Inside the Mass: Liturgy of the Eucharist (Part II)

The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

This weekend, we continue our reflective and prayerful journey through the liturgy of the Eucharist with Part II: prayer over the offerings and introduction to the eucharistic prayer.

Prayer over the Offerings

After the gifts and altar are prepared, the Prayer over the Offerings begins. This Prayer of Thanksgiving is the heart of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. If you watch very closely, you’ll notice that the priest is moving his lips and praying some prayers very quietly during the Preparation of the Gifts. In this prayer:

  • The celebrant acts in the person of Christ as head of his body, the Church.
  • He gathers not only the bread and the wine, but the substance of our lives and joins them to Christ’s perfect sacrifice, offering them to the Father. The silent prayers the priest says are: “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness, we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.” As the priest pours wine and a little water into the chalice, he prays quietly: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Then he says: “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness, we have received the wine we offer you: fruit of the vine and work of human hands, it will become for us our spiritual drink.” Then the priest bows profoundly and says quietly: “With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, Oh Lord, and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God.”
  • The Rite of Hand Washing is a symbolic gesture of purification. The priest prays “Wash me, Oh Lord, from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.”
  • “Pray, Brethren” breaks the stillness and silence after the Lavabo, as an invitation to pray and claim ownership of the sacrifice. The priest invites us to pray that our offering may be worthy and acceptable before the Lord.

Eucharistic Prayer

The Eucharistic Prayer is the central prayer of the liturgy. The word “eucharist” comes from the Greek for “thanksgiving,” and this prayer is primarily an act of praise and thanks to God for all that God has done for us through the ages. The prayer asks God to continue to bless us in our own time and concludes with words of praise (a doxology). Some of us may find it difficult to sustain our attention through the length of this prayer. Probably the most important thing is for all of us to remember that we are offering this prayer together with the presider. The opening dialogue and the three acclamations that the assembly sings as part of the prayer (Holy, Holy, Holy, Memorial Acclamation, and Great Amen) are reminders that this is a communal effort to give God proper praise and thanks.

In the Catholic tradition, we believe that this prayer is also consecratory. The prayer is said over the bread and wine that have been set aside for the sacred meal, and through this prayer, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. The word “transubstantiation” has traditionally been used to express this change; it simply says that the substance or fundamental reality of the bread and wine change even though what we see and touch and taste, remain the same. What is more basic than the term, however, is the truth that the bread and wine are now the Body and Blood of the Lord, which means they are now a bodily means of his presence among us. He is present in the Eucharist just as fully as he was present in his human body during his thirty-plus years on earth. He is present for a purpose. He is present in the Eucharist in order to be our spiritual food and drink.

The Eucharistic Prayer includes:

  1. Preface
  2. Holy, Holy, Holy
  3. First half of Eucharistic Prayer, including Consecration
  4. Mystery of Faith
  5. Second half of Eucharistic Prayer, ending with Doxology

Next week we shall go through these five sections of the eucharistic prayer.

May we come, day by day, to a better appreciation of the real presence of the Lord in the Eucharist and live accordingly, even in the midst of these challenging times. The peace of the Lord be with us all.

Fr. Augustin