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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: The Communion Rite – The Fraction of the Bread (5)
The Fraction of the Bread
“Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
The bishop or priest celebrating Mass raises the consecrated host and chalice so that we can gaze upon the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Alongside John the Baptist’s words of witness to his disciples we add those of John the Evangelist in beholding the Lamb who was slain but forever alive in Heaven (see Revelation 19:9). The Lord is calling us to sup with him, not only in this celebration of the Eucharist, but forever in eternity.
Contemplating the Lamb hearkens back to the Old Testament, back to salvation history in its phase when it consisted more of foretelling and not so much on fulfilling (which would happen in the New). The unblemished lamb was immolated, a pure and perfect offering. In comparison we are all the “black sheep” of the family with no merit for which to take credit. As we gaze upon that pristine white consecrated host we’re reminded of all the perfection and purity that sacramentally lays behind it: Our Lord, offered for us.
We don’t just consider a sacrifice being offered, but a sacrifice offered for us. A sacrifice of someone innocent, innocent in the sense of being harmless as well as not being guilty of any wrongdoing. Yet, like a lamb led to the slaughter, a sacrifice that offered himself with docility and without any struggle, surrendering himself to evil and death out of love for us. He is raised before us, immolated, and the only thing remaining to make the sacrifice complete is to eat of it.
“Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Our response to the Lamb slain yet alive, and the grace of being called to sup with him here and forever is modeled on the words of a Roman centurion asking for the healing of his servant in the Gospel: “As he entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, beseeching him and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress.’ And he said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion answered him, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed’” (Matthew 8:5–8).
The centurion was not even Jewish, yet he believed that Our Lord with just a word could heal his servant without a visit, a ritual, or a gesture. In addition to healing his servant the Lord marveled at his faith in comparison to even the Jews (see Matthew 8:10-12).
Just as the celebrant prayed that the reception of Communion be fruitful we now have our opportunity to express the same faith. Our response to the Lamb we are contemplating should be the same faith and humility as the centurion. Our Lord doesn’t owe us anything, yet he offers us everything. With enough faith in him and in his grace we could be healed, happy, and holy in an instant. For now, weak and undeserving, let’s content ourselves with all the graces he will shower on us in a moment when we receive the Lamb in Holy Communion.