The Nitty-Gritty of the Consecration
Before the consecration, the priest says: He took bread in his hands, thus imitating Jesus’ gesture, but at the word “broke” he does not break the bread. A priest friend of mine did this, but was reprimanded. Also, what is the idea of breaking the host only later before ‘Lamb of God’?
The Vatican instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum of 2004 puts it plainly when it says: In some places there has existed an abuse by which the priest breaks the host at the time of the consecration in the Holy Mass. This is contrary to the tradition of the Church. It is reprobated and is to be corrected with haste (section 55).
The argument that because Jesus took the bread and broke it, the priest should do likewise, is a weak one. This is because the priest actually says Jesus broke the bread and gave it to his disciples. To be consistent, this argument would require the priest to break the host and then immediately distribute Communion.
Not a Dramatisation
The solemn liturgy of the Eucharistic Prayer is not a dramatisation of what Jesus said and did. It is a calling to mind the death that Jesus endured for our salvation and also his resurrection and ascension into heaven.
As the priest recites straight after the consecration. We should read this prayer more than once to appreciate the deep meaning of the Eucharistic Celebration.
By the breaking of bread we recall that, though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in one loaf (1 Cor 10:17). The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (section 83) uses this text as the basis for the breaking of the host after the sign of peace has been carried out.
We each receive Communion from the one Bread of Life which is Christ. We may not all get a particle of the priest’s host (that can be impractical), but the significance of all sharing in Christ’s one Body is not lost.
The practice of dropping a piece of the priest’s host into the chalice has a variety of explanations. The General Instruction says it signifies the unity of the Body and Blood of Christ who is now living and glorious.
Historians say it dates from the around 400 when Pope Innocent I sent portions of the host from his Mass to be dropped into the chalice of Rome’s priests Masses to show their union with him and with Christ.