This week, I delivered private communion to a few people who have not attended services for a long time. Personally, I would prefer not to do private communion because there is a lack of a corporate gathering and fellowship. The Lord’s Supper should be communal in nature (1 Cor. 11:20). However, these were two elderly sisters who cannot get to church due to lack of mobility (ages 80s and above). Moreover, they have not heard the word preached in this congregation for a long time. I asked them how they have been getting fed spiritually, and asked if they have been listening to preachers on the radio or television (well, I thought that something would be better than nothing at all). I believe that Word and Sacrament go together.
How many people would have to be present in order for it not to be considered a private communion? Luther opposed private masses. In the history of the early church, some priests have even done self-communion. Some use the example of Irenaeus, Jerome, and Chrysostom who believed that Christ consecrated the bread and wine and partook of the elements. However, I don’t buy this because others were present for this.
I also believe that when partaking of the sacrament of holy communion, we are required to examine ourselves and to reflect on the significance of the sacrament of which one is about to partake (1 Cor. 11:28). I also believe that confession and forgiveness should be ideally be done before partaking of the Lord’s Supper. And if one does not attend church, where is the opportunity for them to search their hearts? If they can get to church, then they have no excuse; but what if they genuinely cannot participate in the corporate gathering of the body? Should we leave them out? Some people might say that it’s okay to leave them out. But if we leave them out, then they do not have the opportunity to partake in Holy Communion at all. That is not good either.