Parts of the Mass: The Communion Rite

Parishes, RCIA groups, RE teachers may find this Liturgy Lines column a useful accompaniment to Part 12 of Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s series on the Mass at https://brisbanecatholic.org.au/beliefs-and-works/mass/.

The Rite of Communion is the culmination of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The elements that make up the rite are The Lord’s Prayer, Sign of Peace, Breaking of the Bread, Communion (invitation, procession, song, silence) and Prayer after Communion.

The Lord’s Prayer is one part of the Mass in which everyone can and must participate fully, consciously and actively. If the prayer is sung, the musical setting must be so familiar and singable that everyone can join in. In some parishes people hold hands during this prayer but many people find this distracting. The orans stance, the ancient gesture of prayer with arms raised and palms turned upwards, is more appropriate.

In the Sign of Peace we impart to others the blessing of Christ’s peace. As a symbolic gesture, it is done deliberately and sincerely with those immediately near us. Liturgy is about rehearsing the Christian life. Plucking up the courage to share the sign of peace with fellow worshippers, especially strangers, is training for our ministry of reconciliation in daily life.

The Breaking of the Bread, by which name the Eucharist was first known, ‘signifies that the many faithful are made one body by receiving communion from the one Bread of Life which is Christ’ (GIRM # 83). As the bread is broken and wine poured out (Fraction Rite), the Lamb of God is sung. This litany, based on the words of John 1:29, is repeated as often as necessary to accompany the action of breaking and pouring.

Our Communion is a participation in the fruits of Christ’s life-giving sacrifice.

The presider issues the invitation to communion with the words: “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” to which we respond: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”.

Receiving communion is both a communal and personal action of the body of Christ. In the communion procession we sing and walk together to the Lord’s table where we share a communal meal, a paschal meal, with Christ and with one another.

The communion song begins ‘while the priest is receiving the Sacrament’ and continues for ‘as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful’. Delaying the song encourages people to adopt an attitude of individual quiet reflection at this point rather than the ‘union of spirit’ and ‘joy of heart’ appropriate to this rite. (GIRM 86)

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

The Prayer after Communion brings together the individual prayers of the assembly, praying that the Eucharist will be effective in our lives.

Elizabeth Harrington