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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: The Communion Rite – The Fraction of the Bread (4)
The Fraction of the Bread
“May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, …”
The second option of a quiet prayer in preparation for communion on the part of the bishop or priest celebrating Mass focuses on expectation in its petitions. He focuses on what he hopes for in receiving the Eucharist.
“…not bring me to judgment and condemnation, …”
It is a prayer that receiving Our Lord’s Body and Blood not be a cause for judgment and condemnation. We can receive the Eucharist unworthily; we can believe we are entitled to it, but fruitful reception of the Eucharist requires that we be in a state of grace, that we avoid mortal sin, seeking reconciliation when needed, and strive to avoid even lesser sins. We always run the danger of falling into presumption, of presuming that we’re okay in our relationship with God and with others when only the Lord knows that for certain.
“…but through your loving mercy …”
That uncertainty should not be a cause for anxiety, because we also know Our Lord is merciful. He’s given us the sacrament of Reconciliation to get back on our feet when we’ve fallen. He gives us the Eucharist itself to wipe away lesser sins (see Catechism, n. 1393-1394) and to strengthen us against future ones. The celebrant in receiving the Eucharist also hopes to receive mercy through the celebration of the liturgy and the reception of Holy Communion.
“…be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.”
When Elijah faced a serious crisis in his prophetic ministry the Lord told him he had to eat and drink in order to make the long journey to its resolution (see 1 Kings 19:5–8). The Eucharist, when administered to the dying, is called viaticum, which means something to help on a journey. Even when we’re healthy we need the spiritual viaticum of the Eucharist. We eat it so as to restore our strength when it has been lost, and we also know that the less we receive it, like food, the more at risk we are of losing our health, which is why frequents reception of Holy Communion is so beneficial.
The Eucharist, however, is not just spiritual nourishment. It fosters and strengthens charity in us, and charity is the key to spiritual protection in mind and body. When our charity is strong we need fear no spiritual threat.
The two prayers offered to the celebrant for quiet recitation before receiving Holy Communion are models that everyone participating in Mass can use to foster the best dispositions for receiving Holy Communion fruitfully and worthily. The Roman Missal also contains an Appendix with prayers of preparation for Mass. The celebrant has two prayer formulae, but he also prays in his heart in his own words. Let’s all draw from the models of prayer the Church offers in order to prepare for Communion in our hearts and in our own words as well.
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