The Prayer after Communion for Mass on the 19th Sunday of the Year very simply teases out a very important principle of the sacramental life.
May the communion in your Sacrament
that we have consumed, save us, O Lord,
and confirm us in the light of your truth.
Through Christ our Lord.
The Latin tag ex opere operato describes one aspect of sacraments: that which is necessary for their being ‘real’. Ex opere operato or ‘from the work worked’ focuses on the authentic performance of the sacrament, especially by its minister: that he (and usually it is he) has done that which Christ intended and has gift to the Church. For example that baptism has been performed using water and ‘in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Sprit; or that Mass has been celebrated by an ordained minister with the right intention, and using bread and wine. This is important, for without this minimal things, the Sacrament simply has not been realised, achieved, and celebrated. The Sacrament is not there so however prayerfully we have celebrated it, ‘it’ is not what Christ offered as sure and effective sign and means to his real presence.
However, even when the Sacrament is validly celbrated, and Christ is truly present, his being there is not enough. It is necessary, if it is to be salvific for us, that we ‘encounter him, relate to him person to person, communicate with him. The sacrament invites us to real participation in it, and actual communion with Christ – to pray it, open to receiving the grace it embodies and extends to us. So that, in very truth, we are opened to being ‘saved’ by the grace if offers. The Latin tag for this participation is ex opere operantis – from the work of the working one. That one is first and foremost Christ for our participation in the Liturgy is a participation in Christ, but that one is also the Church and her each individual member.
In the prayer of Sunday, we pray that the purpose of the Sacrament may be fulfilled not only in our eating and drinking of the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation (and the feast of Scripture!), but in the living of the Communion which those gifts symbolise and seek to effect in us.
- How does Eucharist draw you in to Communion?
- With whom does Eucharist draw you into Communion?
- How do you play your part in cooperating with the work of the Church and of Christ?
Sarcophagus. British Museum. (c) 2007, Allen Morris