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FRACTIO PANIS/ THE BREAKING OF THE BREAD

 

It has come to my notice that sometimes when people are receiving Holy Communion from the chalice, they think that something has? got into the chalice by accident or by mistake.? Let me explain.

During the Communion Rite, just before the Lamb of God/Agnus Dei the priest celebrates what is called the Breaking of the Bread/Fractio Panis.

In the early Church when it became impossible for all to attend one Mass with the Bishop, pieces from his Consecrated Host were taken by acolytes to other congregations.? On receiving the Sacred Particle from the Bishops Mass, the local priest would put it into the chalice containing the precious Blood,? signifying the communitys unity with the bishop.

While this is not now practicable, the priest breaks the Sacred Host (The Breaking of the Bread) and puts a piece of the Host into the chalice to signify the unity of the Body and Blood of the Lord in the work of salvation, namely, the living and glorious Body of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately it can be difficult in large churches to see this small gesture and appreciate its rich symbolism.? The Breaking of the Bread/Fractio Panis is not only a sign of Table Fellowship and Church Unity but it also signifies the Resurrection of Christ and our share in His Risen Life.?? The bread and wine are consecrated separately, reminding us of the death of Jesus; in the Fraction Rite the piece of Sacred Host put into the Precious Blood symbolises the reunion of Christs soul and body in the Resurrection.

While doing the Fraction the priest prays silently: May this mingling of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive It.

So if you happen to see something floating in the chalice, it is not an accident or a mistake;? it is the Fraction, the Bread of God broken for our salvation.?? So significant is this rite that the whole of the Eucharist is often referred to as The Breaking of the Bread.

Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.

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