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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: The Communion Rite – The Fraction of the Bread (2)
The Fraction of the Bread
“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.”
In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist points out Our Lord to his disciples and says (John 1:29), “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John the Evangelist would also have a vision of the Lamb in glory after having won his victory on the Cross (see, among many other passages, Rev 5:12-13).
When we pray the Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”) we are falling down in worship before the Lamb just as Revelation 5:12 describes, and we are also entreating his mercy that the Lamb should have been slain for us. It’s a moment of Calvary as well as a moment of Heavenly glory.
If the breaking of the bread is prolonged, the prayer “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us” is also prolonged. Both the breaking of the bread and the Agnus Dei take place simultaneously; the Lamb is being broken right before our eyes.
“Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace.”
The Agnus Dei concludes with a shift of petition: from mercy to peace. Just as the Lamb is woven throughout the visions narrated in the Book of Revelation, the work of mercy will achieve completion in the end, followed by lasting peace when the Bread of Life has been broken. We saw in the Rite of Peace just a moment ago that Our Lord wants to bring us peace and for us to be at peace with one another. Paul reminds us that Our Lord has put an end to enmity through his blood: “in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near…” (Ephesians 2:13–17; see also Colossians 1:19-20).
The Lamb has taken away all the sins of the world. The sacrifice of the Lamb not only empowers mercy; it enables lasting peace. The Communion we are about to receive not only brings us mercy; it brings us peace.
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