Breaking the Bread
Don’t you think that it is very significant that St Luke both in his gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles used the term “The breaking of the Bread’ to describe what we would call the Eucharist (Luke 24:13-35; Acts 2:42)?
This was obviously a term of great significance for him and for that matter for those first Christians. It was a term that they had inherited from their Jewish background. It was used to describe the sacred meals of the Jewish people because the first gesture which took place at those meals was the breaking of the one piece of bread so that all who were at table could eat a part of that one loaf. This was a highly prized sign of their unity with each other.
It is a sign that has been neglected in much of the history of the Christian Eucharist. For one thing, for far too long a time, the faithful did not receive holy communion but attended Mass without the practice or thought of receiving communion. There are several historical reasons for this but it is certainly an aberration in terms of what Christ told us to do in his memory. For another thing, the understanding of communion became too individualistic. It was seen too much as the communion of the individual with the Lord and not sufficiently as our personal and common communion with the Lord.
The breaking of the bread brings out the reality that we are being drawn into communion with the Lord and with each other. The breaking of the bread means that we all share a piece of the one bread and so receive from the Lord the same new life that he gives us. St Paul puts this succinctly and profoundly when he says: “ The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a fellowship in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a fellowship in the body of Christ? As there is one bread, so we, though many, are one body, for we all share in the one bread.” (I Corinthians 10:16-17).
Because of the breaking of the bread and its meaning, we tend to use larger breads for the Eucharist so that at least there is some sharing in the one bread.
By Fr Frank O’Loughlin
Thanks Fr Frank for reminding us of Luke's emphasis on the breaking of the bread. I always find it more meaningful when the congregation recites the "lamb of god" at the point when the priest starts breaking the bread into the pieces we are about to be given in Communion with Jesus