Breaking of the Bread at Mass

The pastor at my parish breaks the bread before the Consecration at the time he says the words that Jesus broke the bread. In an email I asked him why he broke it then instead of at the Agnus Dei. He has not responded. This weekend I am attending a retreat that he will be at. I plan to ask him there. What and why does our Church teach regarding this?

Please help, Joel

From the 2003 General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM), Including Adaptations for the Dioceses of the United States of America (see ):

The Fraction

  1. The priest breaks the Eucharistic Bread, assisted, if the case calls for it, by the deacon or a concelebrant. Christ’s gesture of breaking bread at the Last Supper, which gave the entire Eucharistic Action its name in apostolic times, signifies that the many faithful are made one body (1 Cor 10:17) by receiving Communion from the one Bread of Life which is Christ, who died and rose for the salvation of the world. The fraction or breaking of bread is begun after the sign of peace and is carried out with proper reverence, though it should not be unnecessarily prolonged, nor should it be accorded undue importance. This rite is reserved to the priest and the deacon.

Thank you for the “what.” Can anyone give me any insight on the “why” after the sign of peace instead of before the Consecration?

I know of a priest who does that and I hate it. If he’s going to play-act the words he’s saying, then he should do it all the way. Right after saying “He broke the bread” (and breaking the bread himself) he says “and gave it to his disciples…” So why doesn’t he call the congregation up to receive it at that point? It would make as much sense. Then we could return to our pews and come up again for the Precious Blood. Grrr.

The fraction of the Sacred Host is to be done over the chalice at the time of the Sign of Peace; this is because it shows the moment of Christ’s death, which accomplished our peace with God.

The division of the unleavened Host into two halves recalls the rending of the Temple Veil before the Holy of Holies at the moment of Our Lord’s Death, thus finishing the Old Covenant by accomplishing the New at that moment of Death. The Traditional Rite then has the priest break a fragment from the lower left half of the split Host - indicating the soldier’s spear piercing the Sacred Heart under the rib cage from that side where it leave the Wound - and then has the priest make three signs of the Cross with the separated particle over the chalice, symbolizing the three days of His Body in the tomb, during which He was “Harrowing Hell” to reveal Himself to our First Parents and all those in Sheol awaiting their release. Then the priest drops the particle into the chalice to indicate symbolically His Resurrection by the rejoining of the species of the Body to that of the Blood in the Commingly. And just as His actual Resurrection followed the visition of Our Lord to the Underworld that brought astonismment and joy there, so after the three days and Resurrection He brought astonishment and joy to the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room Easter Evening; and likewise, the Risen Christ brings the same supernatural joy when this is ritually symbolized and recalled in the ceremony of the Kiss of Peace after the Fraction and Commingly of the Species by the priest *in persona Christi *saying His very words of that first Easter greeting: “Peace be with you.”

Surely to Goodness you can just let the priest do his job. As long as he is reverent and it is done round about the right time then this is what is known as ‘a little thing’. I can’t believe you really expect him to justify himself to you. Do you really have so little to worry about in life? It must be nice!:cool:

nice :thumbsup:

The thing is, Linnyo, the priest isn’t “doing his job” if he does it in a manner not approved by the Church. The symbolism of the Liturgy is very meaningful and is not the plaything of a priest to do with as he likes. The laity have the right to the authentic Liturgy, not what a lone priest thinks is the way it should be done.

This is an abuse.

A recent Vatican document addresses this. Redemptionis Sacramentum discusses a number of different abuses and this is one.

[55.] In some placesthere has existed an abuse by which the Priest breaks the host at the time of the consecration in the Holy Mass. This abuse is contrary to the tradition of the Church. It is reprobated and is to be corrected with haste.

[73.] In the celebration of Holy Mass the breaking of the Eucharistic Bread – done only by the Priest celebrant, if necessary with the help of a Deacon or of a concelebrant – begins after the exchange of peace, while the Agnus Dei is being recited. For the gesture of breaking bread “carried out by Christ at the Last Supper, which in apostolic times gave the whole eucharistic action its name, signifies that the faithful, though they are many, are made one Body in the communion of the one Bread of Life who is Christ, who died and rose for the world’s salvation” (cf. 1 Cor 10,17).[153] For this reason the rite must be carried out with great reverence.[154] Even so, it should be brief. The abuse that has prevailed in some places, by which this rite is unnecessarily prolonged and given undue emphasis, with laypersons also helping in contradiction to the norms, should be corrected with all haste.[155]

Here is a link to the entire document, Redemptionis Sacramentum, on the Vatican web site. Consider printing it and giving the entire thing to your priest. Have it handy when you talk to him.

In addition, Father Shannon Collins has a very good audio presentation from St. Joseph Communications covering the entire document. I highly recommend it. You can purchase it here.

I would generally agree with you. However, this is one of the most significant actions during the Mass. And it is done nowhere near the correct time. Finally the Church herself has said this abuse should be “corrected with haste” (emphasis mine).

He is doing his job. Ok he may be 10 seconds out with part of it. Big deal! My point is that people who niggle cause far more harm than the poor priests who spend their lives being criticised for every single little thing that isn’t precise. He is probably unaware of his ‘grave error’ and may feel inadequate when ‘unqualified’ parishioners seem to think they know his job better than him. Maybe the church had it right when they did everything in Latin. At least then there would be less complainants because the paople didn’t understand. Maybe that was the reason they discouraged people from owning and reading Bibles.
Grrr it makes me angry. I am a teacher and when parent’s with no teaching qualifications try to tell me they know my job better than I do it can be very soul destroying. Especially when I go over and above the call of duty to provide the best for their children.
I can only imagine how the poor priests must feel when they are having every single word they utter and every single deed they do scrutinised by lay people who think they know it all better than the priests.
If you aren’t happy with the way things are done, then you go and do a better job of it yourself. Otherwise, give the poor man a break!:rolleyes:

I am sorry, but it is not 10 seconds. He is breaking the bread while it is still bread, before the consecration. The bread is to be broken much later, many pages later in a typical missal.

And since the Eucharist is height of the Mass, forllowing the corrct rubrics is **critically **important.

I can’t, I’m a woman. :smiley: Otherwise, what rpp said. :slight_smile:

I was told it’s possible for the Ordinary to grant an indult that allows the priest to break at the words of institution (which is, by the way, the consecration). I don’t know if that is true or not.

There is actually a utilitarian reason for this. In the early Middle Ages it was common to break the host at the consecration because, as many have said, the fraction is intimately tied to signifying Christ’s passion and death. As Eucharistic piety developed, though, and an elevation was added to allow the congregation to gaze at the Eucharistic Lord, it was felt that a broken host was either not easy enough to see or just not as good for the purpose (I can’t remember what the reasoning was), and the fraction was postponed until later in the Mass. Some of the rites of religious orders retained the memory of this earlier fraction by instructing the priest to press the host at the consecration, simulating what would have broken it before but falling short of actually breaking the host until the now-later fraction rite.

In liturgy in general, though, the fraction began simply as a means of enabling the distribution of larger loaves at communion time, so pushing the fraction back to that point was really a return to previous practice anyway. Out of this utilitarian fraction arose the symbolic interpretation (which is wonderful, I’m not knocking it) which pushed the breaking of the priest’s host to the consecration in the first place. Oh what a tangled web we weave!

This historical description of the liturgy is quite interesting. Where did you learn this. Can you cite the source or provide a link. I would like to learn more about the development of liturgy over the millenia.

The pastor at my parish breaks the bread before the Consecration. In order to be “intimately tied” to Christ, the fraction needs to take place after the Consecration.

Archdale King’s Liturgies of the Relgious Orders has a nice section on the pressing of the host to simulate the older custom of breaking it. As to the general development out of utilitarian concerns, most any history of the early liturgy will probably contain this principle in it. Since I’m now onto my masters in theology, I’ve had enough liturgy to imbibe this without remembering a specific source to point you to. In general, though, liturgical historians tend to see many elements to have grown out of practical concerns and then been overlayed by symbolism.

Well, I really was trying to speak to the symbolism that has come to be invested in the rite over the millenia, and can’t really speak to what your priest thinks he’s doing He’s clearly out of line at any rate, so it doesn’t much matter if he thinks he’s got a better explanation. No one should be changing the liturgy, even if he thinks he’s going back to the way it used to be done (which I hardly think he’s doing).

<<Thank you for the “what.” Can anyone give me any insight on the “why” after the sign of peace instead of before the Consecration?>>

While all sorts of symbolic meanings were found for the Fraction–something that the early Reformers put great emphasis on, originally its purpose was quite practical: The Holy Bread is broken so that it may be shared.

That is logical, but it does not give any insight into why the bread is to be broken after the Consecration.

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