Reflections on the most Holy Mass in preparation for the Eucharistic congress Quebec City 2008

Eucharistic Reflection # 11

April, 2008

by Peter Thompson

Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven: my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. ( Jn. 6:32).

Breaking of the bread:

Jesus is the Lamb of God. He is the Paschal Lamb, the fulfillment of the paschal lamb slain and eaten by the Israelites as the angel of death passed over the homes of all in Egypt, slaying the firstborn where the blood of the lamb was absent from the lintels of the doors. (Exodus 11:1-10)

Here we repeat this solemn invocation three times: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us and finally grant us peace. It is Christ's passion and death as the Paschal Lamb that has freed us from our sins, taking upon himself our punishment which was eternal death and declaring the mercy of God to us so that we with a blessed hope can look with confidence to our eternal salvation in and through the blood of the Lamb: Jesus Christ. While we are praying the priest takes the large host and breaks it. This is known as the fraction rite. While breaking the bread he prays quietly. " May this mingling of the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it." At this point he drops a small fragment into the chalice. Why, and what does it signify?

This developed originally from the practice known as the fermentum, whereby a fragment from one host was broken off and sent to another celebration of the Eucharist, to reveal the continuity of the Church in the Eucharistic sacrifice. The custom fell out of use over time and other interpretations of the significance of the co-mingling have been offered, such as, it signifies the reunification of Christ's Body and Blood in his glorious resurrected Body.

The priest now prays privately in preparation to receive the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of Christ in Holy Communion. We also need to be prayerful, recognizing the awesome gift of God himself to us in that he chooses to come to us under the appearances of bread and wine and be joined physically to us.

As we gaze upon the Lord in the priests hands we respond to his invitation to partake in the Lord's supper with the prayer of the pagan centurion who said he was not worthy to receive Jesus into his house and he put his faith in the words of Jesus concerning the healing of his servant.

Neither are we worthy to receive, yet we with the same boldness put our trust in the healing love of Jesus who desires to heal us both spiritually and physically. The Eucharist truly is Christ who is our Divine Healer. Firstly the priest communicates himself and then we the faithful approach to receive.

Here again practice has changed over the centuries as to how we are to receive. At different times in history the laity have either been allowed to receive only directly on the tongue or at other times directly onto the open hand. Today we have the option of both in many parts of the world. We are still required to make some act of reverent adoration which can be a bow, a genuflection or even to kneel to receive ( This has been approved by Rome).

If we choose to receive in the hand then we must make this clearly apparent to the priest or extraordinary minister of communion by offering our hand, open and supported by our other hand. St Cyril of Jerusalem compares it to making a throne out of our hand to receive the Lord of Lords. We must also consume the host immediately and refrain from walking away with the host in our hand. One should also take great care lest there be a broken fragment of the host left in our hand lest we drop it and thereby lose what is more precious than gold, for in this fragment is the fulness of Christ himself. (St Cyril of Jerusalem).

We are also allowed, subject to the local Bishop and the decision of the Pastor to receive under both species, that is the bread and the wine. Remember that the fulness of Christ's Body, Blood ,Soul and Divinity are fully present in both species.

One practice that is not permitted is to take the Sacred Host and dip it into the chalice. This is known as intincture and it is forbidden for us to self communicate. Where intinction is the practice then the priest dips the host into the consecrated wine and then the communicant must receive directly on the tongue. This is only found in some of the other rites of the Catholic Church such as Coptic Catholics and the Ukranian Catholic Church has a slightly different method using a small spoon.

Our response to the words: "The Body of Christ." "The Blood of Christ".
is Amen. Once again this word expresses our total faith and belief that this is truly the corporeal, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not a symbol, it is not merely a memorial and it is not Christ alongside the bread and wine, but is Jesus Christ himself who at the last Supper clearly stated. ' This is my body.......... This is the cup of my blood.....

So are there any conditions and requirements that determine who can receive or when we can receive. For Catholics we must be in a state of grace. That is we must be free from the state of mortal sin. If we are conscious of mortal sin then we must first present ourselves for sacramental confession. Merely asking God to forgive us is not sufficient. See Catechism of the Catholic Church. #1385. Here a study of what constitutes venial and mortal sin would be helpful for us all in preparing to receive the Lord Jesus in holy communion. (CCC 1854-1864)

The Church has relaxed the discipline of fasting before Holy communion but still requires us to fast for one hour before receiving. This includes all food plus coffee, tea, alcohol, fruit drinks and also CHEWING GUM. We are only allowed water and medications if necessary.

For the disciplines concerning inter communion see code of canon law 844 :1-5

So let us approach with confidence knowing that the Lord Jesus desires to heal us and to feed us with his own flesh and blood.