14, he could celebrate it thirty days later.—Num. 9:9-14.
Since the emblems in themselves are not sacred, after the celebration is over in the Kingdom Hall and the meeting dismissed, the bread and wine may be taken home and used at some other time as normal food.
The importance of this celebration usually results in many new ones coming to the Kingdom Hall. Hence it is an opportunity for pleasant and upbuilding fellowship before and after the meeting. In places where a number of congregations use the same hall, those responsible for the arrangements will try to make provisions for this fellowship. Sometimes such congregations share the expense of renting a separate hall for one of the congregations so that all can meet at a reasonable hour, with the emblems being passed after sundown, and yet not being too rushed.
Often, after arriving home from this meeting, a family of Jehovah’s witnesses will spend time discussing the meaning of the Memorial. This relaxing consideration of the celebration and the Bible accounts of its institution can have a fine effect in bringing to a close the significant and happy evening.