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The Celebration of the Christian Mystery

349

VI.

T

he

P

aschal

B

anquet

1382

The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrifi-

cial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated and

the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood.

But the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed

toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through

communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself

who has offered himself for us.

1383

The altar,

around which the Church is gathered in the

celebration of the Eucharist, represents the two aspects of the same

mystery: the altar of the sacrifice and the table of the Lord. This is

all the more so since the Christian altar is the symbol of Christ

himself, present in the midst of the assembly of his faithful, both as

the victim offered for our reconciliation and as food from heaven

who is giving himself to us. “For what is the altar of Christ if not

the image of the Body of Christ?”

214

asks St. Ambrose. He says

elsewhere, “The altar represents the body [of Christ] and the Body

of Christ is on the altar.”

215

The liturgy expresses this unity of

sacrifice and communion in many prayers. Thus the Roman

Church prays in its anaphora:

In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God:

command that these gifts be borne

by the hands of your holy Angel

to your altar on high

in the sight of your divine majesty,

so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar

receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son,

may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.

216

Take this and eat it, all of you: communion

1384

The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive

him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: “Truly, I say to you, unless

you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have

no life in you.”

217

214 St. Ambrose,

De Sacr.

5, 2, 7: PL 16, 447C.

215 St. Ambrose,

De Sacr.

4, 2, 7: PL 16, 437D.

216

Roman Missal,

EP I (Roman Canon) 94:

Supplices te rogamus, omnipotens

Deus: iube hæc perferri per manus sancti Angeli tui in sublime altare tuum,

in conspectu divinae maiestatis tuae: ut, quotquot ex hac altaris participatione

sacrosanctum Filii Corpus et Sanguinem sumpserimus, omni benedictione

cælesti et gratia repleamur

.

217

Jn

6:53.

950

1182

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