Last week we continued our talk about the Liturgy of the Eucharist of each Mass. We mark the importance of this moment during Mass by changing our posture, in our case, by kneeling. The Eucharistic Prayers are some of the oldest prayers, dating back to the first and second centuries
At the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer the celebrant calls down the Holy Spirit in what is called the “Epiclesis”. With a ritual movement, the celebrant brings his hands down over the bread and wine and holds his hands, palms down, over the gifts and prays that God the Father send down the Holy Spirit so that the bread and wine will become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
The words of institution that are said next by the priest are taken from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. This is significant because it demonstrates that these words were already being routinely used for early liturgies, during the life of Paul, 40-50 AD.
In earlier times, the elevation would have been considered the high point of Mass. Since Vatican II, the Church has been teaching that while the elevation of the Blessed Sacrament is important, it should not be over emphasized as compared to the Whole Mass and/or the Liturgy of the Word.
Following the Institution Narrative, the celebrant does an interesting and rather amusing thing. He reminds God to remember all of the important people, living and dead, and invites them to be present with us in every Mass (as if God needs reminding). The celebrant asks God to remember the Pope, the bishops and all ministers, the saints and our deceased loved ones, to be invited to join us at the Mass. This is called the “Anamnasis” or “a holy remembering”. During our Sacred Time, we are not bound by the ordinary limits of time. The past, present and future are all present during the Mass.
The Liturgy of the Eucharist ends with the “Great Doxology,” “through him, with him…” Now that our bread and wine have been changed to Jesus’ body and blood, we now proceed to the reason for the Mass to begin with, our receiving Christ in the Eucharist. The power of the Sacrament reaches its fullest potential when it is received by members of the Church.
Today, we will discuss the final preparations for our reception of the Eucharist at Mass.
Rev. James V. Kirby