Friday, December 29, 2017

On the Preparation of Altar Bread in the ciborium

I offered Mass in another parish and during communion, I discovered that there were a lot of broken pieces of the Sacred Species in the ciboria taken from the tabernacle. During the purification of the vessels, I decided to collect the broken pieces of the Sacred Species and all these filled one fourth of a ciborium (added to this would be the thick mound of Sacred Particles / "crumbs" for the uncatechized).

St. Therese as sacristan
I was saddened by this because such should show so much carelessness in the preparation of the gifts for the Mass. It seemed that the sacristan / some other minister in charge simply opened a plastic bag of altar bread and poured the contents into the ciboria without even bothering to check if the bread poured were broken or damaged. He might even have carelessly poured in the crumbs also.

Does the presence of the crumbs in the ciborium matter? So what if there were broken pieces of altar bread included in the gifts to be consecrated? I think proper attention should have been given to the preparation of the hosts not simply on account of some "pickiness" on my part but rather in the theology that goes with it.

I remember the Rev. Fr. Frederick Fermin, OP, our rector, once reprimanded me regarding the preparation of the altar bread. He insisted that the big host and the small hosts should be carefully selected. Care must be taken in the selection of the altar bread. The one in charge of this must make sure that there are no breakage in each piece.  This is because the lamb selected for the sacrifice must always be unblemished and uninjured. This is the reason why the shepherds kept watch during the night of the birthing season of the sheep. They have to make sure that each lamb born from the Temple flock would be wrapped in swaddling clothes to keep them from injuring themselves. The lambs born from the Temple flock had to be unblemished so that they can be offered in sacrifice during the Paschal feast.

If we keep in mind that the Mass is truly the Sacrifice of Christ, we will understand the necessity of carefully selecting the altar bread to be used. The "lamb" must be unblemished. The only time the Lamb is broken would be at the breaking of the bread. The ritual of the breaking of the bread is not done only to distribute and share the Body of Christ among those who take part in the sacrifice. The breaking of the bread is also the moment of destruction of the Sacred Victim. It is the moment when the Holy Sacrifice is consummated. Thus, the spotless, unblemished, uninjured Host is destroyed in an act of Sacrifice which renders God the highest act of worship.

Thus, the sacristans must be mindful of their job. I have offered Masses in convents of consecrated women and I truly appreciate how the altar bread are selected and neatly arranged in the ciborium. This care and attention for such details indicate true devotion and a real appreciation of what is about to transpire at Mass: the offering of the unblemished Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. 

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