THE EUCHARISTIC PRAYER :The Eucharistic prayer has roots in the Jewish table prayers recited at every meal. Near the start of the meal, the one presiding over the community would take bread and speak a blessing which praised God, saying; “Blessed are you, Lord, Our God, king of the universe, who has brought forth bread from heaven. The bread was then broken and given to the participants for eating the various courses of the meal. In the Passover meal, there also would be a reading which re-told the story of the first Passover in Egypt and interpreted that foundational event in Israel’s history for the current generation. This made God’s saving deeds of the past present and applied the story to their lives. When the meal neared its conclusion, the presider prayed a longer blessing over a cup of wine. This blessing has 3 parts:
Praise of God for his creation :Thanks-Giving for his redemptive work in the past (eg. giving of the covenant, the land, the law) Supplication for the future that God’s saving works would continue in their lives and be brought to their climax in the sending of the Messiah who would restore the Davidic Kingdom. These ancient Jewish elements are also found in the Eucharistic prayers of the Mass today.
Entering the Holy of Holies by ritual washing of the hand: The priest washes his hands in a gesture that signals a dramatic event is about to take place. Psalm 24 reflects the importance of this ritual for people preparing to enter the Temple. In this Psalm, ritual hand washing symbolizes the internal cleansing of heart required before a person could draw near to God’s presence in the sanctuary. Our Lord will soon dwell within us as we receive him in Holy Communion. Jesus, the one true High Priest will accomplish this through the priest’s hands. In preparation for this most sacred moment, the priest washes his hands as he approaches a new “holy of holies.” And he echoes David’s humble prayer of contrition to prepare his soul for this holy task. “Wash me O’Lord from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. “ (see Ps 51:2) Finally in our last act of preparation, the priest turns to the people begging them for prayers as he is about to begin the Eucharistic prayer:
Pray brethren, that my sacrifice and yours may be acceptable to God, the almighty Father.
The new translation of this prayer more accurately reflects the original Latin text of the Mass which refers to “my” sacrifice and “yours” and brings the meaning of this prayer out more beautifully. The “my” part of the sacrifice points to Christ’s sacrifice which will be made present through the ordained priest who acts in persona Christi. The ‘your’ part of the sacrifice refers to the entire church offering itself in union with Christ in the Mass. The people respond with a prayer that recognizes how both sacrifices – Christ’s and their own – will be united and offered to the Father through the hands of the priest:
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 holy church
Mixing Water and Wine, Washing Hands and Prayer Over the Offerings: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in our humanity?” In a traditional interpretation of this practice, the wine symbolizes Christ’s divinity and water symbolizes our humanity. The mingling of the water and wine points to the Incarnation: the mystery of God becoming man. It also points to our call to share in Christ’s divine life, to become “partakers of the divine nature.”
The priest prays, “With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O’ Lord and may our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you. “ The mention of a humble spirit and contrite heart recalls the petition of the three Hebrew men thrown in the fiery furnace in Daniel 3. Being persecuted, they cried out to God with a “humble spirit” and “contrite heart” asking that they themselves would be accepted by the Lord just as a burnt offering in the temple would. The Lord heard their cries and rescued them. The priest cries out on our behalf with a “humble spirit” and “contrite heart” asking that we be accepted as a pleasing sacrifice. (DN3:15-16)
The Why of offering: God is god with or without our gifts. But we need to grow in self-giving love and this is one reason why he invites us to unite our lives to him in this way. These small offerings help us to love. In the presentation of the gifts, it is as if we bring our entire lives and all our little sacrifices (which are symbolized by the Gifts) to the hands of Jesus himself (who is represented by the priest). The priest then brings our gifts to the altar, which is the place where Christ’s sacrifice is made present, in order to express our union with Christ’s offering to the Father.
Happy Christmas to You and God’s Blessing for the Year 2014
Presentation of the Gifts: For the ancient Israelites, bread was the most basic type of food, seen as necessary to sustain life. The Bible even depicts bread as similar to a staff (the staff of bread), which shows how bread was seen as a support for human life. To part with one’s bread would have been a personal sacrifice, expressing the individual’s giving of himself to God. Similarly, wine was often consume with bread and was served at feasts and for guests. Yet, like bread, wine was offered up in Israel’s sacrifice. It was one of the first fruits presented to the Temple as a tithe and it was poured out as a drink offering in Israel’s thanksgiving and expiatory sacrifices. In the bread and wine, we offer back to God the gifts of creation and the result of our labors – or as the prayer in the Mass call them, “fruit of the earth and work of our human hands.” The rite symbolizes our giving of our entire lives to God in the offering of bread and wine.
The practice of giving money (instead of oil, and other sundry gifts) can be seen in the same light. Putting money in the basket is not simply a contribution to some good cause. It, too, expresses the giving of our lives to God. Our money embodies hours of our lives and hard work, which we now offer to God during Mass in the presentation of the Gifts.
The Preparation of the Gifts: The faithful or a representative would proceed towards the altar to present a wide range of gifts in addition to bread and wine, such as fruits, flowers, oil, money …etc. The bread and wine were used in the Eucharistic liturgy, while other gifts were given to support the priests or to serve the poor. This part of the Eucharist is also known as the offertory. There was much significance in the offering of these gifts, for they typically came from one’s home or field and were made by hand. As such, they expressed a gift of one’s self. Indeed, to part with the fruit of one’s own hard labor would have had sacrificial overtones. This is why the presentation of the gifts symbolizes the individual‘s giving of himself to God.
THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: The second half of the Mass is called the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Jesus sacrifice on the cross is made present by the priest, who carries out what Jesus did at the Last Supper and what he commanded the apostle to do in his memory. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, bread and wine are offered as gifts by the people and then consecrated and changed into the body and blood of Christ, which we receive in Holy Communion.
Priestly Intercessions: The intercessions at Mass represent a significant moment for the faithful. Through the general instruction of the faithful they “exercise their priestly function. That all of God’s people –ordained priests, religious and laity are given a priestly role is well attested in Scripture. We are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood” (1Pt2:9), for Christ has made us “a kingdom of priests” (see Rv1:5-6) One way the priestly office is exercised in the Mass is in the prayers of the faithful, whereby we participate in Christ priestly prayer for the entire human family. Jesus poured out his heart in loving intercession for the whole world (Jn17). He is able to save others “who draw near to God through him, since he always live to make intercessions for them “(Heb7:25). We participate in Christ’s intercession in a particular way at this moment of the liturgy.
The catholic Catechism notes that intercessory prayer is “characteristic of a heart attuned to God’s mercy. “If we are truly in tune with God’s heart, we will naturally want to pray for others. The culmination of the Liturgy of the word is a fitting time to offer up these intercessions. Up to this point in the Mass, the faithful have heard the word of the Lord proclaimed in Scripture, expounded upon in the homily and summed up in the Creed. Now, having been formed in God’s Word, the faithful respond with the heart and mind of Jesus by praying for the needs of the Church and the World. Since the prayers are meant to be universal in scope for those in authority, for those experiencing various needs and sufferings, and for the salvation of all, the intercessions train us to look not only after our own interests, “but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2:4).
THE PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL: Prayer of the faithful is the most ancient parts of the Mass. When Peter was imprisoned by Herod, the church in Jerusalem offered up “earnest prayer for him” and that night an angel came to release him from his chains. (Acts 12:1-7)
When St Paul gave instructions to his disciple Timothy, he told him to intercede for all people: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good and it is acceptable in the sight of God our savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1Tm 2:1-4) Paul himself prayed constantly for the needs of his communities (1Thess 1:2-3) and pleaded with them to pray for his ministry (2Cor 1:11). With this strong call for intercessory prayer in the New Testament, it is fitting that general intercessions formally found a home in the Mass from the earliest centuries of Christianity.
THE CREED: The creed summarizes the story of creation to Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection, to the sending of the Holy Spirit, to the era of the church and finally to the second coming of Christ. The creed recalls the entire story of salvation history so much so that “what the scripture says at length, the creed says briefly.”
The practice of prayerfully reciting the creed has deep biblical roots. Most ancient near eastern peoples believed there were many gods and each tribe or nation had its own set of deities whom they needed to appease and keep happy. In this perspective, religion was typically tribal, ethnic or national. It had been proclaimed not only that there was one God but that this one God was in a special covenant with Israel. In other words, Israel’s God was not merely one god among the many deities in the world, but the one, true God over all the nations. It proclaims that the universe is not here by random chance but was brought into existence by the one true God, “the maker of heaven and earth “ and is moving in a certain direction according to God’s plan. The creed also presumes that this divine plan was fully revealed in God’s son, the “one Lord Jesus Christ” who “became man” to show us the pathway to happiness and eternal life.
The creed also notes how Jesus came “For us men and for our salvation” and to bring “forgiveness of sins” . The creed reminds us that at the end of our lives we will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ who “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. According to Catholic Catechism, there are 2 aspects of belief. On the one hand, belief is something intellectual. It is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. We believe that there is one God …. On the other hand, even more fundamental to faith is its being “a personal adherence …to God” It also means a personal entrusting of one’s life to God.
“Of all things visible and invisible” more accurately reflects the language of St Paul who referred to the creation of all things “in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. “ (C0l 1:16) Consubstantial with the Father means that the Son was of the same substance as the Father.