Richard Hooker’s vision foresaw virtual communion

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Hooker identified that the key elements of the sacramental act of the Eucharist communion were spiritual not physical. The essential traditional elements as such in the Christian tradition allow it to be done virtually as an accommodation.

The Christian church as Paul states must try to accommodate all it can otherwise it is not valid. New video internet technology can and has appropriately expanded the churches reach to physically and/or medically challenged believers. Richard Hooker’s vision that the Eucharist is a joint spiritual act between believer and Christ facilitates this duty.

The fastest growing population in the United States are people 80 years of age and over. This combined with onset of the COVID epidemics challenged the Episcopal Church and other denominations ability to serve populations at risk or with impaired mobility.

The 16th century English theologian, Richard Hooker, outlined the major theology of the Anglican and American Episcopal views about the Eucharist in The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Instead of seeing the sacraments, bread and wine, themselves as conveying grace he said the real presence of grace was Jesus presence in performing the rite of the eucharist and taking the eucharist. He did not believe that the sacraments by themselves conveyed grace. This has been the guiding principle of Anglican/Episcopal theology up to today.

Although Protestant evangelists had frequently used television as a vehicle to promote religious services it was rarely done in the Episcopal Church until the COVID epidemics as well the increasing aging population with impaired mobility brought about new innovation.

Our Catholic brothers and sisters can be seen everyday on the Eternal World Network carrying out Catholic missals which promote spiritual communion with special prayers. Now many Episcopal Churches throughout the United States regularly shoot live video and preserve replays for those who cannot attend church services. Many Catholic dioceses allow “spiritual communion” when a believer cannot attend mass.

The Episcopal American and Anglican world view on the subject of virtual communion was not without controversy but its is gradually gaining favor as an alternative for those whose illness or immobility prevents attendance at church. It is an accommodation and not the norm. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has said “the sacrament does not bring Christ to a place where God is absent.” Paul writes in Corinthians 1:27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord.  He implies you must have the right state of mind and must not exclude others from sharing in this sacrament for it to be valid. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry has stated the the sacramental act is to be celebrated in community and joining the community in virtual attendance empowers this goal.

A very good treatise on the subject of virtual communion was written by Rev. Julia Heard in ECF Vital Practices 2021. The reader is encouraged to read her article. In summary a few points are stated here. We believe the sacrament alone does not give grace one must first come to the Eucharist in the state of spiritual examination, benevolence, love, and community as outlined in the Book of Common Prayer. The Priest can act as the in persona ecclesiae virtually and in person. The presence of Christ is present wherever the celebrant happens to be with these perquisites.

Professor Tony Magana

Dr. Tony Magana is Professor Emeritus in Neurosurgery who spent many years doing international teaching and research including 10 years in Ethiopia. Over the past 15 years he concomitantly intensified his Christian faith through study and worship through the Episcopal Church. He grew up in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. Attended Texas A&M University, Harvard Medical School, and trained at the University of Miami. Additionally he took the University of South Education for Ministry as well as attending the Southeast Florida Episcopal Diocesan School for Christian Studies.
Professor Tony Magana, a seasoned neurosurgeon, has not only dedicated his life to medical practice but also embarked on a profound spiritual journey. Over the past 15 years, he has deepened his Christian faith through study and worship within the Episcopal Church. His experiences span international teaching, research, and a decade of service in Ethiopia
Dr. Tony Magana’s writings blend faith, compassion, and wisdom, inviting readers to explore the intersection of spirituality and the human experience. His journey serves as an inspiration for those seeking deeper connections with faith and humanity.

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