Liturgy of the Eucharist – Part 5

May 8th, 2011  |  Published in New Roman Missal

Dear Friends,

Continuing our look at the revised Roman Missal, today we will begin reviewing the Eucharistic Prayers. There are four main Eucharistic Prayers for use in the Mass, though nine others are available and encouraged for use at various times in the liturgical year. Eucharistic Prayer I is also referred to as the Roman Canon and was once the only Eucharistic Prayer used in the Mass. As its name suggests, it was used in Rome and invokes many early Roman popes and martyrs. After the Second Vatican Council three other Eucharistic Prayers were added to the Mass, all of which have origins in liturgies of the early Church.

The Eucharistic Prayers all contain rich imagery and texts worthy of our review, but for now we will only examine translation revisions. The first revision is seen in Eucharistic Prayer II (the shortest of the four prayers). Early in the prayer during what is known as the epiclesis or “the calling down of the Holy Spirit” the priest currently prayers: “Let your Spirit come upon these gifts to make them holy, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” In the revised translation he will pray: “Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray, by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The use of the word “dewfall” may sound a bit odd to us, but it is a very powerful image from Scripture. In the Book of Exodus, chapter 16, the Lord God tells Moses that He will rain down a daily portion of bread, which would appear as “dew” in the morning. In the Book of Numbers 11:9, we also read “When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it.

The Eucharistic connection between the manna the Lord provided in the desert for the Israelites and the dewfall becomes even more significant when we recall that the Lord’s Prayer, which we pray before receiving the Eucharist, also speaks of our daily bread. The manna of the Old Testament was only gathered as a daily portion by the Israelites, demonstrating complete trust in the Lord. The Eucharist is our constant recourse and nourishment from God.

Another revision is noticeable in Eucharistic Prayer III. Currently there is a line in the beginning that goes: “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.” In the new revision it will become a more faithful rendering of Malachi 1:11: “You never cease to gather a people to yourself, so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.” Though the current translation contains beautiful imagery, it does not carry with it the full cosmic scope of both space and time that is suggested in the phrase “from the rising of the sun to its setting.” This imagery conveys the sense that the Mass and the one sacrifice of Christ have a truly eternal quality.

Fr. John