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[a. F. communion, mutual participation, fellowship, in Augustine ‘church communion’ and ‘the communion of the holy altar’; f. communis COMMON. (With reference to the possibility that the latter was derived from com- + , cf. nio,-nem, oneness, UNION.)]

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  • 1. Sharing or holding in common with others; participation; the condition of things so held, community, combination, union.

1382 WYCLIF Ecclus. ix. 20 The comunyoun of deth wite thou [Vulg. communionem mortis scito]. c1530 Pol. Rel. & L. Poems (1866) 33 Yf thei be merchauntes, dyvision of heritage is bettyr than commvnion. 1617 MORYSON Itin. III. I. iii. 46 They attribute..hospitalitie to the Brittanes, communion of all things to the Normans. 1737 WATERLAND Eucharist 272 By Communion, the Apostle certainly intended a joint-Communion, or participating in common with others. 1809-10 COLERIDGE Friend (1865) 150 In France there was no public credit, no communion of interests. 1865 GROTE Plato I. i. 52 Having no communion of nature with other things.


  • 2. Fellowship, association in action or relations; mutual intercourse.

1553 T. WILSON Rhet. 87b, The Communion is a felowship or a commyng together, rather latine than englishe. 1592 WEST Symbol. I. I. §22 Contractes of propertie are buying or selling..of communion, societie. 1611 BIBLE 2 Cor. vi. 14 What communion hath light with darknesse? 1816 BYRON Prisoner of Chillon xiv, My very chains and I grew friends, So much a long communion tends To make us what we are. 1850 MERIVALE Rom. Emp. (1865) I. i. 8 The Latin franchise..placed its possessor in a state of subordinate communion with the Roman people.

b. Religious fellowship, spiritual intercourse.

c1600 HOOKER (J.), The angels..having with us that communion which the apostle to the Hebrews noteth. 1642 ROGERS Naaman To Rdr., In these latter our union and communion with God consists. 1704 NELSON Fest. & Fasts (1739) 582 It is in the Communion of the Sacrement, as it is in the Communion of Prayers. 1781 COWPER Retirement 747 Divine Communion..must fill the void. 1841 MYERS Cath. Th. III. §9. 34 There may have been seasons when communion with God has become a consciousness of His Indwelling. 1876 J. NORRIS Rudim. Theol. i. 15 Between man and God we are unwilling to use the familiar term ‘intercourse’, communion is the more reverent word, but it means the same thing.

c. Intimate personal converse, mental or ideal; communing. (In poetry or elevated prose.)

1800 WORDSW. Poems on naming Places iii, She who dwells with me, whom I have loved, With such communion, that no place on earth Can ever be a solitude to me. 1820 W. IRVING Sketch Bk. I. 30 He lives with antiquity in the sweet communion of studious retirement. 1845 FORD Handbk. Spain I. 51 That health of body and soul which ever rewards a close communion with Nature.

d. Action in partnership, common action.

1614 RALEIGH Hist. World (J.), Men began publickly to call on the name of the Lord; that is, they served and praised God by communion, and in publick manner. 1796 BURKE Regic. Peace i. Wks. VIII. 92 Our account of the war, as a war of communion..was a war of disaster and of little else.

  • 3. The fellowship or mutual relation between members of the same church, or of bodies which recognize each other as branches of the Church Catholic (said to be ‘in communion with’ each other; members are also said to be ‘in communion with’ the church).

The phrase communion of saints has been used both in this and in sense 4: cf. COMMUNING vbl. n. c1386 CHAUCER Pars. T. {page}238 Contricion..restoreth.. to the compaignye and communyon of hooly chirche. c1394 P. Pl. Crede 817 The communion of sayntes. 1526 Pilgr. Perf. (W. de W. 1531) 218b, The seconde [poynte] is, that there is communyon of sayntes. 1687 LUTTRELL Brief Rel. (1857) I. 411 The inhabitants in and about London in communion with the establisht church. 1725 tr. Dupin's Eccl. Hist. 17th C. I. v. 209 By this Word, Communion, we are to understand the mutual Love of Christians, and Conformity of their Manners. 1839 J. YEOWELL Anc. Brit. Ch. Pref. (1847) 11 Churches planted by the Apostles, with whom it was in full communion. 1853 TRENCH Less. Proverbs 125 The communion of saints, their communion not with one another merely..but..their communion with Him, who is the friend of all good men. 1879 A. W. HADDAN Apost. Success. in Ch. of Eng. iii. 60 That the..ungodly Churchman should be still in outward communion with the Church.

b. letter of communion: a certificate of church membership. Cf. 8 and communicatory letters s.v. COMMUNICATORY a.

1697 in T. W. Marsh Early Friends Surrey & Sus. xiii. 118 Whereas our Deare friend William Penn is Intended to pass over into Ireland this Meeting Desires William Garton and Josiah Garton to draw a letter of Communion and send it unto him.

  • 4. An organic union of persons united by common religious faith and rites; a church or denomination; the organized body professing one faith.

1565 JEWEL Repl. Harding (1611) 21 In this sense S. Hierome called S. Augustine a Bishop of his Communion: that is, of his Faith, of his Minde, of his Doctrine, of his Religion. 1573 R. BARNES Wks. 246 Wee beleeue..that holy church is a communion or felowshypp of holy men. 1642-3 EARL OF NEWCASTLE Declar. in Rushw. Hist. Coll. (1751) V. 134 That I have in my Army some of the Romish Communion, I do not deny. 1700 J. A. ASTRY tr. Saavedra-Faxardo II. 314 It is not allowable to kill or hate a Man of a different Communion. 1844 H. H. WILSON Brit. India II. 570 The Scotch minister..according to the rules of his communion. 1875 HAMERTON Intell. Life XI. i. 398 The clergy of their respective communions.

  • 5. Of things: Community or association of functions, common relation.

1538 STARKEY England II. ii. 178 The communyon betwyx them [i.e. body and soul] also to be of that sorte that they dyseasys of the one redunde to the othir. 1635 N. CARPENTER Geog. Del. I. iii. 47 These parts are called respect of their Magneticall nature, and communion. 1668 CULPEPPER & COLE Barthol. Anat. II. iii. 90 The communion of Nerves and Vessels. 1875 JOWETT Plato (ed. 2) I. 437 To dissever the soul from the communion of the body. 1878 FOSTER Phys. III. ii. 407 A certain amount of functional communion between the two sides, so that when one retina is stimulated both pupils contract.

  • 6. Intercourse, communication.

1614 RALEIGH Hist. World (T.), The Israelites had never any communion or affairs with the Ethiopians. 1692 RAY Dissol. World iii. (1732) 19 No Intercourse or Communion with the superior or external Air. 1869 GLADSTONE Juv. Mundi iii. 95 Words..transported bodily out of the Greek into the Latin tongue after literary communion had begun.

  • 7. Participation in the Christian sacrament of the Lord's Supper; also, the sacrament itself as administered or observed, the Eucharist; in some phrases, as to take, deliver, receive the communion, it becomes more or less concrete. (Also Holy Communion, communio sancti altaris, Augustine.) communion in one kind, in both kinds, half communion, etc.: terms relating to the dispute whether the laity should receive one or both elements in the communion. close or strict, free or open communion: among Baptists, a division on the question of admitting to the Lord's Table persons who have not received baptism in accordance with Baptist principles.

[1382 WYCLIF 1 Cor. x. 16 The cuppe of blessynge the which we blessen, wher it is not the comenynge [TIND. & CRANM. partakynge, Genev. & 1611 communion (Revised ac.), Rhem. communication, Vulg. communicatio, Gr. {kappa}{omicron}{iota}{nu}{omega}{nu}{giacu}{alpha}] of Cristes blood? and the breed which we breken, wher it is not the delynge or part takynge [1388 the takyng, TINDALL & CRANMER partetakyng, Genev. & 1611 communion (Rev. ac.), Rhem. participation, Vulg. participatio, Gr. {kappa}{omicron}{iota}{nu}{omega}{nu}{giacu}{alpha}] of the body of the Lord?] c1440 Promp. Parv. 89 Communyone sacrament, communio. 1492 in Archæol. Jrnl. (1888) XLV. 155 A pair of chalice of silver for the communion. c1500 in Maskell Mon. Rit. (1846) II. 327 Oon after an other..shall offer an host and wyne..for theyr communion. 1548 Order of the Communion, Proclam., To come to this holy Sacrament and most blessed Communion..Rubr. 1 Before he shall minister the Communion. Rubr. 2 Disposed to be partakers of the Communion. Rubr. 5 Those that are minded to receive the holy Communion. Rubr. 9 The Priest shall deliver the Communion first to the Ministers. 1555 EDEN Decades W. Ind. (Arb.) 256 Whyle certeyne of the Christians were at the communion. 1577 B. GOOGE Heresbach's Husb. I. (1586) 4 We our Parishe Churche, where we heare our Curate, and receave the blessed Communion. 1631 RUTHERFORD Lett. xiv. (1862) I. 67 Unacquainted with the day of our Communion. 1660 JER. TAYLOR Duct. Dubit. (1671) 371 The half-communion is by the Council of Constance affirmed to be different from the institution of Christ. 1737 WATERLAND Eucharist 28 Communion. The Sacrament is so called, because of the Communion we therein hold with Christ and with each other. 1869 FREEMAN Norm. Conq. (1876) III. 15 Communion in both kinds was certainly usual at this time. 1883 ADDIS & ARNOLD Cath. Dict. s.v., At every Mass the celebrant is bound to communicate, because his communion is necessary for the completion of the sacrifice..The communion of the people is in no way essential, either to the integrity or lawfulness of the sacrifice. 1886 BLUNT Dict. Sects 65/1 Particular Baptists..are subdivided into two sections on the question of free or strict communion..the ‘strict’ or ‘close communionists’ admitting to the Lord's Supper only those who have been baptized as adults.

b. = communion service. Obs.

1552 Bk. Com. Prayer, Ord. Deacons, Then shalbe song or sayed the Communion of the day. 1555 BALE in Strype Eccl. Mem. III. App. xxxix. 108 They mock the rehearsal of Gods commandments, and of the epistles and gospels in our Communion, and say, they are misplaced. 1575 in W. Turner Select. Rec. Oxford 368 Ye..Burgesses..shall yearly procure a communion or sermon to be made.

c. (See quots.)

1853 ROCK Ch. of Fathers IV. 42 While the Eucharist was being distributed to the people, the choir sang the whole or part of a psalm, called, from that circumstance, the ‘communion’. 1883 ADDIS & ARNOLD Cath. Dict., Communion, the antiphon which the priest says after the ablutions, at the Epistle side of the altar. Formerly it used to be sung, while the people communicated: hence the name.

  • 8. attrib. and Comb. (almost exclusively referring to 7), as communion bread, day, office, place, platter, service, Sunday, time, wine, etc.; communion board, a communion table (cf. BOARD n. 6); communion-cloth, a cloth used at the celebration of the Communion, esp. a cloth for the communion table; see also quot. 1866; communion-cup, a cup used for the wine at the communion: a name preferred by the Puritans in England to chalice; communion letter = letter of communion (see 3b); communion-rail, the rail in front of the communion table in some churches, the altar-rail. Also COMMUNION TABLE.

1588 ALLEN Admon. 14 The Idoll of her prophane *communion borde. a1631 DONNE Serm. IV. lxxxvi. 99 The religion of the church holds a stubborne Recusant at the table, at the Communion-board as far from her as a Recusant at the Pew. 1605 T. SPARKE Brotherly Perswas. (1607) 10 The order of Geneua touching their *communion bread. 1631 WEEVER Anc. Fun. Mon. 49 An ore-worne *Communion-cloth. 1866 Direct. Angl. (ed. 3) 353 Communion cloth or Houseling cloth is a white linen cloth spread over the rails at the time of the Communion, or is held for the Communicants by acolytes or other ministers. 1642-3 EARL OF NEWCASTLE Declar. in Rushw. Hist. Coll. (1721) V. 137 Their Chalices or *Communion Cups (let them [the Parliamentarians] call them what they will). 1683 Apol. Prot. France ii. 14 A young Maid..had stole herself into the Congregation upon a *Communion-day. a1711 KEN Hymnarium Poet. Wks. 1721 II. 135 He no *Communion-Letters could pretend, Which mov'd the Angel Entrance to suspend. 1721 STRYPE Eccl. Mem. III. xxxi. 243 They thought it not convenient to have the Ten Commandments, the Epistles, and Gospels repeated in the *Communion Office. 1823 P. NICHOLSON Pract. Build. 572 The height of the pilasters in the *Communion-Place is 22 feet 6 inches. 1847 BARONESS BUNSEN in Hare Life II. iii. 97 Knelt by the *Communion-rails of Westbury Church. 1827 Gentl. Mag. XCVII. II. 487 This part of the Ante-*Communion Service is now so commonly omitted on Sundays. 1878 H. C. ADAMS Wykehamica, The next day was *Communion Sunday. 1552 Bk. Com. Prayer, Communion, The Table hauyng at the *Communion tyme a fayre white lynnen clothe vpon it.

See also

  • Union