One of the most significant moments of the Communion Rite at Mass takes place just after everyone has exchanged a sign of peace. This is the “Fraction Rite,” when the Body of Christ is divided up for distribution to the faithful.
We see the Eucharistic bread that is “broken for us,” just as we understand the Eucharistic blood as “wine poured out.” A brief sung litany for mercy and peace (the AAgnus Dei”) accompanies these actions. And they are important rituals, for they highlight two things.
First, our unity in the Lord is stressed. We are all partaking “of this one Bread and one Chalice,” as a Eucharistic Prayer describes it. Each of us is not “doing our own thing,” but rather we are sharing with each other something of God’s.
And, second, a desire of the Lord in giving us this great Sacrament is also underscored: it is to be actively shared. We do something with these Sacred Gifts, not just leave them as they are. We distribute them for actual consumption as our spiritual nourishment.
I’m afraid many people don’t appreciate the symbolism of the “Fraction Rite” as much as they should. Maybe it’s because we’re too easily distracted by our singing, or by other ministers coming forward to assist the priest? Perhaps we simply fail to watch the action of the priest in breaking the Eucharistic bread? Who knows? What I do know is that I need to give more thanks to God for His Son’s generous gift of Himself!