Sacrifice of Thanksgiving
Last week was Chinese New Year. It is the time to give thanks to God. The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving”. The Eucharistic Prayer is at the heart of the Mass. Although there are a number of Eucharistic Prayers that can be used by the priest, they all have a common form. The key parts of the Eucharistic Prayer are: the preface, the Sanctus, the epiclesis, the institutional narrative (Consecration), the anamnesis, the intercessions, and the great doxology.
Praise and Thanksgiving
At the beginning of the preface, the priest invited the people to lift up their hearts to God in order to thank Him. The theme of the preface is that of thanksgiving. It is a solemn recall of God's gifts to us. This prayer leads us to join the angels to praise God by singing or saying the Sanctus. The words “holy, holy, holy Lord” echo the seraphim's song of adoration (Isaiah 6:3) and the words “blessed is he” echo the cries of the people at Our Lard's entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9). St. Gregory said, “The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist at the holy sacrifice.” St. Augustine said, “The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass.” We knee during the Eucharistic Prayer to acknowledge the presence of God.
The Most Sacred Moment
Epiclesis means “invoke upon”. It leads to the Consecration. At the epiclesis, the priest holds his hands outstretched over the bread and wine with his palms down. He asks God the Father to send the Holy Spirit upon the gifts so that they may become the body and blood of Christ.
Then comes the most sacred moment of the Mass--- the Consecration. The priest, repeating the narrative of the Last supper, pronounces over the bread and wine the words of Christ Himself: “This is my Body”, “This the the cup of my Blood”. These words change the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The twofold consecration of bread and wine points to the reality of the separation of the body and blood of Christ on the cross. According to a Catechism: “The Mass is the same sacrifice as the sacrifice of the cross because in the Mass the victim is the same and the principal priest is the same, Jesus Christ.”
During the Consecration, the priest elevates the host and the chalice for the people to adore Christ. While the host is elevated, we can make an act of faith by praying quietly, “My Lord, and my God.” And while the chalice is elevated, we can pray quietly, “My Jesus, mercy!” The ringing of the bell at the Consecration helps to remind us of the sacredness of this moment.
Remember and Pray
After the Consecration, the priest invites the people to proclaim “the mystery of faith” and the people respond with an acclamation. The priest then commemorates the death and resurrection of Christ. This commemoration is called the “anamnesis”. After the anamnesis, the priest offers the body and blood of Christ to God the Father and asks Him to bring about the effects of the Holy Eucharist among the people. The priest continues prayers of intercession for the Church, the faithful departed, and those present. During the Eucharistic Prayer the saints are remembered: we ask God to let us be helped by their prayers and to bring us into their company.
The Eucharistic Prayer is concluded by the priest lifts up the chalice and the host as a gesture of sacrificial offering and says or sings the great doxology: “Through him, with him, in him...”. This is a majestic expression of the Trinitarian mystery of the eternal Sacrifice. The people ratify the whole Eucharistic Prayer by a loud and full-hearted “Amen”.