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Friday, February 7, 2014

The Beauty of the Catholic Mass - The Eucharistic Prayer

The Catholic Mass is a beautiful celebration. I know, many comedians have poked fun at the Catholic Mass. The one that I remember most has the comedian describing "kneel-stand-sit-kneel-stand-kneel-sit..... I've seen other comic interpretations of the Mass, though I don't remember them specifically. But, if one really looks at the Mass, its structure, its purpose, its symbolism, its reality, the Mass is wonderful.  

To me, the most beautiful part of the Mass is the Eucharistic Prayer. It is during this time in the Mass that the bread and wine are turned into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The Eucharistic Prayer begins with the Offering, where members of the congregation bring bread, wine and financial offerings to the priest and deacon. They accept the offering, and place it on the altar to offer up to God. The priest then recites a series of prayers, beginning with the Preface, where he (and the congregation) praise the Father, and thank him for sending his only Son to us, to save us from our sins. After the Preface, the congregation joins in with the Preface Acclamation. From this prayer, until Communion, the priest is leading the congregation in the re-enactment of the week before the crucifixion of Jesus.

In the Preface Acclamation, we praise the Lord with the words: "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!"  This prayer always gives me chills. It recalls the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah (Zech 9:9) "Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass." And we, the congregation, repeat the cry of the crowd in Jerusalem (Mt 21:9) "The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying: "Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest." We welcome Jesus into our midst then kneel to worship him as Lord. 

The  priest then consecrates the bread and wine, transubstantiating them to the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, by reciting the words of the Last Supper "This bread is my body. This wine is my blood. Do this in memory of me." Jesus is asking us to enter into the a new Covenant between us and God. In this covenant, we agree to follow the Commandments, live the Beatitudes, declare Jesus as Lord. In return we will be rewarded with eternal life. 

The Eucharistic Prayer ends with the priest praying: "Through Him (Christ), with Him (Christ), in Him 'Christ) in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, almighty Father, forever and ever." The congregation responds with the great AMEN, proclaiming that Christ's actions are our actions also.

What a beautiful opportunity to remember that Jesus died for our sins and to renew our covenant with God. We can get a new start each time we participate in this magnificent celebration (and it is a joyful celebration!) of the Mass.


References
Zechariah 9: "Rejoice heartily..."
Matthew 21: "The crowds..."
Eucharistic Prayer: The Eucharistic Prayer