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The Mass and Its Meaning: Part V- Eucharistic Prayer Part I

The Eucharistic Prayer is the most important part of the Mass. It is prayed by the priest with responses from the assembly. The prayers are directed to God the Father through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. There are several different Eucharistic Prayers, but all have the same basic elements; they are all centered on the death and resurrection of Christ. The first section of the Eucharistic Prayer is called the Thanksgiving. Eucharist in Greek means “thanksgiving.” The opening dialogue between the priest and the assembly invites everyone to join in prayer and offer our hearts in gratitude toward God. The entire Mass is a sacrifice of gratitude to God for his gifts of creation and redemption.

The priest now moves into the Preface Dialogue where he opens his arms wide and says, “The Lord be with you,” and the congregation responds, “And with your spirit.” The priest’s words are like a blessing and the congregation’s response is a blessing back on to the priest. The priest goes on and says, “Lift up your hearts,” and the congregation responds, “We lift them up to the Lord.” This is Christ the head telling the body where we are going – right up to heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. The priest now says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” and the assembly responds, ”It is right and just.” Christ now directs us to why we are in heaven – to give thanks to God. Once we assent to what the priest proposes, he now addresses God the Father through the rest of the Preface which has three parts. The first part begins by saying “It is truly right and just….” This establishes the direction of the prayer from the Church to God the Father. The second part picks up on the phrase “through Christ our Lord.” This section focuses on what Christ has done for us and we reflect on his death and resurrection. The third section then says “And so,” or “Therefore…” It presents our desire and request of God that our voices might blend with the angels and saints in singing God’s praises. It represents our desire to stay with God in heaven even though we cannot.

We now pray the Sanctus. The Sanctus is the Latin word for holy. “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts…” here hosts means armies and refers to the hosts of angels in service of God. We are now joining the angels and saints in the worship of God in heaven. We say “Hosanna, in the highest,” as Hosanna is an exclamation of joy in Aramaic. We can picture ourselves in heaven singing with the angels and saints. The next section is the Epiclesis. The Epiclesis is a liturgical term invoking the Father to send the Holy Spirit on the Church’s gifts. We kneel to mark the sacredness of the mystery of the Eucharist, and remain kneeling through the rest of the prayer as a gesture of adoration. The priest remains standing and directs his prayer to the Father through its head, Jesus and asking the Spirit be sent down to bring us “… the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We will finish the Eucharistic Prayer next week covering the Institution Narrative, Consecration, The Mystery of Faith, Anamnesis and Oblation, Intercessions and the Doxology and Amen.