Archive for the ‘Eucharistic Prayer’ Category

February 14th

February 15, 2010

In the final part of the first Eucharistic prayer, there is a prayer in which the priest acknowledges his own sinfulness.  The priest proclaims himself a sinner and that proclamation is accompanied by an action: he strikes his breast.  The striking of the breast is a sign of acknowledging one’s own sinfulness and is also a sign of repentance.  It is an action that is taken directly from Scripture.  (Luke 18:13)

It is certainly a good thing to call to mind the fact that we are sinners in need of God’s mercy, but this might seem like a strange part of the Mass to be pointing out one’s sinfulness.  If we remember, however, Saint Peter himself had a similar reaction to Our Lord’s presence when the Lord manifested His power by enabling Peter to catch a miraculous super-abundance of fish.  At recognizing Who Jesus is, Saint Peter fell to his knees and asked the Lord to depart from him because of his own unworthiness.  (cf. Luke 5: 1-11)  The priest, in the Presence of the same Jesus Christ, acknowledges his sinfulness and instead of asking the Lord to depart, asks for forgiveness.

The priest then recalls that God gives us all good gifts, especially the gifts of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ present before him upon the altar, which God has blessed and made holy.  The priest then takes the host and the chalice and lifts them up and offers them to the Father.  While doing so he says (or sings) the “doxology.”  At the doxology, the priest prays that all honor and glory forever be to God, through Christ, with Him and in Him.

This doxology is a good reminder that the bread and wine that were presented at the offertory exist no longer.  They have been wholly and completely transformed into Christ.  That is why the priest does not pray “through it” but “through Him”.

The doxology and the “Great Amen” conclude the Eucharistic prayer.  Next week we will continue by looking at the Rite of Communion.

God bless,

Father White

February 7th

February 7, 2010

Following the prayer that we looked at last week, there follows a prayer which has a pause in the middle of it.  This prayer is known as the “Commemoration of the Dead.”  In this prayer, the priest commends the faithful departed to the Lord and then pauses for a moment in order to call to mind those for whom he wishes to pray.  This pause in the Eucharistic prayer is an opportunity for all of us to call to mind our departed loved ones and commend them to the loving mercy of God.

After this short pause for silent prayer, the priest prays that all those who sleep in Christ may enjoy the presence of Christ in Heaven.  This prayer beautifully asks that those who sleep in Christ find “light, happiness, and peace.”

The next prayer asks that all of us have some share in the communion of Saints and another group of Saints is invoked.  All of these Saints are martyrs of the early Church.  After Saint John the Baptist is named, there are seven male Saints and seven female Saints: some of them are well known, some of them we know very little about.

The point of this list is not to list the most popular Saints, or the most recent, for then this list of Saints would be constantly changing.  This list of martyrs is meant to connect us with the early Church.  It is said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.  Those early martyrs shed their blood and thus gave witness to their faith.

By calling upon these Saints who died so long ago, we are reminded of the unity of the Church: not just the unity of the Church in the present day, but the unity of the Church throughout the ages.  We belong to the same Church as those martyrs of the first century.  Through their example and sacrifice the Christian faith flourished.  We honor them because they were early witnesses to the Faith; and they continue to pray for us from Heaven.

This prayer concludes by asking all the Saints in Heaven to pray for us.  Let us not forget to seek often the assistance of the Saints, for their intercession can gain for us many graces from the Lord.  All holy men and women, pray for us!

God bless,

Father White

January 31st

February 1, 2010

As we continue to look at the first Eucharistic Prayer, we come to a prayer which asks that God look favorably upon the gifts that we are offering and to accept them. We ask God to accept them just as He accepted other gifts that Scripture tells us that God was pleased to accept: that of Abel, of Abraham, and of Melchizedek. Another reason that these three Old Testament sacrifices are mentioned is because they foreshadowed the Sacrifice that Jesus would make of Himself upon Calvary.

The next prayer is rather mysterious: the priest asks that an Angel take the sacrifice to the altar that is in Heaven. This prayer reminds us that in Heaven all the Angels and Saints ceaselessly adore and worship God; our earthly liturgy is a participation in that Heavenly worship.

The priest then prays that we may be filled with every grace and blessing as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ from this altar. When we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord we receive “every grace” because we receive the Author of all grace. The priest makes the Sign of the Cross at this point to remind Himself that all grace comes through Christ, Who died upon the Cross in order that we may share in His divine life.

“Grace” can be difficult to comprehend: we talk about ‘grace’ in many different ways. Fundamentally, ‘grace’ is a participation in the very life of God. When we say that we are in a “state of grace” we mean that we are not in mortal sin, we mean that we continue to have that divine life, which we received at Baptism, within us.

It can be easy to think of grace as a thing, but grace is not a thing: it is a relationship. When we say that we share in the divine life of God, we really mean that we are in relationship with Him. When we are in a state of grace, He dwells within us. Could there be a more intimate relationship? God loves each one of us so much, He wants to be united to us; and He is communicates Himself to us ever more fully each time we receive Him in the Most Holy Eucharist.

God bless,
Father White

January 24th

January 21, 2010

The prayer that immediately follows the memorial acclamation is a prayer by which the priest offers to God the sacrifice that has just become present upon our altar. The prayer says that from the many gifts that God has given to us, we offer this holy and perfect sacrifice back to God: the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.

There are two points within this prayer that I would like to reflect upon. First: all things are a gift from God. What do we have, that we have not received? (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:7) Every good gift comes to us from the hand of God. (cf. James 1:17) God gives us so many blessings in our lives; it is only fitting that we offer something back to Him, in order to show our gratitude and our love.

By virtue of our Baptism, each and every one of us shares in the priestly office of Christ. We are all to make of ourselves an offering to God. The ordained priesthood was instituted specifically to serve and assist all members of the Church. At Mass, the priest offers back to God the greatest gift that He ever gave to us: the gift of His Son. The priest offers the Sacrifice that Jesus made of Himself to the Father and we are all called to unite ourselves with that sacrifice and offer ourselves with and through Christ to the Father.

The second interesting thing about this prayer is the language that it uses to refer to the recently consecrated Body and Blood of Our Lord. The prayer refers to the Body of our Lord as the “bread” and the Blood of Our Lord as the “cup”. The Church teaches us that after the Consecration, the only part of the bread and wine that remain are the appearances (taste, smell, etc.). Why, then does the prayer (given to us by the Church) talk about “bread” after the Consecration and focus on the “cup” instead of on the Precious Blood?

The Church reminds us that we often refer to things by their appearance. (cf. CT 2200) In the book of Genesis, Abraham encountered three Angels. After the author of Genesis tells us that they are Angels, they are subsequently referred to more than once as “men”. (cf. Genesis 18) The Angels are called “men” because they have the appearance of men.

The same thing can easily happen when we speak of the Body of the Lord. It continues to have the appearance of bread and therefore the prayer refers to the “bread of life”. So, too, we speak of the “cup” because that is what we see; we know, of course, that the cup is not what is important, but That which the cup contains: the Precious Blood of Our Lord.

God bless,
Father White

January 17th

January 17, 2010

Last week, we looked at the Epiclesis and what happens during the Consecration; this week, we shall look at the Consecration itself.
The Consecration begins with what is known as the “institution narrative”: the narrative tells what Jesus did at the Last Supper and the priest imitates what he describes in the narrative. For example, the priest says that Jesus took bread and looked up to Heaven while giving the Father thanks and praise. As the priest says these words he, himself, takes the bread and looks up.

This acting out, as it were, of the institution narrative is meant to convey to us that the priest is “standing in” for Jesus. During the Mass, the priest stands in persona Christi: in the person of Christ. It is Jesus Christ Himself Who acts through the priest during the Mass. That is why the priest says: “This is my body” and not “This is the body of Jesus.”
After the words of institution, by which the bread has been changed into Christ’s body, the priest holds the Lord’s body up high so that all can see and adore Him. He then replaces the consecrated Host onto the paten and genuflects as a sign of his own adoration.

The Consecration of the wine takes place in much the same way. As the priest narrates the fact that Jesus took the cup at the end of the Last Supper, he takes the chalice into his hands. He bows and repeats the very words of Jesus over the chalice and then holds it aloft for all to adore. He sets the chalice down and then makes his own act of adoration towards the Precious Blood.

The priest then invites all of us to “proclaim the mystery of faith.” This part of the Mass is known as the “memorial acclamation” and it is meant to commemorate three things: it should remind us of what Christ has done for us, what He is doing for us, and what He will do for us.
This acclamation calls to our minds that Christ has died for us. Almost two thousand years ago, Christ became a man and died in order to free us from sin and death.

Beyond just remembering the past, we further call to mind, by this acclamation, the fact that the offering that Jesus made of Himself continues to be offered upon our altars. The Eucharist is the same offering that was made upon Calvary: it is the un-bloody re-presentation of the one Sacrifice that Jesus made of Himself to the Father.
Finally, the memorial acclamation has us recall the fact that we are still waiting for Christ to come again. The Mass is only a foreshadowing of our eternal destiny: Heaven, where, we will be united with Our Lord forever. We are all waiting for Our Lord to come in His glory.

God bless,
Father White

January 10th

January 8, 2010

As we continue our look at the first Eucharistic Prayer, we arrive now at the Epiclesis.  Epiclesis is a Greek word which means “invocation”.  At this part of the Mass the priest stretches out his hands over the gifts and invokes the Holy Spirit.  The priest calls upon the Holy Spirit to descend upon the gifts that they may be miraculously transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

The Epiclesis immediately precedes the Consecration (in the Roman rite).  The Consecration is the part of the Mass where the priest takes the bread and the wine and pronounces over them the words spoken by Our Lord at the Last Supper.  At the words of institution the bread and the wine cease to exist: the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ are made truly present under the appearances of the bread and the wine.

This transformation (known as Transubstantiation) that takes place at every Mass is a great mystery, yet we know that it is true because Jesus told us that it was true.

Towards the end of the sixth chapter of Saint John’s Gospel, Jesus taught the crowds that He, Himself, was the Bread that came down from Heaven.  He taught the crowd that they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to have life within them.  The crowd murmured at His teaching.  Jesus did not back down; in fact, He repeated Himself again and again.

Eventually, the crowd could bear it no more.  Many of His disciples followed Him no more.  Instead of stopping them from leaving Him, He let them go.  He then turned to the Twelve, those who had been with Him from the beginning of His ministry; those upon whom He was to build His Church.  He asked them if they would leave Him also.  Saint Peter spoke up: “Master, to whom shall we go?”  In other words: What you are saying is hard to understand but if you said it, it must be true; you have the words of everlasting life.  (cf. John 6:35-69)

Further proof of the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist comes from the Last Supper itself.  Jesus Christ is God and therefore His words are effective.  When He told the paralytic to “Get up and walk” the paralytic was healed.  (cf. Mark 2:1-12)  When Jesus told the man with the withered hand to stretch it out, the man’s withered hand was restored.  (cf. Matthew 12:13) At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread and said “This IS my body.”  What a wondrous gift: that Our God would feed us with Himself!

God bless,

Father White

January 3rd

January 3, 2010

The General Instruction recommends the First Eucharistic Prayer be used on Sundays and major feasts. (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal # 365)  The First Eucharistic Prayer addresses the Father through the Son.  The priest then blesses the gifts and asks that the Father accept the gifts that we offer.

The priest then prays for the Church throughout the world.  We pray for our Holy Father, our bishop, and for all “who hold and teach the catholic faith that comes to us from the Apostles.”  It is important that we pray for all the members of the Church; we are all members of the mystical body of Christ and it is good for us to lift the other members of the body up in prayer.  This prayer is also a beautiful reminder that our Catholic Faith is Apostolic: it can be traced back to the Apostles and through the Apostles to Jesus Christ.

The next part of the Eucharistic Prayer is called the “Commemoration of the Living”; there is a brief pause which gives us a moment to call to mind those for whom we wish to pray for in a special way at that Mass.  The Mass is the most efficacious prayer that we can offer to God.  It is good for us to remember our family and friends during the Mass, and ask God to assist them with His grace.  The priest then prays for all who are gathered together at that Mass, and for all our loved ones.

Following the commemoration of the living the Saints are honored and we beseech their prayers, that through their intercession we may constantly be assisted and protected.

The first Saint to be mentioned is Our Blessed Mother.  Mary is the Mother of God and Queen of all Saints and therefore is always mentioned first.  Immediately following her, Saint Joseph, the foster-father of Our Lord, is named.  The twelve Apostles (Saint Paul is listed instead of Judas Iscariot) are then named.  They come right after Our Lady and Saint Joseph because they are the foundation upon which the Lord founded His Church.  Saint Peter and Saint Paul are listed first because of their importance: Saint Peter was the first Pope and Saint Paul was the great Apostles to the gentiles.

Following the twelve Apostles, there is another list of twelve martyrs of the early Church.  The first five of them were Popes, then a bishop (Saint Cyprian), a deacon (Saint Lawrence) and five laymen (including two sets of brothers).  All of these martyrs lived virtuous lives and died heroic deaths bearing witness to their faith in Christ.  Their lives so greatly inspired the early Christians that their names were included in this ancient Eucharistic Prayer.

God bless,

Father White

December 27th

December 25, 2009

Once we have all sung the Sanctus (or Holy, Holy, Holy) together, the congregation kneels and the priest begins the high point of the Mass: the Eucharistic Prayer.

There are several options for the Eucharistic prayer from which the priest may choose.  There are four principle ones and the General Instruction makes recommendations when each one is to be used.  The first Eucharistic Prayer is recommended for Sundays, the second for weekdays, the third for feasts and for Masses of the dead, and the fourth may be used on Sundays in Ordinary Time.  (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal # 365)

There are many other Eucharistic prayers which may be used, but regardless of which Eucharistic Prayer is chosen, there are certain “chief elements” contained in every one of them.  (cf. General Instruction of the Roman Missal # 79)

Towards the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest stretches out his hands over the gifts and invokes the Holy Spirit to descend upon the gifts that they may become for us the Body and Blood of Christ.

Next, there is the narrative of the institution, whereby the priest repeats the actions and words of Christ at the Last Supper.  This part of the Eucharistic Prayer is known as the consecration.  Once the priest pronounces the words of consecration over the bread and wine (“This is my body . . .”  “This is my blood . . .”) the elements of bread and wine are supernaturally and substantially changed.  After the consecration, the bread and wine are no more, only the appearances of bread and wine remain; the bread and wine have been miraculously transformed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.

After the consecration, the priest calls to our minds the Passion, Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord.  The Holy and Spotless Victim is offered to the Father and then there are a series of intercessions wherein the priest prays for the whole Church, as well as for all the living and deceased.

The Eucharistic Prayer concludes with the Final Doxology: the priest holds up the Body and Blood of the Lord and gives all glory and honor to God through Jesus Christ.  The Final Doxology concludes with the “Great Amen” which is usually sung by all the people present.

I will not write about all the Eucharistic Prayers, but over the next several articles I will try to show how all these elements come together in the First Eucharistic Prayer.

God bless,

Father White