THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: The Communion Rite – The Fraction of the Bread (3)

The Fraction of the Bread

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, …”

As the Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”) is concluding the bishop or priest celebrating Mass has the option of two quiet prayers in preparation for receiving Holy Communion. The first shows the nobility of the priestly vocation while at the same time acknowledging the fragility of he who has been called to participate in the priesthood of Christ.

In the first option he begins with a profession of faith in the Person of Christ reminiscent of Peter’s when Our Lord asked him who he considered the Son of Man to be (see Matthew 16:13–16). Christ as the Lord of life and History. Christ as the Son of God. Christ as the Anointed One, the Messiah. It gives the celebrant the opportunity to remind himself who Our Lord is, addressing Our Lord not just at the Father’s right hand, but present before him sacramentally in the consecrated bread and wine. It also, in the same spirit of Peter’s profession of faith, alludes to the need of grace to truly recognize who Our Lord is.

“…who, by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, through your Death gave life to the world,…”

Bolstered by his profession of faith in the Person of Christ, the celebrant continues by recalling why the Person of Christ is important: he did his Father’s will, our Father’s will, and through the Holy Spirit gave life to the world. It is a reminder that in his own small way the celebrant is also called to do the Father’s will, to lay down his life for others, and to be the Holy Spirit’s instrument in giving life to a world that is dead or dying due to sin. Our Lord has accomplished the work of our salvation, but the work continues throughout history.

“… free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood, from all my sins and from every evil;”

Alongside that awareness of the nobility in sharing in the vocation and mission of Christ through the ministerial priesthood the celebrate is also painfully aware of his fragility and limitations in comparison to Our Lord. His Lord, Our Lord, sacramentally lays before him sacrificed so that he might have life. Bishops and priests needs the Eucharist to remain holy just as every believer does. From the petition of the Our Father for deliverance from evil we come in this moment to a petition to the One who will deliver us from our sins and from evil itself.

“… keep me always faithful to your commandments, and never let me be parted from you.”

In John’s account of the Last Supper Our Lord says that those who love him will keep his commandments (see John 15:10,12,14,17). Obedience and love go hand in hand; Our Lord is now sacramentally on the altar due to having obeyed Our Father, but out of love, not just out of filial obligation. Even as he prepares for Communion the celebrant prays that the greatest communion, the communion of love, be deep and lasting. As Pope Benedict taught in Deus Caritas Est, love can be commanded because it has been given (n.14). If we focus on the love received nothing the Lord’s asks of us seems too great.

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