During the Communion Rite of the Mass, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) prescribes the following: “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” (84). The Roman Missal provides two options for this prayer. Like the first option, considered in a previous article, the second option is similarly “not very ancient; nevertheless, they are at least a thousand years old.” It is marvelous to reflect on the formative power of a prayer whispered quietly by every priest every day for the last thousand years. The point made by the General Instruction is also significant in saying that the faithful would do well to learn from the priest and offer this or a similar prayer at the same time as the priest before Holy Communion. The priest should therefore be conscientious about offering a good example to the faithful in this act of preparation for the sake of a more fruitful reception of Holy Communion.
Like the first option, this second preparatory prayer is said quietly by the priest, with his hands joined. He says: “May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.”
This prayer masterfully expresses reverence for God together with trust in his tenderness and mercy. The prayer not to face “judgment and condemnation” on account of this reception of Christ’s Body and Blood expresses a real concern. We are about to welcome the living God into our own body and soul. This is no small act. We recall the memorable and terrifying incident of the Old Testament when God struck Uzzah dead for even touching the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:1-7). And there is something greater than the Ark here. We cannot underestimate the significance of this moment, even after having received Communion thousands of times. This prayer reminds us first of all how profound this moment is and incites in us a little humility and trembling.
We encounter in Christ not only the Just Judge, however, but also the merciful Savior, and so we have confidence to call on his “loving mercy.” Specifically, we ask that through his “loving mercy” he would be for us protection and healing. The phrase translated “be for us” actually comes from the Latin “prosit,” asking that this reception of Holy Communion would profit us or be fruitful in us. It reminds us of the traditional prayer after the procession out of Mass and return to the sacristy. Bowing his head to the crucifix, the priest piously says, “Prosit,” followed by the response of the other ministers, “Pro omnibus et singulis.” This prayer for the Eucharist to be fruitful for each and for all is made privately and personally by the priest prior to receiving Communion.
The prayer further specifies in what ways Communion should be fruitful, namely healing and protection. The priest should never celebrate the sacraments if he is not in a state of grace. Even in a state of grace, however, he remains in need of healing. The journey of healing is lifelong and the daily prayer for healing offered just before reception of the Eucharist assists him in taking the next step. Every priest is a wounded healer. We each need our own healing even as we serve the Lord in mediating his healing love to others. The Lord’s loving mercy will touch and heal every spot in our minds and hearts if we let it.
One place where many of us need healing is in our hope. That hope often lives in a childlike part of us that easily gets buried beneath cynicism and discouragement. Our initial dreams for priestly ministry and our original wonder at the miracle of the sacraments can gradually become tired and jaded. But God wants to renew our first love (cf. Revelation 2:4), and this can be part of the healing that we pray for as we receive the Lord’s Body and Blood, remembering his promise to us: “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). We do well to remember how in the Exsultet we proclaim the power of Easter that is renewed in every Mass: “The sanctifying power of this night dispels wickedness, washes faults away, restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners, drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.” The Paschal Mysteries can even restore our lost innocence and return joy to our hearts if we allow them to.
Lastly, we pray not only to gain further healing but to protect that which we have already received. We ask that our receiving of the Body and Blood of Christ would be a protection (tutamentum) “in mind and body.” Tutamentum could also be translated as “refuge.” The word “refuge” provides a clearer image for us to reflect on. Christ’s Heart, present to us in his Body and Blood, is our hiding place, where he keeps our bodies and minds safe from the Enemy. As we recognized in the other preparation prayer, the priest must be aware that there are evil forces that are bent on dominating him. Those forces are nothing compared to the refuge that Christ provides for us, but we must also be intentional about taking refuge against our foe. The Church helps us to remember that and act on it as we receive Holy Communion.
When we return to the image of a refuge, we realize that we must not only let him enter under our roof, but we must also enter under his, fulfilling Christ’s prayer to the Father as he instituted these Sacred Mysteries. As expressed in that prayer of the great High Priest, this act of mutual, indwelling Communion is even a powerful force for evangelization, that the world may believe: “even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:21-23). May our prayerful, worthy reception of the Eucharist be for each of us, priest and people, that true “healing remedy” that gives the divine life of this Holy Trinity.
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”)
- Haec commixtio (“May this mingling”)
- Domine Jesu Christe (“Lord, Jesus Christ”)
P. GUÉRANGER, Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass, tr. L. Shepherd, Stanbrook Abbey, (Worcestershire 1885), 63. ↑
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