Parts of the Mass: Communion

(This Liturgy Lines column may provide helpful background or follow up to Part 15 of Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s series on the Mass at https://brisbanecatholic.org.au/beliefs-and-works/mass/.)

After the Fraction (the Breaking of the Bread), the presider issues the invitation to communion: ‘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’.

These words remind us that the Eucharist is a foretaste of the eternal banquet and that in celebrating the Eucharist we are united to the heavenly liturgy. ‘Those’ refers to the whole communion of saints – all those people from the past, present, and future who will gather at the heavenly banquet, to share supper with Christ at his table. Changing the words to ‘Blessed are we who are called to the supper of the Lamb’, as I have sometimes heard happen, narrows the meaning of the text and confines the celebration to this particular time and place.

The Communion procession is the action of walking together, while singing, to the Lord’s Table where we share Communion with Christ and with one another. The ministers do not bring the sacred elements to the communicants as is the practice in some Christian traditions; the assembly processes as a pilgrim people to receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

Singing during the communion procession demonstrates that this is a joyful gathering at the banquet of the Lamb. Songs that the people already know by heart, or with a refrain that is easy to remember, work best because people do not have to juggle hymn books or sheets as they process to the table.

The minister who presents the host to the communicant says ‘The body of Christ', not ‘This is the body of Christ’ because the latter narrows the meaning to one aspect of the body of Christ alone – the real presence in the consecrated bread. ‘The body of Christ’ says that it is through sharing Communion that the Church becomes the body of Christ, that you and I are members of the body of Christ broken and given for the world.

The communicant affirms this statement of faith with ‘Amen’. In the words of St Augustine: “You are saying ‘Amen’ to what you are: your response is a personal signature, affirming your faith. When you hear ‘The body of Christ’, you reply ‘Amen.’ Be a member of Christ’s body, then, so that your ‘Amen’ may ring true!”

After all have received communion, a period of silence is observed (‘after Communion, they praise and pray to God in their hearts’, GIRM 45). This is the time to say Thank You to God for what we have received and to ask for the strength to bring Christ to our family, work, and community in the days ahead.

The Prayer after Communion brings together the individual prayers of the assembly (which is why it is known as a Collect), praying that the Eucharist will be effective in our lives.

Elizabeth Harrington