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Communion Rite Prepares Us Worthily And Consciously


Just as we are fed by God’s Word in the Liturgy of the Word, following the Eucharistic Prayer we will soon be fed with our Lord’s Body and Blood.  The Communion Rite prepares us to receive Communion more worthily and consciously.  It consists of the Lord’s Prayer, embolism and doxology, prayer for peace/greeting of peace, the Lamb of God, the breaking of the bread, priest’s private prayers, reception of Communion and the Prayer after Communion. 


The Gospels contain two versions of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4).  Matthew’s version is the one used by Catholics and Protestants. The Lord’s Prayer was considered to be an appropriate preparation for receiving Communion because of its references to “daily bread” and “forgiveness of sins.”   We find no mention of the Lord’s Prayer in Justin Martyr’s (115 A.D.) earliest description of Sunday worship. St. Cyril of Jerusalem (313-386 A.D.) initiated the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at Mass. St. John Chrysostom (349-407 A.D.), as well as Sts. Ambrose (340-397 A.D.) and Augustine (354-430 A.D.) also directed the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in preparation for Communion.  From that time forward, the Lord’s Prayer became standard practice in the Roman Liturgy.


Recently, Pope Francis called for a rewriting of the Lord’s Prayer, claiming that the current translation is misleading in reference to the phrase “lead us not into temptation.”  God does not lead us into temptation.  He is not suggesting we change Jesus’ words; rather, a better translation of the original Greek.  Although he has been criticized for this suggestion, we must remember that Pope John Paul II added the “Mysteries of Light” to the rosary.


The placement of the Lord’s Prayer during the Communion Rite had some variety. In the Eastern Churches, the Lord’s Prayer was recited at the beginning of the Communion Rite prior to the “breaking of the bread.” Other churches prayed it after the “breaking of the bread,” immediately before Communion.  Pope Gregory the Great (540-604 A.D.) moved the Lord’s Prayer to its present place as was the custom of the Eastern Church. 


In the Eastern Churches and some Churches in the West, all the faithful recited the Lord’s Prayer; while in the Roman Church, the priest prayed it quietly. This remained the practice through the formulation of the Roman Missal of Pius V (1570) up to the 20th century.  In 1958 in all “low Masses,” the faithful were permitted to recite the Lord’s Prayer with the priest.  In 1964, Pope Paul VI permitted the singing of the Lord’s Prayer. 


The doxology concluding the Lord’s Prayer “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and forever” is well known among Protestant Christians, but not recited by Catholics privately or in our worship until Vatican II.  From my reading, it seems that most biblical scholars agree that the Protestant custom is not included in the earliest Greek manuscripts of the Gospels. So Catholic Bibles never included those words as coming from Jesus. However, some liturgical scholars maintain that some manuscripts (less than a century after the Gospels were written) do include the doxology after the Lord’s Prayer. The Didache (also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) is a first-century document containing Church teachings and a manual of worship. It mentions the use of a doxology during Christian worship. The doxology was included in the Roman liturgy by the 6th-7th centuries, being recited quietly by the priest.


The revised liturgy of Vatican II added the doxology because of its use in the Eastern Churches, for ecumenical reasons and as another way for the faithful to actively participate.


Father Sauer continues his exploration of the Mass in the Feb. 16 issue of The Message.