Consideration of that mystery known as “the Real Presence” touches the very heart of our Christian worship and faith. It has reference to the belief that Christ God -- is truly present on the altar in some special way in His Body and Blood after the consecration by the priest of the bread and wine.
In most Protestant Churches, the Holy Communion is a memorial service only. The Anglican Church, however, regards it as a sacred or sacramental re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ once offered on Calvary. It is also a sacrificial offering of “ourselves, our souls and bodies”. When the priest pronounces the very words of institution which Christ used at the Last Supper, followed by the invocation to God to bless the elements “with thy Word [the Son] and Holy Spirit”, the bread and wine become in a mystical way which Anglicanism has never attempted to define closely the very Body and Blood of Christ -- although of course remaining in all physical aspects simply bread and wine.
Christ is always present in spirit in the hearts and souls of men. By virtue of His Resurrection and Ascension, He is present in our world and in our lives. But Anglicans believe with the rest of the Holy Catholic Church that He is present in a special way on the altar in the Blessed Sacrament. Without attempting to define this Presence strictly, the Anglican Church has always affirmed it and its reality.
The Real Presence demands of all worshippers a special reverence, a special silence, some special mark of recognition. Some worshippers mark it by genuflecting, or else bowing, toward the altar when going forward to receive. Some cross themselves before or after receiving. Some bow with special reverence during the words of institution in the Prayer of Consecration. Some mark it in other outward ways. All Anglican worshippers should recognize in their hearts that God is specially and really present on the altar during Holy Communion, as well as on those altars where the consecrated sacramental elements are reserved. All Anglican worshippers should make an effort to mark this fact in some way.
If Christ came and stood in recognizable physical form at the altar we would certainly behave with utmost reverence; we would certainly not behave in any idle, carefree, everyday manner. Nor should we do so in the Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood. However mystical, intangible and inexplicable that Presence is, the Church and our faith teach us that it is a Real Presence.