17/7/11 – What Happens at Mass, Part XIII: The Eucharistic Prayer

The introduction of the new translation of the Roman Missal is not just a chance to learn new words, but will hopefully be an opportunity to come to a deeper understanding of the Mass.

The Eucharistic PrayerThe Eucharistic Prayer begins with a Preface specific to the season or feast (as we discussed last week), then continues with one of the prayers proper.  In the Missal we used prior to Vatican II there was one Eucharistic Prayer, the Roman Canon.  This is what we now know as Eucharistic Prayer I, for three more prayers were included in the Missal as part of the reform of the liturgy.  Since then, we have seen the introduction of additional Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation and for Various Needs and Occasions, amongst others.  Three Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children were also composed; these are in the process of revision and will be released in a separate book to the rest of the Missal.

Several of our present Eucharistic Prayers find their origins in much older ones.  While our Missal nowadays has a set number of Eucharistic Prayers which are used by the entire Church, the ancient Eucharistic Prayers of the past typically belonged to particular regions (such as a diocese) or group (perhaps a religious order).  It wasn’t until the invention of the printing press that it became possible to produce a single edition of the Missal for all parts of the world (in Latin, of course).

Each Eucharistic Prayer may have the following in a slightly different order, but each consists of the following components.  Listen carefully next time at Mass to see if you can identify them:

  • Epiclesis: we call upon the Holy Spirit to sanctify the offerings so that they may become the Body and Blood of Christ
  • Consecration: also referred to as the Institution Narrative, when we specifically recall the blessing and sharing of the bread and wine by Christ at the Last Supper, following his command to “do this in memory of me”
  • Remembrance: or anamnesis; we remember Christ’s death and resurrection, and the Church, in the hope that we may be all be united in that same death and resurrection
  • Intercession: we ask that those who have died, as well as all of us still living, may share in the eternal life Christ gained for us.

Through these elements of the Eucharistic Prayer, we recall the work of God throughout the history of salvation, we give thanks for the presence of God here and now, and we look forward to the promise of the resurrection.

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