They Recognised Him at the Breaking of Bread

3rd Sunday of Easter


Not many of you have seen the chalice gifted to me for my priestly ordination. It is HUGE ! And it was specially made for me as a surprise gift from the two Italian priests who came all the way from Italy to attend my ordination. At the base of the chalice my friends had these words engraved; “In communicatione fractionis panis”, taken from Acts 2:42. In Acts, the full sentence reads; “erant autem perseverantes in doctrina apostolorum et communicatione fractionis panis et orationibus”. The English translation (New Jerusalem Bible) reads “These remained faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, to the brotherhood (or “fellowship” in some translation), to the breaking of bread and to the prayers”. I often wondered whether the introduction of ‘commas’ in the English translation helps us understand it better, or whether it betrays the deeper meaning as it takes away the unity between the four things listed in the sentence since the Latin “et” (meaning ‘and’). “And” links the four things together, meaning,They remained faithful

  • to the teaching of the Apostles;
  • to the brotherhood/fellowship
  • to the breaking of bread
  • to the prayers.

They remained faithful to all four things all at once. They remained faithful to the celebration of the Mass – as in the early Church, the words ‘the breaking of bread’ was synonymous with their Eucharistic assembly, their praying in the celebration of the Mass, and their fellowship that came from it. The expression ‘fractionis panis’ was used for their coming together to gather at their Eucharistic assemblies. They used these words to signify that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form one body in him. It is also by this action (fractionis panis) that in this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 24:35-48), the disciples recognized Christ after his Resurrection.

At the last Parents’ Meeting to prepare children to receive their First Holy Communion, I reminded the parents that there are many other names used to express the inexhaustible richness of the Eucharist. Each name evokes certain aspects of it; Eucharist for ‘Thanksgiving’, ‘The Lord’s Supper’ for it connection with the institution, ‘Holy Sacrifice’ for it makes the same sacrifice present…. etc (see Catechism, para 1328).

To understand the term ‘Fractionis Panis’ to mean the celebration of the Mass is to read the Gospels in a different light, and in the way the Early Christians read it. They were faithful to the celebration of Holy Mass.

Blessings Fr Michael

Categories: Newsletter.

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