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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

Experiencing the Mass: The Eucharistic Prayer (Part 1)

Friday, January 27, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight

View readings for today:

Dear Readers: Since the Church is presently engaged in a Eucharistic Revival, we thought it would be helpful to post excerpts from his booklet called Experiencing the Mass, for the next few weeks. (This is not a sales pitch. However, the booklet is available for order on this website for $5 per copy if you would like have a copy.)

Now the center and summit of the entire celebration begins:

namely, the Eucharistic Prayer... In the Eucharistic Prayer, thanks is given to God for the whole work of salvation, and the offerings become the Body and Blood of Christ. The chief elements making up the Eucharistic Prayer are: a. Thanksgiving;. b. Acclamation; c. Epiclesis; d. Institution narrative and consecration; e. Anamnesis; f. Offering: g. Intercession; h. Final doxology.

The Church’s intention is that the faithful not only offer this spotless Victim but also learn to offer themselves, and so day by day to be consummated, through Christ the Mediator, into unity with God and with each other, so that at last God may be all in all.[1]

“Thy will be done”

The Eucharistic Prayer is a mystery—and unfortunately, it is a mystery to most Catholics.

In itself, the Eucharistic Prayer is the mystery at the heart of the Mass. A “mystery” is defined, not as “something that cannot be understood,” but as “a truth that invites endless exploration.”

“Endless” because a mystery always deals with the truth of God, who is “infinite,” which means “without limits.” God is endless Truth, inexhaustible Goodness, unlimited Being.

A mystical experience is a moment of conscious interaction with God. In urging that “all the faithful should be led to take their full, conscious, and active part” in the Eucharistic celebration, the bishops of the Second Vatican Council were hoping to make the Mass a mystical experience for everyone present.[2]

The key to entering into the mystical experience of the Eucharistic Prayer is very simple. All we have to do is understand what is happening and consciously enter into it.

What is happening is that Jesus is making himself present on the altar, not just as “being there,” but in the act of offering himself on the cross. The sacrifice of Calvary, which took place once and for all two thousand years ago and can never be repeated, is made present now in our time and space.

Or we are made present to another time and space. Whether we say Calvary is here or we are there, the point is that we are present as Jesus is offering himself on the cross. We are present, and we can participate in it. We are present in order to be part of the action.[3]

On the cross, Jesus as Priest offered himself as Victim. At Mass we, who became “priests in the Priest” by Baptism, are also offering him. And as “victims in the Victim” we are also offering ourselves—with him, in him and through him—as members of his body. Members of the body of Jesus-Priest offering himself. Members of the body of Jesus-Victim being offered for the life of the world.

In the Mass, through Christ and with Christ and in Christ we offer our bodies, our “flesh for the life of the world.”[4]

That is a mystical experience. But what does it mean?

Priests and victims in action

We aren’t physically dying for others. But in a sense we are. The Mass is a celebration of our Baptism, because at Baptism we entered into the mystery being celebrated at Mass. At Baptism we “died in Christ.”

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.[5]

What we accepted at Baptism was to be incorporated into the body of Christ hanging on the cross. We accepted to die in him, and to rise with him in order to live now, not as ordinary human beings born of our mothers and fathers, but as the body of Christ, reborn as sons and daughters of the Father. We accepted to “die” to this world. We did this in a real way: not just by taking with our wills an emancipated stance toward everything on earth, but by actually giving up our lives, truly dying—not physically, but mystically, in a way more real than physical death—with Christ and in Christ when he died on the cross.

In the eyes of God, the Giver of existence, whose eyes not only see truth but make truth what it is, we gave up our human lives with Jesus on the cross. We were made one with Jesus who said, “I lay down my life in order to take it up again.” We gave up our human lives in order to take them up again as both human and divine. We died in Christ to rise with Christ as a “new creation.”

This is what Paul meant when he said, “The world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” And, “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.” Paul is not talking here about pain, but about two things: a radical new stance of our wills toward everything created, and the mystery of a real dying and rising in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Both became ours, and we accepted both, on the day of our Baptism. We celebrate both as “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” in every Mass.[6]

Translated into practical terms for everyday living, what is this “radical new stance” toward everything created that we took at Baptism and reaffirm in the Eucharistic Prayer at every Mass?

In one word, it is love.

[1]General Instruction on the Roman Missal, 2002, nos. 2, 72, 78, 79, 30 [2] Vatican II, Sacred Liturgy. nos. 11, 14. [3] He is also present as rising and as reigning after his return. But our first focus is on Calvary. The Mass is a “remembering” that makes actually present what is remembered. The liturgical word for this is anamnesis, a word that “is practically untranslatable in English. ‘Memorial,’ commemoration,’ ‘remembrance” all suggest a recollection of the past, whereas anamnesis means making present an object or person from the past.” Frank Senn, “Anamnesis,” in New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, ed. Peter Fink, S.J., Liturgical Press 1990. See also John B. Ryan, “Eucharistic Prayers,” and Peter Fink, “Eucharist, Theology of...” op. cit. [4] See John 6:51. [5]Romans 6:3-11. [6]John 10:17; 2Corinthians 5:14-21; Galatians 6:14; Romans 6:6.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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