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"On the night He was betrayed"...that's how Paul began his criticism of the Corinthian Christians for eating the bread and drinking the cup in an unworthy manner (1 Cor. 11: 23-34). For him, the context of the Last Supper was important. It was on the night before Jesus was killed that He 'broke bread'. If only they had realised it, they would observe the custom properly.


That was a night of agony for Jesus. He knew that He was going to be killed. What did He do to earn the hatred of His own people, except that He loved them? His heart broke as He thought of the breaking of His body and the shedding of His blood the next day. So He broke the bread and said to His disciples. "Do this in remembrance of me." He shared the cup with them and repeated the same words. In rememberance of Jesus and His love, the disciples gathered as often as they could and 'broke bread'.'


What then, is the Holy Qurbana?


First of all, it's a Transforming Memory.

A transforming memory of the breaking of the body of Christ, a meaningful pointer to the Cross and all that it means for us. We repeat Christ's 'breaking of bread', which in itself was a prophetic symbol of the 'breaking' of the heart of God. The broken bread reveals the broken heart of God. If we forget this truth, we shall never understand the meaning of the Holy Qurbana.


Second, it's a Joyful Celebration.

A joyful celebration of God's victory over sin and death. 'With glad and sincere hearts' the early disciples broke bread (Acts 2: 46). They remembered that Jesus had died, yet they knew Him to be their living Lord because He was raised from the dead. They would never have 'broken bread' with gladness to celebrate a tragedy. The love that suffered came out in triumph, so we respond to it with cheerful attitude.


Third, it's an Effective Communion.

A communion that is a meaningful experience of relating ourselves with Christ, and with one another. In Qurbana we met with the One who said "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him." In that sense, we can understand the presence of Christ with the sanctified bread and wine. In a real sense, then, Qurbana becomes a sacrament for us, a channel of divine grace, whereby God remains in us, and we in Him.


Fourth, it's an Open Proclamation.

"Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes." The Lord's 'death' is not to be understood in isolation from what led Him to the Cross, namely, His kingdom ministry. Proclamation involves our joining Him in His mission, taking up our own cross and following Him. Thereby, we will know the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death.


Fifth, it's an Anticipation of the Parousia.

An anticipation of the coming of Christ in glory and the final establishment of God's kingdom. Every time we assemble for Qurbana, we look forward to the fulfilment of the goal of history. Qurbana becomes an undeniable sign of the telos (the end), the realisation of our ultimate hope. So we pray "Your death, O Lord, we commemorate, Your ressurection we celebrate; and Your second coming we await".


Last, but not least, Qurbana is an offering of ourselves.

In fact, that's what the word means. Its original reference is to God's gift of Himself, the greatest offering of all. So, in thankful response, we offer ourselves to Him, as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. It is a pledge for the newness of our life and a promise not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world.


(Excerpts from Rev. Dr. Abraham P. Athyal's book 'Holy Qurbana: Response to 175 Questions')



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