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.

10/7/11 – What Happens At Mass, Part XII: The Preface

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.

After the Prayer Over the Offerings, we enter into the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer.  As I touched on last week, this always begins with three-fold dialogue between the priest and the people:

            The Lord be with you.                                            And with your spirit.

            Lift up your hearts.                                                We lift them up to the Lord.

            Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.           It is right and just.

The priest greets us, and invites us to join him in the Eucharistic Prayer.  Our desire to share in the Eucharistic Prayer and sacrifice, as indicated by our response “it is right and just”, must be expressed so that the priest may continue with the Mass.  After all, the Mass is not the work of Christ and the priest, but of Christ and his Church – all of us incorporated into Christ through baptism.

Bishop Anthony Fisher leading the PrefaceWhile there are only a relatively small number of options for the Eucharistic Prayer, with some only permissible on specific occasions, there is a larger collection of prefaces.  The Preface leads us into the Eucharistic Prayer by declaring to God (and at the same time reminding ourselves) the reason we celebrate the Eucharist at this particular time.  On most days, they typically reflect the liturgical season we celebrate.  There are, however, also prefaces for particular feast days, for saints, for the dead, and for a range of other needs and occasions.

The Preface then concludes with our prayer of acclamation, the Sanctus (or Holy, Holy).  In the new translation of the Sanctus, the opening phrase has changed from “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might” to “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts.”  This, like other changes, reflects a closer match with the Latin text.  It also reflects what the priest proclaims immediately before; that what we do in celebrating the Eucharist is not done alone, but in communion with the angels and saints – the entire “heavenly host”.

3/7/11 – What Happens at Mass, Part XI: Entering Into 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.

After the Profession of Faith, we pray for our needs and the needs of the world through the Prayer of the Faithful.  This concludes the Liturgy of the Word.

The offertory
Bishop Anthony receives the gifts of bread and wine at the Mass of installation of our parish priest, Fr Paul

The gifts of bread and wine are then brought forward and are prepared by the priest.  He then invites us to share in the Eucharistic Prayer.  The invitation to prayer has changed slightly:

Pray, brethren (brothers and sisters),
that my sacrifice and yours
may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.

Like with other parts of the revised translation, this translation is now a closer match to the Latin text, which also refers to the priest’s sacrifice and ours.  The change to “my sacrifice and yours”, however, may seem strange.

In considering this change, we need to consider how each of us comes to the Eucharistic celebration with our own reasons for thanksgiving, with our own needs and concerns.  In a sense, therefore, we offer ourselves at the altar along with the offerings of bread and wine.  This newly revised translation of the Latin phrase, now rendered at “my sacrifice and yours” can hopefully serve as a reminder of our necessary part in this offering and sacrifice of the Mass.

We then enter into the Prayer Over the Offerings and the Eucharistic Prayer.  The Eucharistic Prayer also begins with a newly revised response to “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.”  Our response, “It is right and just”, allows the priest to proceed with the Eucharistic Prayer and lead us into the high point of the Mass.  The priest, in beginning the preface, acknowledges our agreement and desire to share in the Eucharist by affirming that “it is right and just” that we give thanks and praise to God.

29/5/11 – What Happens at Mass, Part X: The Creed

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 Profession of Faith is one way we respond to what we have heard in the scripture readings during Mass.  The translation of the Nicene-Constantinople Creed has been revised, as has the translation of the Apostles’ Creed.

One of the noticeable elements of the new translation of the Nicene-Constantinople Creed is that the existing text “We believe…” is replaced with “I believe…”  Although it is a seemingly small change, it will no doubt take some getting used to.  Some people will wonder why this change occurred, and may agree or disagree with it.

As we’ve already discussed, the new translation of the Missal is characterised by a closer, word-for-word translation of the Latin text into English.  The Latin word Credo, which begins the creed, translates into English as “I believe”.  There is more to consider here, however, than simply translation.

As we discussed last week, the creed did not become a commonly used prayer during the Mass for about 600 years after it was developed.  It was originally intended as a personal or individual profession of faith.  Parents are asked to renew their baptismal promises when they want their child to be baptised.  Confirmation candidates are asked to profess their faith, as are adults when they approach Christian Initiation.  Each of us is invited to renew our baptismal promises at Easter time.  In each case, we respond not with “We do”, but “I do”, for each of us is called to give personal testimony and witness to our faith.

While we have been used to saying “We believe…” each Sunday, the upcoming change back to “I believe…” does not try to deny the communal nature of the Eucharistic celebration.  The use of the words “I believe…” will hopefully challenge each of us to personally consider our subscription to the faith of the Church and its consequences.  Our communal praying of the creed will hopefully serve as a sign to each of us that we stand in solidarity with everybody who belongs to this community of faith.

23/5/11 – What Happens at Mass, Part IX – The Liturgy of the Word

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.

In the Liturgy of the Word, God speaks to us.  Through the proclamation of the scriptures at Mass, Christ is made present amongst us.  After the Second Vatican Council, one of the obvious reforms to the Mass was the increased use of scripture.  After we listen to God’s word in the readings and have it broken open for us in the homily, we respond by professing our faith and praying for the needs of the Church and the world.

For most of the Liturgy of the Word, there is very little that will be affected by the new translation of the Missal.  The one part that will be obviously different, however, is the Profession of Faith.  The Nicene-Constantinople Creed is retained, although the words will change.

This creed takes its name from the Church councils where it was formulated and ratified.  At the time, it was never intended to serve as a liturgical text.  The creed, which came out of the First Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople in the fourth century, was a direct response to the divisions being caused in the Church by the theories of Arius, who argued that Christ was created by God, rather than being God.

After declaring that God the Father and the Son are consubstantial (“of the same substance”) at Nicaea in 325 AD, the credal statements on the Holy Spirit, the Church, baptism, resurrection of the dead and everlasting life were developed at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD.  This then completed the elements of the creed as we know it today.

It was not until the end of the millennium that the creed started to be used as a prayer during the Mass itself.  Eventually in 1014 it was adopted by Pope Benedict VIII.  It now forms part of our response to God’s word on Sundays and solemnities.