Broken, Scattered, Gathered, One

Br. Francis de Sales Wagner, OSB
Thursday, August 24, 2023

"Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." -  1Corinthians 10:17

The sound of something breaking is not typically pleasant. Rather, it tends to be startling and alarming. Even the sound of the word "break" and some of its various synonyms-shatter, split, crack-seem to signal violence and pain.

However, there is one sound of something breaking that brings me much peace, comfort, joy, and hope on a daily basis. Or, rather, Someone being broken in a profound, sacrificial, loving, and life-giving manner. If that seems odd, stay with me… The fraction rite-during which the celebrant breaks the consecrated bread while everyone sings the Agnus Dei or "Lamb of God," is my favorite part of the Mass, I think. And, since I live in a monastery with many monks who are also priests, our daily conventual Mass typically involves at least five people breaking the consecrated bread on the altar at this same point in the rite-the celebrant and four concelebrants. In our cavernous church (especially if the celebrant still has his microphone on), the effect can be quite striking.

No matter what spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical state of mind I may be in at that moment, the "snap, crackle, pop" of the Eucharistic species being broken into as many pieces as necessary for those in attendance always refocuses me on the paschal mystery of which I am a part. And thank God for that!

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is wholly present in body, blood, soul, and divinity under the appearance of bread and wine, lovingly allows himself to be broken, shared, and consumed so that all may become one through him, with him, and in him. Together, these broken fragments of Eucharistic bread (not just here, but in churches throughout the world) constitute one Body, with Christ as Head. As we partake of them, we are mystically brought together in the same way as many grains of wheat constitute one loaf of bread before it is broken and shared.

With this sacrament , Christ becomes fully present to us, with us, and in us, as he told his disciples at the Last Supper the night before he died:

While they were eating, Jesus took break, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks,and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins."(Matthew 26:26-28; cf. Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:17-20, 1Corinthians 11:23-25)

Then, having taken part in this mystery of Christ being broken and shared for us, we are sent out into the world to proclaim-to be-Christ by our lives, broken and shared with others. It is only through Christ that we are gathered together in this way, as the celebrant prays in Eucharistic Prayer IV of the Roman Missal:

Look, O Lord, upon the Sacrifice which you yourself have provided for your Church, and grant in your loving kindness to all who partake of this one Bread and oneChalice that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit, they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ to the praise of your glory.

It gets me every time-that "snap, crackle, pop." With such evocative imagery (and even sound), we are not only reminded of, but become one with the paschal mystery of Christ, who gathers what has been scattered, and restores what is broken by becoming broken and scattered himself. It's such a beautiful thing-so beautiful that it can't be fully grasped, only allowed to sift through the fingertips of our minds like grains of wheat. This kind of beauty can only be lived through praise.

So, let us pray in the ancient words of the Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, from the first or second century):

Father, even as this broken bread was scattered over the hills, and was gathered together and became one, so let your church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your kingdom. To you is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ forever (Didache 9:4).

Snap. Crackle. Pop.


"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." - John 12:24

Originally published on Br. Francis Wagner's blog, The Path of Life