By Deacon Frank Agnoli
(Editor’s note: The publication of the third edition of the Roman Missal provides a great opportunity for each diocese, parish and individual Catholic to grow in their love for — and knowledge of — the liturgy. In this series Deacon Frank Agnoli, the Davenport Diocese’s director of liturgy, reflects on the parts of the Mass.)
The Communion Rite (Part 1)
The preparation for Communion can be divided into three parts: the Lord’s Prayer, the Sign of Peace and the Fraction (accompanied by the Lamb of God). This part of the rite begins with the priest inviting us to pray the Lord’s Prayer with these provocative words: At the Savior’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say. And, together, we all pray: Our Father….
“Dare to say ….” That certainly fits if we really take to heart what Jesus is asking of us in this prayer: that God be above all else in our lives, that God’s will and not our own be done, that we be forgiven only to the degree that we forgive others. Easy words to say, much harder to live!
After we pray the familiar part of the Lord’s Prayer, the priest adds what is called the embolism:
Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
We (and not the priest) then finish the prayer with the doxology:
For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and for ever.
The Sign of Peace is then shared with those around us. Far more than simply a social nicety, the Sign of Peace is a reminder: what we do in here ought to be reflected in what we do out there. In other words, do we share Christ’s peace with all those we encounter beyond the four walls of the church?
Finally, the eucharistic bread is broken. This is the high point of the preparation for Communion. As we pray to Christ (the Lamb of God), rather than to the Father (the person of the Trinity that we usually address in the liturgy), we are reminded that Christ was broken for us. And we are reminded that, as those who claim to be Christ’s disciples, we must be broken, too, in order to feed the world with our very selves.
A word on holding hands
The preparation for Communion is put together in such a way that it leads us from ourselves to deeper communion not only with those around us but with God and with all of creation, through Jesus Christ. Each element (Lord’s Prayer, Sign of Peace, Communion) builds on the one before it and leads to the next one. If we make the Lord’s Prayer the high point of expressing our unity by holding hands, and then make the Sign of Peace only about greeting those next to us (and not extending that same peace to the world), and then reduce Communion to just something between me and Jesus, then we have gotten things backwards.
Entering the Mystery
In my own time of prayer, do I pray the Lord’s Prayer slowly, even line by line, reflecting on what each line means? Have I explored the implications for my own life of “daring” to pray these words?
Do I include the embolism and the doxology when I pray this prayer on my own, as a way to make a connection between my prayer at home and the prayer of the liturgy?
As we introduce the new Missal, will we — as a community — take the opportunity to slow down as we pray this prayer together?
Do I realize that the Sign of Peace that I exchange with the few people around is meant to be a sign of the peace that I bring to the world beyond the walls of the church? Do my actions at Mass reflect the reality that I live outside of Mass? Am I willing to be “broken” for the sake of others, to feed them with my very self?
The Ars Celebrandi
Since the Lord’s Prayer is the prayer of the entire community, when I join the prayer do I soften my voice (or turn off my microphone) so as not to be heard above the others?
Do I maintain the dialogical nature of the prayer by remembering that while I pray the embolism it is for others to pray the doxology?
Do I recognize that the Fraction is the high point of this part of the rite? Do I wait to begin the action of breaking the bread until the Lamb of God begins, and the people have turned their attention from the Sign of Peace back to the altar? Do I take my time and make my actions deliberate? Do I complete the fractioning at this time?
Do we sing the Lamb of God for the entire time that it takes to fraction and distribute the consecrated bread?