concludes the preface as he asks us to join with the song of the
angels in heaven: "Holy, holy, holy. ..." Through the
Liturgy of the Word, we've prepared for this moment, to be lifted
up into the heavenly liturgy. Note that we do not call the moment
into existence rather, we are permitted to take part in a
reality that is always present. Acknowledging that truth, the assembly
The priest, who gives
voice to Christ, continues the Eucharistic Prayer. As the most significant
prayer in the Mass, the Eucharistic Prayer has a number of versions from
which the priest may choose. The most common are simply named I, II, III
We know Eucharistic
Prayer I as the "Roman Canon" because for many centuries it was
the only one the Roman rite used. But it's not the oldest. In fact, Eucharistic
Prayer II has a history that seems to date to about the year 215. Prayers
III and IV also have venerable histories.
The priest may also
choose to pray one of the two Eucharistic Prayers of Reconciliation. Usually,
we will hear these during Lent or Advent. Eucharistic Prayers for Masses
with children may also be an option. But the celebrant may select these
only when most members of the assembly are young children. Finally, we have
four other Eucharistic Prayers for special occasions, such as when the sacrament
of the sick is celebrated within Mass or for a Mass of Christian Unity.
While the priest alone
prays the Eucharistic Prayer, his voice becoming the voice of Christ, the
assembly is united with him as the body of Christ. Notice that the priest
often prays by using the pronoun "we." That's because he prays
in the name of the whole Christ. He asks for the Holy Spirit to come and
transform the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. We call
this the "epiclesis. "
When he arrives at
the words of institution or consecration, however, the priest takes on the
person of Christ in a very special way. Just as at the Last Supper, the
Bridegroom Christ now gives himself as spiritual food and drink to his Bride
in the same way. The sacrifice of Calvary mysteriously becomes present to
us and is renewed before us as our Lord commanded. This is why we sing out
in song, "the mystery of faith!"
In its reality as
a sacred memorial, the Eucharistic Prayer then recalls the passion, death,
resurrection and ascension of our Lord all the events of the Paschal
The Eucharistic Prayer
unites the Church, especially those assembled for this particular Mass,
with the spotless and perfect Victim and offers Him to the Father in the
Holy Spirit for us all. We offer ourselves with Him, and pray that our union,
already true because of baptism, deepens with each other and with the Lord.
We then hear a series
of intercessions which remind us that no matter what celebration of the
Mass we take part in, we're in communion with the entire Church not
just a local community, but all the living and the dead of the Church, the
pope, all the clergy throughout the world and all the faithful "to
the ends of the earth."
The Eucharistic Prayer
began with words of thanksgiving and praise. Now it ends with the doxology:
a prayer of praise and adoration to God. As the doxology is about to begin,
the celebrant raises the chalice and host, and "amen" rings from
the assembly as we express the worship which is due the Lord alone.
Next week: The Communion