Dear Maggie: Our Patron's Weekly Insights

The Christian life is full of questions ranging from the theological to the practical.  In this weekly column our patron St. Maggie of Scottland answers reader questions.  If you have a "Dear Maggie" question about liturgy, the bible, ethics, or any other burning question please send it to  
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Which version of the Bible should I read?

Dear Maggie,

What version of the Bible should I read?

Lost in Translations

Dear Lost,

Wouldn’t it be nice to just sit down and read the scriptures in Greek and Hebrew with everything making all the sense in the world!  Unfortunately, that’s not the case, err actually, it might be fortunately.  Ya see translation could be one way we think about the Incarnation, the Word of God that came to dwell with us.  In each translation of the bible we are seeking again to faithfully transmit the wisdom of God for our age.

Because biblical scholars keep thinking and learning about the scriptures we continue to gain new insights into how to bring the texts of the original languages into our own age.  The reality is that there is no one translation that captures the whole of the scriptures.  In our study of the bible it is really best to read two or three versions, understanding all along that each one has made decisions here and there that will shape how we might understand the scriptures.

In the Episcopal Church the standard of the last few years has been the New Revised Standard Version.  This is the great great grandchild of the King James or “Standard Version.”  The NRSV is the version we mostly read on Sunday mornings in church and a great deal of scholarship has gone into the translation.  However, it does have its problems.  For instance, much of the New Testament was written in a very approachable, everyday language and yet the NRSV tends to be a bit high for most American English speakers of the today.  Also, in some tricky passages the NRSV makes some choices in their translation that don’t fit with some of the best scholarship around today.  Still, this is one of the translations you should use and may be a good first read translation.

Another very good and more recent translation is the Common English Bible.  This is a fresh translation that was sponsored by several denominations including the Episcopal Church.  Many of the world’s best scholars were involved in this translation, but its goal was to make the language of the bible more approachable than that of the NRSV. 

Eugene Peterson’s The Message is a very loose translation, but one that is based in the original languages and really puts the scriptures into the kind of idioms that we can now understand.  His translations have become much loved around the world and I think they are very much worth including in your reading and devotional practice. 

There are hundreds of other translations to choose from, but I’d start with those three.  If you read them side by side then they will help you get a deeper sense of the scripture.  If there is a place where you see a strong difference between the translations then it might be worth looking at an interlinear bible and doing some digging around in why a different choice was made.
As an example, let’s look at Romans 5:1-2.  Here’s how it’s translated in our three examples:

NRSV Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we[c] boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. 

CEB: Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness,[a] we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory.

The Message: By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

As you can see each translation is very different.  All were working from the Greek but each made very different choices. The NRSV offers a traditional protestant interpretation that reflects the idea that it is by our faith that we are justified (it does offer a footnote in most versions that gives some alternative possibilities).  The CEB, however, seems to offer it is Christ’s faithfulness that justifies us. This reflects more recent scholarship around Paul’s understanding of the work of faith—that Christ’s faithfulness is what justifies us, not our faith.  The Greek can be translated either way, but the CEB made their choice based on the larger theology of Paul.  The Message is different than both in that it is focused on transferring the underlying meaning of the texts into our contemporary language through paraphrase. All of these approaches are helpful as we seek to understand the scriptures. 

So, don’t just read one translation!  Read several.  The website Bible Gateway has all of these and more.  They also have a tool where you can see several translations side by side.  The important thing is that we read these ancient texts and begin to make the story of our own lives a continuation of their stories of God’s grace working in the world.  Our lives, then, become the final translation we’re seeking.

I hope that all makes sense for you Lost!  God’s word is a wonder and translations are just a tool to help us live into the beauty of its gift.

Peace be with ya!
St. Maggie

What is an Acolyte?

Dear Maggie,

What is an acolyte?

Anxiously Attending
Dear Attending,

Thank ye for yer question.  Acolytes are those critical ministers in our worship who do so much but can often go unnoticed.  Acolytes are literally table servants, their name being derived from the Greek for “attendant.”  Their responsibilities are to light the candles on the altar, hold the torches for the Gospel procession, and process the cross in and out if there is a processional.  Acolytes also help the deacon with the preparation of the table. 

Originally Acolytes were considered clergy and were ordained by the bishop.  The primary sign of their ordination was the gift of a candle for it is their job to keep the light of the spirit present in worship.  The first we know of their office comes from a letter of Pope Cornelius written in 251 in which a list of the liturgical officers of Rome is noted as forty-six priests, seven deacons, seven sub-deacons, forty-two acolytes, and fifty-two exorcists, lectors, and doorkeepers.  The early church historian Eusebius mentions that acolytes were present and helped with worship at the Council of Nicaea in 325.  Their office is indeed an ancient and honorable one!

Originally acolytes were ordained around the age of twenty, but now acolytes are welcomed into liturgical service from a wide range of ages from six to sixty and beyond!  Up until 1980 acolytes had to be male, but (thank God!) now both boys and girls, men and women can serve at God’s table.

I hope that helps you out Attending!  Yer name means you’d be a perfect match for this ancient role in Christ’s church.  I hope you’ll join in to this wonderful ministry!

Peace be with ya!

What are the Five Marks of Mission?

Dear Maggie,

What are the Five Marks of Mission?

Markedly Mulling

Dear Markedly Mulling,

Me, me, what a wonderful question and a wondrous subject.  Before I get into the Five Marks themselves, let me start by sayin a word about mission.  When Christians talk about mission a whole host of images come up, many of them with a bit of baggage, as ya say.  There twas a time in the Christian past when conquerors came with priests, subjecting with the sword and converting with violence.  In more recent times Christian mission has often been accompanied  by an attempt to spread the economics of America instead of God's good gifts.

Thankfully, these negative images of mission are distortions of a more glorious truth—God is a missionary God and the church is a part of God’s mission.  The whole scope of cosmic history is marked by God making room in the community of the Trinity to welcome others into the holy family of God.  Early on though, God’s children rebelled and rejected the community and life God offered.  Ever since then God has been on a mission to reconcile the cosmos back into the community of God’s love. God created the people of Israel through this mission, calling Abraham to father a nation. Moses and the prophets were all a part of God’s mission. God sent his only Son in order to continue that mission, fulfilling its decisive step. Now the Church guided by the Holy Spirit is a part of God’s mission to reconcile the world.

The Five Marks of Mission is one statement that helps us recognize where and when we are participating in God’s mission.  There are some folks who think that God’s mission is all about individual lives being brought into the church.  There are other folks who believe that God’s mission is about transforming society and healing the creation.  The Five Marks of Mission were developed between 1984 and 1990 through the Anglican Consultative Council, a group of theologians and pastors from around the world wide Anglican Communion.  It is a short document that answers both groups saying, yes!  God is reconciling individuals through the church and the whole cosmos through justice and transformation.  This means that individual lives and the life of society and the creation itself are both included in God’s mission.

Over years of discussion, prayer, and discernment the council came up with these Five Marks of Mission:
  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
The marks are meant to guide us and help us to recognize God’s work in the world.  Is there a faithful effort to change an unjust structure?  God’s mission is being enacted.  Is there a faithful effort to disciple new believers into the way of Jesus?  God’s mission is being worked out in the world.  The Church’s job is to join in God’s mission and answer God’s call to live into this work of reconciliation God has been working throughout history.

I hope that answers yer question, Mulling. God’s mission is a grand thing and we’re all privileged that we can take part in it.

Peace be with ya,

What is the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession?

Dear Maggie,

What is the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession?

Confessionally Confused

Dear Confused,

I don’t know about you, but though they call me a Saint, I know I’m just as much a sinner. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” as Saint Paul tells us.  The difference, often, between a sinner and a saint is our willingness to admit that we’re sinners and confess those sins to God. 

The problem with sin is that it separates us from God and from one another.  Over time they can create barriers and obstacles that keep us from moving deeper in our relationships.  It’s for this reason that the church offers the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  It is a liturgy through which you confess your sins to God in the presence of a priest and the priest is there to both journey with you and to help you hear God’s forgiveness. 

Confession requires reflection and preparation in order to enjoy its full value and grace.  It is helpful to spend several days or even weeks reflecting over your life and the sins that have piled up to block your relationships.  Brother Curtis Almquist of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, an Episcopal monastic order, offers a wonderful guide for those preparing for confession that can be found here: “Reconciliation: Preparing for the Sacrament.” 

Father Martin L. Smith has written a beautiful book on preparing for the sacrament for those who want to go even deeper in their preparation and practice of this spiritual discipline: Reconciliation: Preparing for Confession in the Episcopal Church

The wonderful thing about confession is that it is also one of those rare places where you can share anything and it will be kept absolutely between you, the priest, and God.  The only exception to this, in some cases, is if you share something that means an immediate threat to you or someone else.

Many people on their first confession offer up all of the sins they can think of from the whole course of their life. When you get thinking about it, it can be amazing how many sins you remember and how those old sins have continued to block your way to God. There is nothing wrong with coming to confession with a written list of your sins if that is helpful for you. Sometimes this process of reflection can even help you discern aspects of your life that are sinful but you hadn’t even realized it. Many sins like ambition, greed, or sloth can be quiet subtle in how they show up in our lives. 

The heart of confession comes at the end.  After you have told God your sins and offered forgiveness to those who have sinned against you, the priest concludes the liturgy with these words:

“Now there is rejoicing in heaven; for you were lost, and are found, you were dead, and are now alive in Christ Jesus our Lord. Go in peace.  The Lord has put away all your sins.” (BCP, 451).

After that you can never again bring up a sin that has already been confessed.  God has erased that block from your life and you can now move freely toward the full embrace of God’s grace.
I hope that that helps you Confused and I hope that you will try this beautiful and profound sacrament.  Lent is a wonderful time to experience this grace in your life.

Peace be with ya,
St. Maggie.

What is Lent?

Dear Maggie,

What is the season of Lent?

Penitentially Perturbed

Dear Perturbed,

My, my, I hope to leave you a bit less perturbed after you read this!  Lent is one of those Christian seasons that we all know culturally, but often don’t really understand. For many of us Lent is the season after Mardi Gras (or Shrove Tuesday) and before Easter, a time when we eat Filet-O-Fish Sandwiches or a good basket of fish n’ chips on Friday (which is no sacrifice in my mind!).  A few of us might give up something like sweets or alcohol and take up some extra bible reading and prayer.  All this is fine and good, but Lent is so much more than this!

Lent began as a period when the faithful would join new Christians in preparing for Baptism on Easter.  The new Christians, following the pattern of Christ going into the wilderness to fast and pray, would enter into a season of focused devotion to prepare themselves for the new life that was to come.  Those already baptized in the church would often join these new Christians both in solidarity and in renewal of their own lives of faith.

It is best to think of Lent, not as a time of deprivation but as training.  We are getting ready for something, we are training our hearts and minds and bodies to fully live into the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection. Sometimes taking on special practices like praying the Anglican Rosary daily or giving up something help us mark the time.  If you’ve ever trained for a significant athletic event you’ll know that during the training period you have to change the habits and patterns of your life—how you eat, spend your time, and even sleep.  That is how Lent is, except it isn’t a race, it’s about refocusing our whole being on the Resurrection life Jesus offers us. 

Now fasting is certainly a part of all this.  It used to be that Christians fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays year around.  Then it became just during Lent.  Then it became just Fridays in Lent.  Then it became no meat on Fridays (thus the tradition of fish on Fridays in lent).  Now we don’t fast from much of anything.  As Isaiah and other prophets warn us, fasting in itself is not much good, but in its best expressions it helps us to retrain our desires. Jesus fasted and invites us to also learn to live from God rather than simply physical food.  On the negative side, if we can hold off from eating food for a day then maybe we can hold off from other things that might actually harm us or harm others.  Fasting helps us develop one of the core spiritual capacities—self-control and conscious dependence upon God. 

Even if you don’t fast from food during Lent, it is good to give up something that will be hard for you.  It is always by pushing and stretching our limits that we really grow. We can’t have all fasting, however.  Even though we look toward Easter, every Sunday in Lent is still a Feast of the Resurrection.  So it is that whatever we give up or take on in Lent can be relaxed on Sundays.  It doesn’t mean that we go all out and gorge ourselves on chocolate, but we can mark the day with a square of chocolate and perhaps a glass of wine.  In this we remember that all of this fasting is really to enable us to embrace the life of joy more fully.

My advice for Lent is that you give up something that inhibits your greater joy and take up one discipline that will increase it.  For instance, if you feel compelled to eat sweets every chance you get then you are giving into a small joy while keeping yourself from the greater joy of health.  Lent is a time to embrace that greater joy.  Then take on a discipline that will help you embrace the life God is offering.  Memorizing a beloved passage of scripture is a great way to bring your heart and mind into ready reflection on the word of God.  What could be more joyful than having God’s word ready to fill your mind whenever you need it, wherever you are? 

I hope all this helps you see that Lent is a time to give up small pleasures for a larger joy.  May you have a full, joyful, and holy Lent!

Peace be with ya,

What is spiritual direction?

Dear Maggie,

What is spiritual direction?

Discerning Direction

Dear Discerning,

I'm glad you asked this fine question, especially just before Lent begins. Spiritual direction is an ancient Christian practice by which a we join with a wise friend in discovering what God is up to in our lives. I asked one such friend who has been through a spiritual direction training program at SMU to provide a bit more of an answer.  Here is an overview of the purpose of spiritual direction from yer own Skip Cochran:

"The purpose of spiritual direction is to assist others to see the presence of God in their lives, to find the truth of their own existence and encourage them to be faithful to it.  There is a necessity for someone whose soul has been awakened to find a soul friend with whom to share their whole life interior journey and help them see God at work in their lives.

All spiritual directors (companions) who are authentically called to this ministry want to assist directees (companions) in realizing their spiritual goals or desires—growing in relationship with God, entering into discernment regarding a particular decision (See discernment below for further description), righting a relationship with another, discovering the presence of God in the ordinary, learning how to pray, or living a life of greater justice or compassion.  Whatever the spiritual desire of the directee, spiritual directors (companions) want to assist their directees (companions) with these endeavors. The spiritual director is not a therapist, solving life’s problems, but a guide caring for the directee’s soul, helping the directee see God working in his or her life."

Skip goes on to offer these three points about discernment in spiritual direction: 
  1. Most fundamental task of discernment: to see beyond surface appearances to the intangible spiritual identity, e.g., a felt sense of one’s authentic identity in God. To help directees (companions) to see and experience their foundational identity in God; then help directees (companions) distinguish authentic and inauthentic expressions of that identity in the actual practice of direction.  
  2. The process of distinguishing or sifting through interior movements to discover whether their origin is from God or some other source—one’s own ego, cultural conditioning, e.g., that which moves you away from God rather than toward God.
  3. The process of weighing alternative courses of action in order to choose the one that seems most congruent with God’s will.    
I hope this answers yer question, Discerning!  Lent is a wonderful time to begin meeting with a spiritual director if you haven't already.  St. Margaret's will be offering times for an initial meeting of spiritual direction with our clergy and Skip.  It's an opportunity to advance toward spiritual maturity that is not to be missed!

Blessings on ya!

St. Maggie

Who were the Pharisees?

Dear Maggie,

Who were the Pharisees?


Dear Wondering,

Oh, the famous Pharisees!  Twas a group that often sparred with Jesus and yet it was a group to which Jesus could easily have been lumped.  In the Judaism of the New Testament times there were three major groups: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots. 

The Pharisees were a group of Jews deeply educated in the Torah.  They organized schools, developed councils, and worked to live fully into the teachings of God’s law.  They believed that the authority they had was born from their knowledge of the Torah (what we know as the first five books of the Old Testament) and the strict adherence to its laws in every aspect of their lives.  They believed that God would bring redemption if only God’s people would follow every aspect of God’s law.

The Pharisees had also interpreted Jewish tradition to accept some ideas that were not always present in Jewish thought, namely, a belief in the resurrection of the dead and in the work of angels.  Jesus, it is clear, believed in the resurrection and angels, placing him in the camp of the Pharisees on those issues.

The Sadducees on the other hand were the priestly class.  In fact their name comes from Zadock, a famous priestly family.  This group was in charge of running the temple and they believed their authority came from being a part of the priestly class—rooted in nature more than in action.  Because they were the elites they also tended to compromise a bit more to hold onto power.  They tended to bend where needed in order to keep the temple running under various occupying forces.  They were also more conservative, theologically, meaning that they rejected revolutionary ideas like resurrection.

The Essenes were a bit more like the Pharisees, but they believed that the world would end soon and it was best to go live a faithful life in the desert.  Their groups were mostly made up of celibate men and their separatist leanings made their pure life in the wilderness inaccessible to most.  Their famous and helpful contribution to us now is the Dead Sea Scrolls, a major archeological discovery of Essene literature including the oldest copies we have of many books of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Finally, there are the Zealots.  These were the radical terrorists of their day.  The Zealots sought to liberate God’s people by violent rebellion against occupying forces.  They would attack Roman soldiers and eventually succeeded in leading a major rebellion which the Romans crushed in 70 C.E.
It was into these groups that Jesus came and offered what was in many ways of a fifth alternative for Judaism that would soon open up access to God’s people to anyone, Jew or Gentile.

I hope that answers yer question Wondering.  It certainly does help in understanding so much of what Jesus says and so many of the debates Jesus carries on with the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Gospels.

Peace be with ya!

How do I get started reading the bible?

Dear Maggie,

I want to read the bible, but I’m not sure how to get started.  Do you have any suggestions?

Biblically Baffled

Dear Baffled,

Thank ye for yer question.  The bible is a book of profound richness, but it is also complex and can be daunting.  There are many ways into reading scripture more regularly and all of them will help you begin the rich work of reading the word of God.

One way into studying the bible is simply to read the lessons for the upcoming Sunday.  If you do that you will get a good mix of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the New Testament Epistles, the Gospels and the Psalms.  Spending a whole week reflecting and studying these scriptures can be a rich way to enter into Sunday worship. 

You might begin by reading these scriptures in a familiar translation like the New Revised Standard Version on Monday, then reading them again in The Message translation on Tuesday, then looking up the Old Testament reading in a commentary on Wednesday, the Epistle reading in a commentary on Thursday, and the Gospel in a commentary on Friday.  The New Jerome Biblical Commentary is a great one volume commentary.  There are also many good study bibles with commentary in the footnotes.  The Renovare "Life with God" Study Bible is good for its spiritual applications and the Harper Collins Study Bible is great for its scholarly notes. 

Another way to begin is to really study a book along with a commentary.  For a start at this I’d highly recommend Say to This Mountain by Ched Myers and friends.  This book works through the gospel of Mark in bite sized chunks, providing a few verses of reading with commentary that sets out the social and historical context.  Then the commentary reflects on the implications of the Gospel for our day and age.  

You should also remember that you do not have to read the bible alone.  The Rev. Mary Vano offers a bible study every Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. at the Panera Bread in the Pleasant Ridge Shopping Center.  There are also other occasional bible studies offered at the church and any of the clergy would gladly meet with you to read and discuss the scriptures (I hear they like nothing more!). 

Finally, there is an ancient way of spiritually reading scripture called “Lectio Divina” that is a wonderful way to read any passage.  You begin by reading (lectio) the passage slowly, recognizing any word or phrase that catches your attention.  You then work it over in your mind and soul (meditatio).  Think of a dog gnawing on a bone—that is how scripture tells us we should read the Bible.  Once you’ve meditated on the scripture you can begin to pray from it (oratio).  Listen to what God might be telling you through the passage.  Finally, you close by contemplation (contemplatio).  This is where you let the scripture soak into your life. 

I hope this gives you a start, Baffled!  Don’t be intimidated by God’s wonderful and holy Word to us.  St. Augustine was converted to Christianity when he heard children singing a song that said “pick it up and read.”  He responded by picking up the scriptures and reading.  That’s pretty good advice for us as well. 

Peace be with ya!

Why do we "pass the peace"?

Dear Maggie,

Why do we exchange a sign of peace during our Eucharistic liturgy?

Peacefully Pensive

Dear Peacefully Pensive,

Me, the peace of Christ tis a beautiful thing and it is wonderful to show each other a sign of it as part of our worship.  The exchange of the peace is an ancient tradition in the church and has been a part of the Eucharistic liturgy from at least the 2nd Century. 

The tradition has its roots in the Early Christian practice of greeting one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:12, 1 Thessalonians 5:26, 1 Peter 5:14).  Men and women at the time would worship in separate spaces, or sides of the room, so this kiss was most often shared men with men, women with women.  Iconography and accounts of the practice indicate it was mouth to mouth, not mouth to cheek.  It may seem strange, but it wasn’t too unusual for the culture. 

By the Middle Ages, however, the culture had changed and the peace would be passed by kissing a crucifix that was then handed around.  Today, we mostly just shake hands, but me notices that at St. Margaret’s there are also a good deal of hugs. 

This passing of the peace is to be a time when we all recognize that we are reconciled in Christ Jesus. Jesus taught that we should also be reconciled to one another, telling us that if we are going to the altar and remember that a brother or sister has something against us we should go and be reconciled with them before we try to make good with God (Matthew 5:23-24). As we pass the peace we should not only give hugs to our friends, but also make sure that we go and offer peace to anyone with whom we have a problem.  There twas a time when the Deacon would watch for unreconciled members of the congregation and tell them they couldn’t come to the communion rail until they worked out their differences!  The prayer book instructs priests that “When the priest sees that there is hatred between members of the congregation, she shall speak privately to each of them, telling them that they may not receive Communion until they have forgiven each other” (BCP 409). If one repents and the other doesn’t, that one may come to Communion, “but not those who are stubborn.”  Ah, me loves the language of the prayer book! 

Passing the peace is not, then, simply a time of friendly hellos, but is instead a time when we participate in the reconciling love of God.  We can’t love God if we can’t love on another and so it is an essential task of the church to help break down the walls of division and bring forgiveness, even in the toughest of situations.  This is what we are enacting as we pass the peace each Sunday.  It is an act of rebellion and resistance against all of the forces of division and hate in our world to simply hug someone and say “The Peace of the Lord Be with You!”  Now that is my kind of liturgy!

I hope that helps ya, Pensive. 

May God’s Peace Truly Be with Ya!
Dear Maggie,
Does the wine and bread really become Christ’s body and blood at the Eucharist?
Substantially Searching
Dear Substantially Searching,
Thank ye for yer difficult question.  This was one of those issues at the heart of the Protestant Reformation and an issue about which there have been a host (no pun intended) of opinions.  Anglicans, being a middle way between Roman Catholicism and the more radical Protestants like Zwingli, have tended to come to a middle view of the issue.
Though all the trees in Scotland could have been cut for all the books published on the subject, I’ll try to give as straight an answer as me can.  Roman Catholics have tended to argue that the bread and wine of the Eucharist are “Transubstantiated” which means that the appearance does not change, but their fundamental substance has turned to Christ’s actual flesh and blood.  This view relies on some complicated Aristotelian metaphysics I don’t have the energy or time to go into just now, but that is the basic explanation. Because of this view Catholics tend to value practices like Eucharistic adoration because they see Christ as being there in the elements independent of any ongoing worship by the community of faith.
Lutheran’s tend to favor the idea of “Consubstantiation” which is similar, but holds that the bread and wine remain bread and wine but also become Christ’s body and blood.  It’s a bit more nuanced than that, but there’s the basic idea.
Swiss Reformers like Zwingli favored the idea that the bread and wine are mere symbols.  One finds that idea in churches like the Baptists of today.  There are a whole smattering of opinions between all of these.
Anglicans hold to what we call the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist.  We mean by this that Jesus is really there in the bread and wine, but we can’t explain the mechanics of it.  What we do believe is that Jesus only becomes present when we celebrate this meal of thanksgiving in a community and that the faith of the believer is part of what makes it real.  This is why we call for the Holy Spirit to come down and bless the sacrament as well as to bless us in order for this worship to work.  It is also why we don’t allow for a priest to bless the sacrament without another person present.  Jesus becomes really present to us in community and so our liturgies reflect this. 
When ye hear the priest invite you to “feed on him in your hearts with thanksgiving” you get a hint of the Anglican Eucharistic theology that holds that it is the faith of the believer that helps transform the bread and wine and not the “magic hands” of the priest.  There is no magic moment when the bread or wine becomes God’s body and blood. Instead it is our whole worship together that invites Jesus to be truly present in the Eucharist.
That may spark more questions than answers for ya, but so goes the way of faith and learning.  Nonetheless, I hope this has at least helped ye understand a bit better and will help direct yer next questions as ye explore the mysteries of God further.
Peace be with ya,
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