Pondering the Eucharistic Prayer

By Michael 1952 via Flickr, Creative Commons license

The upcoming missal changes might encourage a microscopic focus on wording, but a recent talk I attended on the Eucharistic Prayer took a wide-angle view of the mass, providing helpful perspective on the whole.  It was good to be reminded of deeper meanings, such as the mass is based on God’s call and our response.  The initiative is always God’s, but our ongoing response is essential.  These two aspects are intertwined throughout the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which follows the pattern of Jesus’ actions at the last supper and other meals he shared.  He takes the bread and wine, blesses it, breaks it and gives it.

“Take”:  The preparation of the gifts illustrates the action of taking. The familiar offertory procession actually is a recovery of an ancient practice of the Church, restoring the symbolism of the assembly’s bringing of itself to the table.  The bread and wine originate as gifts of God, but they are made by human hands and represent all of our efforts toward the kingdom during the week.  In this way, we put ourselves on the altar.

“Bless”:  The Eucharistic Prayer comprises the action of blessing. New to me was that its form is based on a type of Jewish prayer called a berakah, which is a blessing in the sense of praising and giving thanks for all that God has done.  Various versions are available for masses on different occasions, such as weddings or feast days, emphasizing actions of God appropriate to the event.  The prayer also includes the petition or hope that God will continue to act.

Then, in the spirit of remembering, gratitude and praise, we join with Jesus and offer the bread and wine as a gift of our very selves.  The plural pronoun “we” is used throughout; it is meant to be the community’s prayer, though it was noted by the speaker that most people say they tune out during the Eucharistic Prayer while the priest “does his thing” after the congregation sings the “Holy, Holy.”  The significance of the Amen that concludes the Eucharistic Prayer may also suffer from over-familiarity.  A Hebrew word meaning “so be it,” our Amen signifies that, like Jesus, we pledge ourselves to God’s work, however that manifests in our individual lives.

“Break”:  During the Communion rite, the priest holds up the bread or host and breaks it apart.

“Give”:  The bread and wine are given to the assembly as communion.

I remain unconvinced that the new missal will increase reverence and faith or improve the liturgy, but I am helped to step back and ponder, giving thanks and praise, the symbolic meaning of the Eucharistic Prayer.  Amen.

Further reading:

Text of Eucharistic Prayers:http://catholic-resources.org/ChurchDocs/EPV1-4.htm

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2 Responses to Pondering the Eucharistic Prayer

  1. Mary Anne says:

    Thanks for bringing us back to basics about the real meaning of Eucharist with this compelling reflection.

  2. Peg,
    There is an enormous amount of creative energy going on around Eucharist, especially around imagination and Eucharist. My company has put out several books of experiments in Eucharistic prayer that are being very well received and prayed by communities all over the US. What does it mean when people are actually enthusiastic (filled up with God) over the prayer of community and gift that we pray together?
    What does it mean when the prayer provides unity and excitement instead of dread and division? So interesting. Where might the Divine be in all of this?

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