When the priest invites the people gathered to come to communion, he uses the following words:
Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.
Blessed are they who are called to the supper of the Lamb.
The people reply:
Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,
but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.
These words fall back on significant passages from the Scriptures.
The initial words of the priest’s invitation are based on the words of John the Baptist in John 1:29 and 35-39 in which the Baptist indicates Jesus to his followers using those words. The disciples follow Jesus asking him where he lives. He invites them to ‘Come and See’. They go and stay with him the rest of that day. These words are now addressed to us before we go to communion so that we too may ‘be with him’.
And these words of the Baptist are significant in the whole playing out of John’s Gospel as they indicate the death of Jesus which is to come.
The words are about the Supper of the Lamb. This is a way in which the future banquet in the kingdom of God is referred to. The Eucharist not only looks back to the death of Jesus and the Last Supper, but forward to that which the Eucharist promises us: sitting at table in the banquet of the future Kingdom of God. It is an image of our future rising with Christ. This is an image used in the Book of Revelation or the Apocalypse.
We are being invited to enter into communion with the Lord which is the culmination of the whole celebration of the Eucharist and a foretaste of our ‘being with God’ in the future glory he promises us.
Next week we will look at the basis for the words the people use in their response.
By Fr Frank O’Loughlin