Pope Francis continues his catechesis on liturgical matters…
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We continue with the Catechesis on the Holy Mass. In the Last Supper, after Jesus took the bread and the chalice of the wine, and rendered thanks to God, we know that He “broke the bread.” In the Eucharistic Liturgy of the Mass, the breaking of the Bread corresponds to this action, preceded by the prayer that the Lord taught us, namely, the “Our Father.”
And so we begin the rites of Communion, prolonging the praise and supplication of the Eucharistic Prayer with the communal recitation of the “Our Father.” This isn’t one of the many Christian prayers, but the prayer of the children of God; it’s the great prayer that Jesus taught us. In fact, consigned to us in the day of our Baptism, the “Our Father” makes resound in us the same sentiments that were in Christ Jesus. When we pray the “Our Father,” we pray as Jesus prayed. It’s the prayer that Jesus did, and He taught it to us, when the disciples said to him: “Master, teach us to pray as you pray.” And Jesus prayed thus. It’s so good to pray like Jesus! Formed to His divine teaching, we dare to address God calling Him “Father,” because we are reborn as His children through water and the Holy Spirit (Cf. Ephesians 1:5). No one, in truth, would be able to call Him familiarly “Abba”—“Father” —without being generated by God, without the inspiration of the Spirit, as Saint Paul teaches (Cf. Romans 8:15). We must think: no one can call Him “Father” without the inspiration of the Spirit. How many times there are people that say “Our Father,” but don’t know what they say. Because yes, He is the Father, but when you say “Father” do you feel He is Father, your Father, Father of humanity, Father of Jesus Christ? Do you have a relationship with this Father? When we pray the “Our Father,” we connect with the Father who loves us, but it’s the Spirit that gives us this connection, this sentiment of being children of God.
What better prayer, than that taught by Jesus, can dispose us to sacramental Communion with Him? In addition to being prayed in the Mass, the “Our Father” is prayed in the morning and in the evening, in Lauds and in Vespers; in this way, the filial attitude to God and of fraternity with our neighbour contribute to give a Christian form to our days.
In the Lord’s Prayer – in the “Our Father” — we ask for our “daily bread,” in which we make a particular reference to the Eucharistic Bread, of which we are in need to live as children of God. We also implore “the forgiveness of our trespasses,” and to be worthy to receive God’s forgiveness, we commit ourselves to forgive those that have offended us. And this isn’t easy; it’s a grace we must request: “Lord, teach me to forgive as you have forgiven me.” It’s a grace. We can’t <forgive> with our own strength; to forgive is a grace of the Holy Spirit. So, while we open our heart to God, the “Our Father” disposes us also to fraternal love. Finally, we also ask God to “deliver us from evil,” which separates us from Him and divides us from our brothers. We understand well that these are very apt requests to prepare us for Holy Communion [Cf. Ordinamento Generale del Messale Romano, (OGMR), 81].
In fact, what we request in the “Our Father,” is prolonged by the prayer of the priest who, in the name of all, prays: “Deliver us, O Lord, from all evils and grant peace in our days.” And then it receives a sort of seal in the rite of peace: invoked from Christ first of all is the gift of his peace (Cf. John 14:27)) – so different from that of the world – it makes the Church grow in unity and in peace, according to His will; then, with the concrete gesture exchanged between us, we express “ecclesial communion and mutual love before communing with the Sacrament” (OGMR, 82). In the Roman Rite the exchange of the sign of peace, placed since antiquity before Communion, is ordered to Eucharistic Communion. According to Saint Paul’s admonition, it’s not possible to commune with the one Bread, which renders us one Body in Christ, without recognizing ourselves pacified by fraternal love (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:29). The peace of Christ can’t root itself in a heart incapable of living fraternity and of recomposing it after having wounded it. The Lord gives peace; He gives us the grace to forgive those that have offended us.
The gesture of peace is followed by the breaking of the Bread, which since apostolic times has given the name to the entire celebration of the Eucharist (Cf. OGMR, 83; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1329). Carried out by Jesus during the Last Supper, the breaking of the Bread is the revealing gesture that enabled the disciples to recognize Him after His Resurrection. We recall the disciples of Emmaus who, speaking of the encounter with the Risen One, recount “how they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread” (Cf. Luke 24:30-31.35).
The breaking of the Eucharistic Bread is accompanied by the invocation of the “Lamb of God,” figure with which John the Baptist indicated Jesus “He who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The biblical image of the lamb speaks of the Redemption (Cf. Exodus 12:1-14; Isaiah 53:7; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 7:14). In the Eucharistic Bread, broken for the life of the world, the praying assembly recognizes the true Lamb of God, namely, Christ the Redeemer, and begs Him: “Have mercy on us . . . grant us peace.” “Have mercy on us,” “grant us peace” are invocations that, from the “Our Father” prayer to the breaking of the Bread, help us to dispose our spirit to take part in the Eucharistic feast, source of communion with God and with brothers.
Let us not forget the great prayer: that which Jesus taught, and which is the prayer with which He prayed to the Father. And this prayer prepares us for Communion.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
Translation from the Italian by Virginia M. Forrester, © ZENIT, www.zenit.org