May the peace of the Lord be with you!
This weekend we continue our reflection inside the Mass with the third part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, specifically with the
Eucharistic Prayer that includes:
- Holy, Holy, Holy
- First half of Eucharistic Prayer, including Consecration
- Mystery of Faith
- Second half of Eucharistic Prayer, ending with Doxology
“The Lord be with you,” is the oldest set of text in the Mass and is exchanged between the priest and the assembly. We are then invited to turn to the Lord in prayer. The priest then asks us to lift our hearts to the Lord and to give thanks and praise to God. The Preface is an introductory prayer, which gives a specific reason for our thanksgiving. It is prayed by the priest alone, and it is the second longest prayer in the Mass after the Eucharistic Prayer, and it changes daily and by the season depending on the theme of the Mass.
Holy, Holy, Holy
The Preface concludes with the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) in which the whole assembly joins the song of the angels giving praise to the Father in heaven. It is one of the oldest elements of the liturgy. Like the prophet Isaiah, we fall on our knees in awe, for we realize the presence of something greater than ourselves. When we can, we kneel after the Sanctus, as the solemn moment follows, of the consecration of bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord.
First half of Eucharistic Prayer, including Consecration
The first half of the Eucharistic Prayer, called the Epiclesis, is an invocation of God to send the Holy Spirit to change the bread and wine into the Risen Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Specifically, and unambiguously God is called on to transform the offering of bread and wine into the Risen Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
Here the elements are consecrated and transformed into the Risen Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. This is the key moment of the Catholic Mass. During the consecration, the priest takes the bread and then the wine and repeats over them the words and actions of our Lord during the Last Supper.
During the Epiclesis or invocation, God is called upon to send the Holy Spirit and transform the bread and wine into the Risen Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. During consecration, when the priest speaks, “This is my body,” the substance of the bread is transformed into the Body of Jesus Christ. The priest then shows the Host to the assembly and may place the consecrated Host on the paten. When the priest speaks, “This is my blood,” the substance of the wine is transformed in the Blood of Jesus Christ. The priest shows the Chalice to the assembly and places the consecrated wine on the corporal. The simple gifts of bread and wine are transformed into the real Body and Blood of Christ, not a representation or a symbol of Christ, but an actual transformation known as transubstantiation.
Mystery of Faith
After the Chalice has been shown to the assembly, the priest invites us to proclaim the Mystery of Faith. The Mystery of Faith is the Eucharist. The statement “The Mystery of Faith” is just that, a statement by the priest to the assembly about what just happened on the altar.
Our proclamation is to acknowledge the great miracle that just occurred before us. We are proclaiming that great mystery of faith of the bread and wine becoming the Risen Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We make our proclamation with one of the three memorial acclamations designated for the Mass.
Second half of the Eucharistic Prayer
After the memorial acclamation, the priest invites us to “Call to mind” or remember the great events of our salvation, death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
In that memory, we offer the sacrifice, calling on God to offer the sacrifice in union with all the sacrifices in the past. In the offering, the miracle of transubstantiation is applied to our benefit when we receive the Risen Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.
The priest intercedes with the Father. We pray for those who have departed, and we pray “for us sinners.”
The priest lifts the Host and the Chalice proclaiming the doxology, the words of praise linking the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
Amen means, I believe it. So be it. It is true. It is a truly magnificent and glorious, and a fitting way to conclude the Eucharistic Prayer in which the extraordinary miracle of the Transubstantiation just took place.
Next week we will continue with the fourth and last part of the liturgy of the Eucharist.