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Explanation of the Mass - Liturgy of the Eucharist (Part 6)

Through a series of informational articles, we will try to explain terms, prayers, and actions that happen at Mass and why they happen. You will learn about the prayers the priest prays silently during Mass, as well as the people’s parts.  References to GIRM in italics refer to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the book from which rites related to the Mass are codified.  We hope this information will help to make your participation in Mass more meaningful and understandable.

Communion

GIRM 84. The Priest prepares himself by a prayer, said quietly, so that he may fruitfully receive the Body and Blood of Christ. The faithful do the same, praying silently. Then the Priest shows the faithful the Eucharistic Bread, holding it over the paten or over the chalice, and invites them to the banquet of Christ; and along with the faithful, he then makes an act of humility, using the prescribed words from the Gospels.

Taking the host, the priest says quietly, “May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life” and he consumes the Body of Christ. Then he takes the chalice and quietly prays, “May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life” and reverently consumes the Blood of Christ.

GIRM 85. It is most desirable that the faithful, just as the Priest himself is bound to do, receive the Lord’s Body from hosts consecrated at the same Mass and that, in the cases where this is foreseen, they partake of the chalice, so that even by means of the signs Communion may stand out more clearly as a participation in the sacrifice actually being celebrated.

The priest consecrates a number of hosts that will allow each person to receive. In an effort to be sure that enough is consecrated, some consecrated hosts are left over and placed in the tabernacle.  These hosts are typically used at the next Mass so that they are consumed as soon as possible after consecration. The priest is required to consume both the body and blood of Jesus he has just consecrated for the Mass to be valid. 

GIRM 86. While the Priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion Chant is begun, its purpose being to express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the “communitarian” character of the procession to receive the Eucharist. The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.  However, if there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion Chant should be ended in a timely manner. Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists several “fruits of Holy Communion” as follows:

  • Holy Communion augments our union with Christ – “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” John 6:56.
  • Holy Communion separates us from sin – Jesus died to forgive our sins; by receiving the Risen Body & Blood of Jesus, we are cleansed of our venial sins and preserved from future mortal sins.
  • The Eucharist makes the Church - we are all in communion with each other as Catholics, we are reaffirming that we believe what the Church teaches, and we affirm that we believe that this is truly Jesus’ risen Body & Blood.
  • The Eucharist commits us to the poor

We are what we eat. The more we receive Christ, the more like Him we become.