Little Things Mean a Lot #1

If you pay close attention to the priest at the altar during the singing of the Lamb of God you will see him break off a small piece of the consecrated bread and drop it into the chalice. What’s the meaning of this small, quickly occurring act? (I’m glad you asked.) Its technical liturgical name is immixtio or commixtio, an ancient rite expressing the belief that the communio of the Eucharist occurs across space and time.

Looking at the origin of this mixing in ancient practice enables us to understand the rite’s meaning today and why it has been preserved through the centuries.  

One Eucharist Across Time (1): In the ancient Roman celebration of the papal Mass, at the breaking of the bread (Fraction Rite), a deacon brought a piece of the consecrated bread from the previous papal Mass and presented it to the pope who then incorporated it into that current Eucharistic celebration. This action created a physical continuity from one celebration of the Eucharist to the next. (Similar to today’s secular act of passing on a starter portion of sour bread dough from one person to another.)

One Eucharist Across Time (2): The Roman Church never abandoned the rite of mixing – even when virtually everyone had forgotten its meaning. Some deep theological instinct preserved this sacramental gesture to remind us that all celebrations of the Eucharist across the centuries are united in the one priest/ food/ drink/ guest/ host who is ONE forever and ever.

Little Things #2 will appear next Sunday.

-Rev. Andrew D. Ciferni, O. Praem.