Communion Antiphon or Hymn
The Communion Antiphons are variable like the Introits or Entrance Antiphons (with the propers), either weekly during Ordinary time or daily during Lent, Easter, Advent, Christmas, sanctoral celebrations and special votive liturgies. Here is a sample one from Corpus Christi: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him, says the Lord.” Hymns are frequently substituted at weekend liturgies with music. [Just as with the Introit and the Gradual (Responsorial Psalm), the early Church frequently used the psalms. They were chanted with an intermittent refrain just as we often do with the Responsorial Psalm today.] A popular psalm in the early Church is Psalm 34: “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the stalwart one who takes refuge in him” (verse 9). Psalm 145 is another: “The eyes of all look hopefully to you; you give them their food in due season” (verse 15). Today many parishes on weekdays will recite the assigned verse at the start of Communion or just after the centurion’s prayer. If not, then the priest may recite it after purifying the vessels but before the Prayer after Communion.
Prayer after Communion
As he did with the Collect, the celebrant introduces the Prayer After Communion. He says, “Let us pray.” Any silence and opportunity here for personal prayer is very brief. It may be enough to say “Thank you, Jesus” but not much more. The priest prays in the name of God’s people, the Church. He prays that they may find spiritual strength and nourishment through Christ— that the many fruits of the Mass just said will be efficacious. Who can say what miracles are made possible with each and every Mass. The sick are healed. The troubled are given peace of mind and soul. Sins are forgiven. Demons are exorcised. The weak are shielded from harm. We are nurtured and fed by the Eucharist so that we might have God’s life and holiness within us. The people make the prayer their own by responding, “Amen.”
An example of a prayer is from Pentecost Sunday: “O God, who bestow heavenly gifts upon your Church, safeguard, we pray, the grace you have given, that the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon her may retain all its force and that this spiritual food may gain her abundance of eternal redemption. Through Christ our Lord.” Taken at random, another is from the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Nourished by these redeeming gifts, we pray, O Lord, that through this help to eternal salvation true faith may ever increase. Through Christ our Lord.” The prayer usually includes a couple set elements (see examples above):
- A thankful glance is given to the gifts received; and
- Reception or bestowal of the gifts or helps is acknowledged.
The Mass is affirmed as an efficacious participation in a heavenly banquet. We receive, not so much food to maintain the flesh, but a spiritual nourishment for the soul. While there is often a recessional hymn on Sundays, nothing of the sort is required or recommended. If the Church has a preference, it would be for congregants to remain for a short while to give thanks and to offer private prayers. Sometimes Holy Communion is reckoned as medicine. Just as an ill person might be prescribed bedrest, silence and reflection is the pew-rest that disposes a person to better benefit from what he or she has received. The inward effect of the sacrament is an advance or growth in love.