I confess, when I first converted to Catholicism, I often wondered about the small piece of the Body of Christ in the chalice. I can even recall a time when I did not want to sip out of the chalice because I thought someone may have backwashed. Every so often, I see the same question in the eyes of young and old alike as I offer the Blood of Christ.
Every now and then, I find that God reveals His wisdom to me and calls me to His service when I’m just sitting there; content in my life.
One such day during daily mass, our priest found himself in need of a Eucharistic minister. However, none of us were Eucharistic ministers. As providence would have it, I was sitting directly in front of him. He motioned for me to come up. I think part of him was still back in the desert, where he recently returned from deployment, while the rest of him was in California because he softly whispered, “combat installation.”
I felt a little nervous and some anxiety over the whole thing. The priest didn’t seem to notice, or perhaps he did notice, but kept on going. Either way, I followed suit. I was given the cup and followed him to present the Blood and Body of Christ to our fellow parishioners.
None of the mishaps that I managed to envision within the few minutes from my seat to the altar became reality. I didn’t fall and spill the Blood of Christ every where. I didn’t drop the cup when trying to retrieve it from someone.
Instead, something wonderful happened. As I offered the Blood of Christ, I finally got what it was all about. God showed me the importance of sharing the Body and Blood of Christ with all I could. He showed me the importance of every member of the church. Most importantly, He shared with me the beauty and honor of being the catalyst in sharing His precious Blood.
My eyes were also opened to something I failed to notice before: The priest intentionally breaks a small triangular piece of the Body of Christ and puts it into his chalice. It can be imperceptible to our eyes if we are not specifically looking for it. The priest breaks off a small piece of the Eucharistic bread and drops it into the chalice that contains the Precious Blood of Jesus while he silently prays. This is called the co-mingling of the bread and wine. It is a small act, but rich in symbolism.
First, it symbolizes the Resurrection of our Lord. At the consecration our Lord came to the bread and wine separately – this is my Body, this is my Blood; symbolic of His death on the cross. Now the two are joined.
Second, it symbolizes the unity of the Church. In early Church a piece of the Eucharist from the Pope’s Mass was broken off and taken to other churches and mingled with their Eucharistic species to signify that they were all one Body of Christ. This piece was called the fermentum, a Latin word that means leaven.
Third, in some parts of the Church it became the custom to retain this broken Eucharistic bread soaked in the Precious Blood for the Communion to the sick and dying. Obviously, given this condition it would be easier for someone having difficulty in swallowing to partake in the Eucharist.
What an honor I felt (and still feel) as I realized the true significance of what I am permitted to participate in. I invite each of you to consider sharing this beautiful gift of not only receiving the Blood and Body of Christ, but in sharing it with others.
I never planned on becoming a Eucharistic minister. Yet for me it is another reminder that, as always, “Father knows best.”
Copyright 2010 Lorrie Lane Dyer