Liturgy of the Eucharist
The second major part of the Mass contains elements of two ancient traditions - the meal, or bread breaking, which Jesus left as His memorial; and the Hebrew tradition of sacrifice offered to God. These two elements weave together in the symbolic actions and prayers of the Eucharist.
Please note that up until now, all of the actions have taken place away from the altar (either at the Priest's chair or at the pulpit also known as the ambo). Everything will now center on the altar where the Eucharistic Sacrifice will take place. The altar is prepared; the gifts are "set apart" and presented as a sign of the community's desire to incorporate itself in the sacrifice of Christ.
You will recall that when Jesus was at Supper with His Disciples, He took bread, broke the bread and gave it to His Disciples saying, "Do this in memory of me." The Mass then, is the perpetuation of the Last Supper of Holy Thursday and the Sacrifice on the Cross, of Good Friday.
As early Christians brought wine and bread to be consumed at the Liturgy, and also money and other gifts to be given to the poor. Bread and wine recall the last supper Jesus shared with His Disciples. They ate bread and drank wine because it was their everyday food. The gifts are food, nourishment necessary for living. So our bread and wine at Mass represent our everyday lives, our everyday selves, the essence of our lives. The Church has revived this procession, and asks us to be reminded that a similar procession will take place later in the Mass when you process up the aisle to receive Communion. These gifts which have been brought to the altar, challenge us to give ourselves in thanksgiving for everything that God has given us.
A hymn may be sung while the bread and wine are brought to the altar. If no song is sung, then the people may make the responses to the prayer of offering given here.
Priest: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.
All: Blessed be God for ever.
The priest mixes a little water with the wine to symbolize the human and the divine natures of Christ joined in the Mystery of the Incarnation - God becoming human as the Priest continues.
Priest: (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.
Priest: Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.
All: Blessed be God for ever.
Priest: (quietly) Lord God, we ask you to receive us and be pleased with the sacrifice we offer you with humble and contrite hearts.
The priest washes his hands as a symbol of internal purification to prepare for the most sacred part of the Mass. In former days, it was quite often a real necessity for the Priest to wash his hands after receiving the gifts of the people - which may have included fresh fish and live chickens as well as bread and wine!
Priest: (quietly) Lord, wash away my iniquity; cleanse me from my sin.
Invitation to Prayer
Priest: Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.
All: May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of his name, for our good, and the good of all his Church.
The prayer over the gifts asks for God's acceptance of our gifts, and expresses our desire to be united with these gifts of bread and wine, which will become Jesus, our Lord.
Priest: The Lord be with you.
All: And also with you.
Now we arrive at the most sacred part, the Eucharistic Prayer, "the center and high point to the entire celebration. It is essentially a statement of praise and thanksgiving for God's works of salvation, making present both the body and blood of the Lord and his great redeeming actions in our lives.
Recall that since the Apostles were Jews, they brought their familiar religious practices to Christianity. The Eucharistic Prayer is based on the Jewish Table Prayers.
The priest prays to God on our behalf, but as a reminder that we are all offering this prayer, we will enter into a dialogue three times. The first will take place at the beginning of the Preface.
Priest: Lift up your hearts.
All: We lift them up to the Lord.
Priest: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
All: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
The Celebrant makes the three statements and then pauses.
The Preface, which follows, praises God the Father for His gifts of creation and redemption. We will enter the prayer again with Isaiah's song of praise, called Holy, Holy, Holy which was the common Morning Prayer in the synagogues and the praise the crowd offered Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on a donkey's back.
Celebrant says the Preface.
Cantor: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the highest, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.
Priest: Father, you are holy indeed, and all creation rightly gives you praise. All life, all holiness comes from you through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit. From age to age you gather a people to yourself, so that from east to west a perfect offering may be made to the glory of your name. And so, Father, we bring you these gifts. We ask you to make them holy by the power of your Spirit, that they may become the body and blood of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose command we celebrate this Eucharist.
Most of the prayers which follow are prayers of praise. The following is Eucharistic Prayer III.
As a Jewish father would call on God's blessing, in a few moments the priest will place his hands over the bread and wine to be blessed.
The words of consecration are taken from the accounts of the Last Supper in Sacred Scripture. The bread and wine are actually changed into Christ's Body and Blood. The priest will then raise each for veneration.
Priest: On the night he was betrayed, He took bread and gave you thanks and praise. He broke the bread, gave it to His disciples, and said: Take this all of you, and eat it: this is my body, which will be given up for you. When supper was ended, he took the cup. Again he gave you thanks and praise, gave the cup to his disciples, and said: Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.
The "Mystery of Faith" is the recognition of Christ's three-fold action of Death, Resurrection and Second Coming.
Priest: Let us proclaim the mystery of faith.
(The Memorial Acclamation is prayed or sung. )
All: Christ has died, Christ is risen, christ will come again.
God is ever faithful to His covenant. God's saving deeds in the power of Christ are taking effect here and now! We celebrate all that Christ did and does for us.
Priest: Father, calling to mind the death Your Son endured for our Salvation, His glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, and ready to greet Him when He comes again, we offer You in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.
Our main prayer at each Eucharist is for unity that comes through reconciliation by the offering of all the faithful themselves to the Father with and through Christ. In prayers of thanks and petition, we pray for the Pope, the bishop, and all the members of the Church, living and deceased. Let us listen to these prayers as if we are hearing them for the first time.
Priest: Look with favor on your Church's offering, and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself. Grant that we, who are nourished by his body and blood, may be filled with His Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ. May he make us an everlasting gift to you and enable us to share in the inheritance of your saints, with Mary, the virgin Mother of God; with the apostles, and the martyrs. (Saint N. the saint of the day or patron saint) and all your saints, whose constant intercession we rely for help. Lord, may this sacrifice, which has made our peace with you, advance the peace and salvation of all the world. Strengthen in faith and love your pilgrim Church on earth; your servant, Pope N., our bishop N., and all bishops, with the clergy and the entire people your Son has gained for you. Father, hear the prayers of the family you have gathered here before you. In mercy and love unite all your children wherever they may be. Welcome into you kingdom our departed brothers and sisters, and all who have left this world in your friendship. We hope to enjoy forever the vision of your glory, Through Christ our Lord, from whom all good things come.
The final words of praise - the Doxology - summarize the Eucharistic Prayer. The priest lifts up the Body and Blood of Christ in a gesture of offering. This signifies the history of the world and its ultimate destiny. Namely, all of creation is born in the heart of the Father, fruits of his love. All of creation is established in existence through Christ. All of creation is filled with love of the Holy Spirit. Our "GREAT AMEN" to this prayer acclaims our assent and our participation in the entire Eucharistic Prayer, which has made present Christ's actions, and is the center of our Catholic Faith.
Priest: Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever.
Next: Concluding Rite