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Doing What Jesus Did, Receiving Communion
DOING WHAT JESUS DID
The Liturgy of the Eucharist at Mass is based on what Jesus did at the Last Supper. The Gospel accounts tell us that Christ took the bread and the cup of wine and gave thanks to God for them; he broke the bread and shared the bread and wine with his disciples.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist begins with the Preparation of the Gifts when the bread and wine are taken forward, placed on the altar and prayed over. Along with the bread and wine we offer ourselves to God and as the bread and wine are blessed, we too are blessed by God.
n the Eucharistic Prayer, which is the centre and high point of the celebration of the Mass, we give thanks to God for the gifts of bread and wine and for the whole work of salvation.
After the sign of peace, the celebrant breaks the bread. Early Christians considered this part of the ritual so important that they called their Sunday gathering “the breaking of the bread”. The breaking of the bread into many pieces signifies that we are made one when we receive Communion from the one loaf. The Lamb of God litany accompanies the action of the breaking of the bread.
In the communion procession we walk and sing together as we go to the altar to share in the paschal meal. By taking and eating the Body of Christ, the faithful become the Body of Christ, united in service to the world and in working for the Kingdom of justice, love, and peace.
Receiving Communion involves all of the following actions:
Processing – We walk together to the Lord’s Table to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
Singing - The communion song begins while the priest is receiving the Sacrament. Communion is not a private moment with Jesus but a communal action. The communion song continues for as long as the Sacrament is being administered.
Bowing - “When approaching to receive Holy Communion, the faithful bow in reverence of the Mystery that they are to receive.” (General Instruction 160)
Responding - When the minister presents the host, he or she says “The body of Christ”, which expresses faith in the Real Presence and the belief that by sharing Communion the Church becomes the body of Christ. The communicant responds with “Amen”.
Receiving - Communicants never take the host but are given it in the hand or on the tongue according to their own preference. As Bishop Cyril explained in the fourth century: “with you left hand make a throne for the right hand, which will receive the King”.
Eating – The communicant immediately consumes the host entirely.
Drinking - Christ’s call is clear: “Take this, all of you, and drink from it”.
Praying – The period of silence after Communion is when we offer thanks to God and ask for the strength to be Christ to others in the days ahead.