THE EUCHARISTIC PRAYER 2012
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal 2010 (GIRM) which is at the front of the Roman Missal offers a comprehensive presentation on all aspects of the celebration of the Eucharist today. The importance of the Eucharistic Prayer is clearly highlighted as ‘the centre and high pointof the entire celebration’ (GIRM 78). There are eight main elements in each Eucharistic Prayer which remain constant in the ten prayers offered in the Missal today. A ‘novena’ of reflections on the Eucharistic Prayer by way of preparation for the Eucharistic Congress could deepen our understanding of the great gift which is at the heart of our faith and our worship. On the first day a general introduction to could be given followed each day by a reflection on each of the eight elements. It is intended that these would be ‘people friendly’ and easy to present. This introduction to the Eucharistic Prayer could be done on any nine days but this model is illustrated on nine days from 28 January 2012 (Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas) to 5 February 2012 (Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time). Resources and information on Stage 3 of the Pastoral Preparation for the Congress is available at www.iec2012.ie.
Day One Saturday 28 January 2012 Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas
The Eucharistic Prayer which is a ‘prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification’ is described as the ‘centre and high point of the entire celebration’ of the Eucharist (GIRM 78). We have ten different Eucharistic Prayers to choose from in the new missal yet though different in style and emphasis they have the same core elements that we will explore together over the next nine days. The opening dialogue of each Eucharistic Prayer is important as it indicates the relationship of unity between the priest and people. ‘The Lord be with you …and with your spirit. Lift your hearts …. We lift them up to the Lord.’ This relationship is highlighted especially in the invitation of the priest ‘Let us give thanks to the Lord our God’ to which all reply ‘It is right and just’. The priest prays the Eucharistic Prayer ‘in the name of the entire community to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit’ (GIRM 78). We show our understanding of this relationship by giving our full attention to the prayer by listening and looking with reverence throughout and by participation in the acclamations. In the past people may have felt that the Eucharistic Prayer was the priest’s business while they got along with their own devotions or rosaries. We are all in this together and though for the most part one person speaks as the tongue of the Body of Christ it is the prayer of the entire community. This sense of the participation of all people in the Eucharist Prayer as a whole culminates in the communion procession to the source of spiritual nourishment. This participation in the Eucharist is captured in the text Panis Angelicus written by St. Thomas Aquinas and now a very popular sacred song.
“The Bread of angels
has become the Bread of mankind;
This heavenly Bread puts an end to all images;
O wonderful reality!
The poor, the slave, and the humble
can eat the Lord.”
Day Two Sunday 29 January 2012 Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 146 from today’s Liturgy of the Word is a song of praise:
Alleluia! Praise the Lord for he is good;
Sing to our God for he is loving;
To him our praise is due.
This sense of praise and thanksgiving is present in particular in the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer ‘in which the Priest, in the name of the whole of the holy people, glorifies God the Father and gives thanks to him for the whole work of salvation or for some particular aspect of it, according to the varying day, festivity, or time of year’ (GIRM 79). Preface 1 of the Sundays in Ordinary Time emphasises all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
For through the Paschal Mystery,
he accomplished the marvellous deed,
by which he has freed us from the yoke of sin and death,
summoning us to the glory of being now called
a chosen race, a royal priesthood,
a holy nation, a people for your own possession,
to proclaim everywhere your mighty works,
for you have called us out of darkness
into your own wonderful light.
This Preface emphasises the fact that we are praying as one community by using phrases such as ‘a chosen race, ‘a royal priesthood’, ‘a holy nation’. This Preface with the introductory dialogue reinforces that this is a corporate prayer which includes the whole assembly as we together offer our praise and thanks to God.
Day Three Monday 30 January 2012 Feast of Bl. Margaret Ball and Francis Taylor
The acclamation Holy Holy…Is Naofa …Sanctus is sung by the whole congregation and joins with the heavenly powers in another expression of praise and thanksgiving. This stress on the heavenly choirs and the communion of saints remind us that those who have gone before us and who we hope are safely home with Jesus are united with us in the celebration of every Eucharist. This should give extra energy to our singing of this acclamation which while led by a cantor or music group calls for the participation of everyone. Many new Mass settings of this acclamation invite people to sing the ‘Hosanna in the highest’ in particular by way of repeated melodic and ‘singable’ phrases. On the Feast of Blessed Margaret Ball and Francis Taylor we are reminded of those who died for their faith and are now reaping the reward of their faithfulness as they join in the heavenly chorus. The Eucharistic Prayer suggested for today from Prayer for use in Masses for Various Needs II – God guides His Church along the Way of Salvation. This will further emphasise the connection between our banquet and the heavenly one when we reflect on those who suffer today for their faith throughout the world as we journey together on the road to salvation.
‘Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of your glory’
Day Four Tuesday 31 January 2012 Memorial of St. John Bosco
The first epiclesis is the calling down of the Holy Spirit upon the gifts offered so that they may be consecrated. This epiclesis occurs before the consecration and is called down on the gifts of bread and wine. It is accompanied by a gesture of the priest who extends his hands over the offerings saying:
Therefore, Father most merciful,
we ask that you send forth your Holy Spirit
to sanctify these gifts of bread and wine,
that they may become for us
the Body and Blood
of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
This text is taken from the Eucharistic Prayer for use in Masses for Various Needs III – Jesus, the Way to the Father. We use this prayer today since St. John Bosco devoted his life to teaching young people and we remember him during Catholic Schools Week as an inspirational figure who introduced Jesus to so many in successive generations through the members of the Order he founded – the Salesians.
Day Five Wednesday I February 2012 Feast of St. Brigid
The words of the Institution Narrative and the Consecration may vary slightly from one Eucharistic Prayer to another but the meaning remains the same. This section of the prayer tells us the story of the Last Supper when Jesus instituted the Eucharist. It gives us an account of his actions and words ‘when he offered his Body and Blood under the species of bread and wine, gave them to his Apostles to eat and drink’ (GIRM 79). By these words and actions the Sacrifice of the Eucharist is effected which was instituted by Christ. Jesus also gave the Apostles ‘the command to perpetuate the same mystery’ (GIRM 79). When we gather to give thanks and praise to God we are fulfilling the command of Jesus – ‘Do this in memory of me’. This is not a dramatic re-enactment of the Last Supper. The words spoken are those of the Risen Body of Christ, his Church, coming from the mouth of an ordained priest.
The mystery of faith is then proclaimed by all present and in Ireland we have four options to choose from since we were allowed retain ‘My Lord and My God’ because of its place in our Eucharistic spirituality. Two of the other texts acknowledge the saving work of Jesus in his death and resurrection and look forward to his coming again. The third acknowledges Jesus as saviour and redeemer. St Brigid was known for her generosity and charity which are at the heart of our understanding of the Eucharist as sacrifice and gift and this spiritual connection can be made in the homily of the day.
Day Six Thursday 2 February 2012 Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
The next section of the Eucharistic Prayer is called the anamnesis which is about remembering and memorial. As Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, once wrote:
“Sacramental memorial is more than a simple remembering, such that what is past must be left in the past tense. Memorial is an «entering into the future» of that which in its essence is never past. It is a «surpassing» of physical time into a time of «Mystery». Thus it becomes clear that the Church does not present a new sacrifice which could subsist next to that of Christ. The Eucharist is not reflected in a past sacrifice, limiting itself to distribute only those fruits. Memorial makes entry into the Mystery of Sacramental memorial, a deep communion with the sacrifice of Christ, to take part in the presence of the Risen One…” This anamnesis is the part of the Eucharistic Prayer ‘by which the Church, fulfilling the command that she received from Christ the Lord through the Apostles, celebrates the memorial of Christ, recalling especially his blessed Passion, glorious Resurrection and Ascension into heaven’ (GIRM 79). This is the anamnesis in Eucharistic Prayer III which we use today.
Therefore, O Lord, as we celebrate the memorial
of the saving passion of your Son,
his wondrous Resurrection
and Ascension into heaven,
and as we look forward to his second coming,
we offer you in thanksgiving
this holy and living sacrifice.
Day Seven Friday 3 February 2012 Memorial of St. Blaise
The oblation is the offering of the ‘unblemished sacrificial Victim to the Father in the Holy Spirit. The second epiclesis which the priest prays now asks that we will be transformed by our communion with Christ in the Eucharist and brought together into a holy communion with God and with one another.
Grant that, by the power of the Holy Spirit of your love,
we may be counted now and until the day of eternity
among the members of your Son,
in whose body and blood we have communion.
This part of the prayer focuses on the call to unity of those who share at the Lord’s table who are invited day by day to offer themselves by lives of charity and generosity. This text is taken from the Eucharistic Prayer for use in Masses for Various Needs III – Jesus, the Way to the Father.
Day Eight Saturday 4 February Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
We are used to using the word intercession in referring to the Prayer of the Faithful in the Liturgy of the Word. However each Eucharistic Prayer also has standard intercessions which remind us of the communion we share with the Church throughout the world as we pray for the Pope, the local bishop, clergy and all the people of God. Heaven and earth are joined in this prayer which echoes the song of the first acclamation – Sanctus.
The Gospel of the day is one of healing and one of the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation would be very appropriate to use on this occasion. For example, here’s a quote from the first one:
Be pleased to keep us always
In communion of mind and heart,
with Benedict our Pope, Diarmuid our Bishop and his Auxiliary Bishops.
Help us to work together
for the coming of your kingdom,
until the hour when we stand before you,
Saints among the Saints in the halls of heaven,
With the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,
The blessed Apostles and all the Saints,
And with our deceased brothers and sisters,
whom we humbly commend to your mercy.
Day Nine Sunday 5 February 2012 Fifth Sunday on Ordinary Time
The doxology and Amen conclude every Eucharistic prayer and do not change from prayer to prayer. ‘The concluding doxology, by which the glorification of God is expressed and which is affirmed and concluded by the people’s acclamation Amen ‘(GIRM 79).
The doxology is an expression of praise and glorification and is usually sung by the priest which leads to that final word of affirmation – Amen. The importance of that short word cannot be underestimated because in that all present assent to what has been prayed on their behalf and the strength of that Amen is a sign of their understanding of their role in this great prayer of the Mass and an expression of their faith in the solemn mystery of the Eucharist.
‘Through him and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, for ever and ever. AMEN.’