Monday, May 15, 2017

Communion at the Altar Rail

From the National Catholic Register:
I was recently given another theological explanation of the action of receiving Holy Communion at the altar rail while studying the New Saint Joseph Baltimore Catechism with my daughter. And it blew my mind for about a week. We were in Lesson 28 on Holy Communion, directly following the lesson on the Sacrifice of the Mass, when I paused at this sentence: “At Holy Communion, when we go up to the Banquet Table (the altar rail), Our Lord comes to us. I had always thought of the Banquet Table as the main altar where the priest makes present Christ’s sacrifice. It had never occurred to me that the altar rail was something more than a divider from the sanctuary, but that it is actually an extension of the altar—the people’s altar. It is the place where we bring our own sacrifices as we wait to be united in communion with Our Lord and with each other, the Church.

The altar is the place of sacrifice in the Church, and as Christians we are all called to participate in that sacrifice. When we bring our personal offerings to God in the Mass, we are bringing them to the suffering Christ on the cross.
The Council of Trent taught this:
In this divine sacrifice that is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the Cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner. [...] For, the victim is one and the same; the same now offers himself through the ministry of priests who then offered himself on the Cross; only the manner of offering is different. (DS 1743, Council of Trent, Session 22, Ch. 2)
Christ offers himself through the priest, and we are the very witnesses of this sacrifice when we assist at the Sacrifice of the Mass. And Christ desires us to bring ourselves closer to him and to actively participate in the Sacrifice of the Mass by making an interior offering of our acts of reparation, our daily struggles, and our prayers for others. We can make our prayers at the Offertory and during the Eucharistic prayer, but also when we present ourselves for Communion. Therefore, going up to the altar rail and receiving our sacrificed Lord at the people’s altar is the appropriate and beautiful consummation of our own individual offerings united with that of Christ on the Cross. (Read more.)

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