In the Communion Rite of the Mass, the priest offers a silent prayer that is joined with a ritual action, and the text of the prayer refers to that ritual action. The rubrics indicate that the priest “takes the host, breaks it over the paten, and places a small piece in the chalice.” The prayer that now accompanies this ritual simply expresses anticipated reception of Holy Communion along with an implicit desire for the ultimate fulfillment of Communion in eternal life: “May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it.” We can understand this prayer more deeply when we see its fulfillment in the two other meanings of Resurrection and unity.
The Syrian influence on this ritual points to the Resurrection of Christ as signified by the bringing back together of his Body and Blood. The fracturing of the host in the Syrian Rite symbolizes Christ’s broken body in death and, by placing the particle of the host into the chalice, signifies the resurrection by the reunification of Body and Blood. This meaning was also embraced in the West, as we can see from the 19th-century reflections of Dom Guéranger: “Its object is to show that, at the moment of Our Lord’s Resurrection, His Blood was reunited to his Body; by flowing again in his veins as before.” The symbolism of the Resurrection shines a light on the silent prayer and suggests one way that it could be offered. The priest is invited to reflect on the Resurrection as the fount from which this Eucharist flows. It is also a guarantee of victory in the face of all the trials we are undergoing. It reminds us that the Body and Blood of Christ are a pledge of future glory as we long to share in that Resurrection. It gives us a present reason for a future hope in the face of our eventual death. It gives us the strength to have hope in the face all the ways that we are currently suffering little deaths at a physical or psychological level. So, when the priest prays for the mingling to bring eternal life, it can be understood in the light of Resurrection as signified by the ritual action.
Another origin for the mingling of a particle of the host in with the chalice was from the spirit of ecclesial unity. A particle from the consecrated host at the bishop’s Mass called a fermentum was brought to the parish church and mingled in the priest’s chalice as a sign of the unity of the priest’s Mass with the bishop’s. With this unity in mind, the priest’s prayer during the ritual action of commingling can take on other dimensions. The particle from the bishop connects the Mass with the whole diocesan Church, and the prayer can serve an intercessory role for all those in the diocese who receive from the bishop’s host. It also reminds us that salvation is not a solitary affair but, like Holy Communion, it is something that we strive for together and that brings us into unity even as it also has a dramatically personal dimension. Seen under the sign of unity, the comingling reminds us that receiving the Eucharist is certainly entering into communion with Christ, but it is also deepening our communion with his Bride, the Church.
We conclude with an eloquent and challenging reflection on unity by St. Ignatius of Antioch. We can think that all this desire for unity is contained in the priest’s ritual act of commingling and this same desire for unity can be one intention of the silent prayer he offers as he places the particle of Host into the Chalice: “Thus it is proper for you to act together in harmony with the mind of the bishop, as you are in fact doing,” writes St. Ignatius. “For your presbytery, which is worthy of its name and worthy of God, is attuned to the bishop as strings to a lyre. Therefore in your unanimity and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung. You must join this chorus, every one of you, so that by being harmonious in unanimity and taking your pitch from God you may sing in unison with one voice through Jesus Christ to the Father, in order that he may both hear you and, on the basis of what you do well, acknowledge that you are members of his Son. It is, therefore, advantageous for you to be in perfect unity, in order that you may always have a share in God.
For previous instalments of Father Hicks’s The Quiet that Speaks series, see:
- Introduction to the series and the examination of the prayer Munda cor meum (“Cleanse my heart”)
- Per evangelica dicta (“Through the words of the Gospel”)
- Per huius aquae et vini mysterium (“By the mystery of this water and wine”)
- In spiritu humilitatis (“With humble spirit”)
- Lava me, Domine (“Wash me, O Lord”)
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P. GUÉRANGER, Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass, tr. L. Shepherd, (Stanbrook Abbey, Worcestershire 1885), 61. ↑
- Jungmann, vol. II, 312. ↑
- Letter to the Ephesians no. 4 in Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, Updated ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 139. ↑