Every Eucharist is a Virtual Eucharist


Every Eucharist is a virtual Eucharist. Of course it is.

We know this.

We experience this.

We forget this.

Christianity – at least the bits of Christianity that are worth taking seriously – takes time and space so seriously that it knows that the particular cannot ever express the ultimate. Indeed, time and space are playthings in the hands of the religiously inspired.

Over the last few months it hasn’t been possible for my congregation to celebrate the Eucharist together in one space. But when we used to do that, we were never entirely in one space anyway. The very building itself is designed to transport people from the knowledge that they are a few yards from a busy thoroughfare in the Second City of Empire. Taking a few steps inside we find that we are in another place altogether. And in another empire, where the Emperor is servant of all and love is the essense of the law. The conceit that going into church takes you into a divine, heavenly realm is not an idea exclusive to the East. Coming into St Mary’s you are supposed to feel that you are stepping into heaven. It has been built to make you feel that. It has been decorated to make you feel that.  It does make people feel that.

Whenever I take people into church I almost always hear them express a sense of wonder. We have the wow factor. It has been created by human skill to make you feel that the reality that you experience as you stand in the street is not the only reality that you can experience. It is a space that conveys that love, joy and peace might be possible and it does that without words. It is done with beauty and it takes people a few steps up the stairway to heaven.

And it is the church playing with reality.

That experience of going into a holy space and feeling part of something bigger is something common to religions that are divided on all kinds of doctrinal matters. It points to things that are best expressed through virtual reality and religious people are so used to virtual reality that they sometimes forget that it is all around them.

When people come to the Eucharist in St Mary’s they are at once in Glasgow and simultaneously elsewhere. And elsewhere isn’t even singular either. At the Eucharist in Glasgow we are at one and the same time in an Upper Room in Jerusalem rather a long time ago and at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb at the ultimate consumation of all that is. The Last Supper and the Breakfast at the End of the Universe happen at the same table. At the same time.

And as we gather at our table, we gather at every table and eat in communion with those who share in the same meal. Our fellowship with them isn’t prevented by circumstance. Our Eucharistic fellowship has never been prevented by circumstance or lack of physical proximity.

We couldn’t keep the Triduum in Holy Week without virtual reality.

Without virtual reality it would just be a way of making feet smell less.

Without virtual reality it would just be a bonfire that would die.

Christ is the celebrant at every Eucharist no matter which particular celebrant is standing there. Virtual reality becomes interwoven with the reality of the lives that we bring to the table and we are formed and changed and made new. It is how God’s love is expressed.

This is virtual reality. Every Eucharist is a Virtual Eucharist. Cyberspace is one of the most powerful metaphors for prayer that human beings may ever develop.

Our bodies are bound by physics.

God’s love in this world isn’t.

This is why religious buildings are important. It is also why they are not important.

Every Eucharist is a Virtual Eucharist.

Every Eucharist always was a Virtual Eucharist.

Of course it was.


  1. Is then, Father, salvatioin virtual, do you think?

    • I think Salvation is real.

      • As a Catholic (Anglican) I have always understood the Body and Blood of Christ to be a reality – as different from its ‘virtual reality’ in a podcast. Otherwise, why bother to actually partake of ther sacred Elements? Your argument, Father, is entering the perilous arena of arguments about the ‘Real Presence’ of Christ in the Mass and in the aumbry or tabernacle.

        • I don’t argue about the Real Presence, I believe in the Real Presence.

        • Dominic Barrington says

          Absolutely nothing in the article questioned the Real Presence at all. Indeed, it could well be argued that it underscores it, at least to my mind.

  2. Peter Harris says

    So then why can the people of God not receive at home through a virtual Eucharist. If present together with Christ at the meal in the upper room and present with the omega at the end of time then why can’t Christ be present in the bread and wine of the believer seeking to receive?

  3. Richard Ashby says

    Betjeman said that a good church building should bring you to your knees. He was right.

  4. Clare Lockhart says

    Every Eucharist is indeed a virtual reality , tethered to eternity through time and space by the action of the Holy Spirit to the particularity of this incarnated host and chalice offered by this person and received by these individuals kneeling at this particular altar rail.
    Cranmer : ‘and though they do carnally press with their teeth…they do not receive ..’ turns this inside out, for legitimate reasons but I think he is mistaken .

  5. Meg Rosenfeld says

    This piece is very timely and comforting to those of us in California who cannot attend “real” church services, and have not been able to do so since the second week in Lent. Thank you for pointing out that you don’t need a chalice and paten, or literal wine and wafers, to receive the presence of Christ.

  6. Peggy Brewer says

    Of course! Thank you for this reminder!

  7. Thank you, dear friend, for this reminder.

  8. I guess, Kelvin when it comes to the nitty-gritty of everyday LIFE, God can, and does, graciously meet our needs (before we ask). If it was good enough for Teilhard de Chardin to receive Christ in his hands when no bread was available, it should be possible for a true believer to receive Christ at home when unable to be present at the Eucharistic Table. Agape!

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