Prayers at the Eucharist II: Eucharistic Prayer II

Eucharistic Prayer II, the shortest of the four Eucharistic Prayers in the Order of Mass, is the one that is easiest to break down into its various constituent parts.

Looking at its structure and variety can help us to a better sense for what the various parts of the prayer are about.

It also helps us become familiar with some of the technical terms it will be useful to use when we look at other prayers from the Church’s Eucharistic treasury – be those ancient or contemporary prayers.

The analysis below is structured as follows.

1. Name of part of the prayer

2. Brief introduction to it / commentary on it

3. The text of the prayer


1. Preface Dialogue

This Dialogue between the priest and the congregation is the first part of the Eucharistic Prayer.

The same text is used in all the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite and, with minor variations, appears in virutally all Eucharistic Prayers East and West, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant/Reformed.

In one of his homilies, St John Chrysostom said that this exchange was so important that without the congregation’s affirmation and response to the priest’s invitations the priest lacked the authority to proceed with the Church’s prayer.

Priest         The Lord be with you.
All              And with your spirit.

Priest         Lift up your hearts.
All              We lift them up to the Lord.

Priest         Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
All              It is right and just.

2. Preface

In books the Preface is often a sort of ‘take it or leave it’ introduction. The Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer, in contract, is an integral part of the Eucharistic Prayer.

It gives the particular reason or focus for the prayer being offered. In the Roman Rite, in most cases, the Preface is variable, and different text is provided for when the Eucharistic Prayer is used in different liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas etc) or according to the category of saint being celebrated in a particular Mass (eg martyr, bishop, religious etc). Some Eucharistic Prayers can only be used with their own proper fixed Preface, which tends to restrict the occasions on which those particular prayers can be used – for example, Eucharistic Prayer IV, because of its fixed preface, cannot be used during the Church’s principal Liturgical seasons

The Preface that follows is given as part of Eucharistic Prayer II but it may be replaced as required.

Priest:          It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation,
always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father most holy,
through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ,
your Word through whom you made all things,
whom you sent as our Saviour and Redeemer,

incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin.

Fulfilling your will and gaining for you a holy people,
he stretched out his hands as he endured his Passion,
so as to break the bonds of death and manifest the resurrecti
on.

And so, with the Angels and all the Saints
we declare your glory,
as with one voice we acclaim:

3. Sanctus

The largest part of the Eucharistic Prayer is spoken or chanted by the priest. He prays the prayer in the person of the Church even as he serves in persona Christi.

The rest of the congregation, generally, prays silently, associating itself with what is proclaimed to God on the Father on its behalf. However there are particular parts of the prayer  – the acclamations – in which all members of the congregation are to join their voices with the priest.

These acclamations – the Sanctus (the ‘Holy’), the Memorial Acclamation and the Great Amen – are of their nature song, and they should be sung, even if other parts of the Eucharistic Prayer are not.

All:              Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.
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.

4. Post Sanctus

This is the part of the prayer that immediately follows after the Sanctus. It generally sets this prayer of the Church in a broader context than does the Preface, particularly where there is a variable Preface.

In Eucharistic Prayer II the Post Sanctus is very brief! 

The Priest, with hands extended, says:
You are indeed Holy, O Lord,
the fount of all holiness.  
                       

5. Epiclesis

Epiclesis is a term that comes from the Greek and means to call down upon, or to invoke. Here the priest asks the Father to send the Holy Spirit on the gifts of bread and wine to make them holy.

The priest holds his hands extended over the gifts, as if symbolising the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove over the gifts. He joins his hands and, holding them extended over the offerings, says:
Make holy, therefore, these gifts, we pray,
by sending down your Spirit upon them like the dewfall
,

He joins his hands
and makes the Sign of the Cross once over the bread and the chalice together, saying:

so that they may become for us
the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.


He joins his hands.

6. The Supper (or Institution) Narrative

This section of the prayer, as its title suggests, relates the key events of the Last Supper – as related by St Paul and in the Synoptic Gospels. These are understood to be how Jesus ‘instituted’ the Eucharist.

In the prayerful remembrance of Jesus’ taking, blessing and breaking of Bread that becomes his Body, and of Jesus’ taking, blessing and sharing of Wine that becomes his Blood, the priest consecrates the elements of bread and wine that has been brought to the altar.

In the formulas that follow, the words of the Lord should be pronounced clearly and distinctly, as the nature of these words requires.
At the time he was betrayed
and entered willingly into his Passion,

He takes the bread and, holding it slightly raised above the altar, continues:
he took bread and, giving thanks, broke it,
and gave it to his disciples, saying:

He bows slightly.
TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND EAT OF IT,
FOR THIS IS MY BODY,

WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.

He shows the consecrated host to the people, places it again on the paten, and genuflects in adoration.

 After this, he continues:
In a similar way, when supper was ended,

He takes the chalice and, holding it slightly raised above the altar, continues:
he took the chalice
and, once more giving thanks,
he gave it to his disciples, saying:

He bows slightly.
TAKE THIS, ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK FROM IT,
FOR THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD,
THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT,
WHICH WILL BE POURED OUT FOR YOU AND FOR MANY
FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS.

DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.

He shows the chalice to the people, places it on the corporal, and genuflects in adoration.

7. The Mystery of Faith

In the language of the Church a Mystery is not something hidden, something waiting to be discovered, as in a ‘Murder Mystery’.

In this context a Mystery is something revealed by God, something rich and deep and loving.


In this case the Mystery referred to is the Paschal Mystery – the Mystery of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. These are the events by which Jesus overcame death and sin, and through which we are freed from sin and saved from death.

As noted above, this acclamation is intended to be sung.

Then he says:
The mystery of faith.

And the people continue, acclaiming:
We proclaim your Death, O Lord,
and profess your Resurrection
until you come again.


Or:
When we eat this Bread and drink this Cup,
we proclaim your Death, O Lord,
until you come again.


Or:
Save us, Saviour of the world,
for by your Cross and Resurrection
you have set us free.

8. The Anamnesis or Memorial

The word anamnesis is a Greek word. It continues to be used in English, not least because its meaning is not easy to express in other words.

Anamnesis has to do with memory, and the Church’s faith is that the memory of Jesus’ Paschal Mystery, is a living memory.

In the Mass past, present and future connect. The saving events of the Paschal Mystery offer us unity with Christ now and for ever.

Then the Priest, with hands extended, says:
Therefore, as we celebrate
the memorial of his Death and Resurrection,
we offer you, Lord,
the Bread of life and the Chalice of salvation,
giving thanks that you have held us worthy
to be in your presence and minister to you.

9. Epiclesis

As in 5. above, in this the second Epiclesis, the priest calls down the Holy Spirit, in this case invoking the Spirit to come down on the gathered Church.

At Mass, it is not only bread and wine that is
expected to be changed. We are to be changed too, to be made one, with Jesus and with each other also.

Humbly we pray
that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ,
we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.

10. Intercessions

At this point of the Eucharistic Prayer, we pray for the living and the dead.

The love of God is not for us alone, and we pray that God’s love might be made available and fruitful for the whole Church.


We pray for the Pope, with whom we are united in faith and love; and for our Bishop, the shepherd of our diocese, the local Church.

We pray for those who have died. And, yes, we pray for ourselves too.

Remember, Lord, your Church,
spread throughout the world,
and bring her to the fullness of charity,
together with N. our Pope and N. our Bishop
and all the clergy.

Remember also our brothers and sisters
who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection,
and all who have died in your mercy:
welcome them into the light of your face.

Have mercy on us all, we pray,
that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God,

with blessed Joseph, her Spouse,
with the blessed Apostles,
and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages,
we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life,
and may praise and glorify you.


He joins his hands.
through your Son, Jesus Christ.

11. The Doxology

Again, the word ‘Doxology’ comes to us from the Greek, this time from  doxa meaning ‘glory’ and logos meaning ‘word.

The Doxology – this paragraph, this word of glory – gathers together all the praise and thanksgiving of the Eucharistic Prayer and directs it to the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Christ offered himself in sacrifice at the Cross. We now offer this Sacrifice of Praise to the Father, with Christ, and in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

He takes the chalice and the paten with the host and, raising both, he says:
Through him, and with him, and in him,
O God, almighty Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
all glory and honour is yours,
for ever and ever.

12. The Great Amen

Amen

Amen.

It doesn’t look much on the page, that single word. But we are told that in days gone by those standing in the hills round the city of Milan could hear the Great Amen echo around them so enthusiastically did the people of that city pray their Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer.

These days, for one reason or another, we are generally less demonstrative. And left to our own devices the Great Amen can fall flat.

The priest is encouraged to sing the Doxology and we are encouraged to sing the Great Amen – that way our spoken prayer is supported by music and our Prayer is brought to a more noble conclusion.

The people acclaim:
Amen.

Reflection questions

  • Did the analysis of the prayer highlight any aspects of the Eucharistic Prayer you had not particularly noticed before?
  • Are there particular parts of the Eucharistic Prayer that have particular significance for you?
  • What is your experience of praying with this Prayer during Mass?

A log with links to previous postings in this series is kept here.

Acknowledgements

  • The Roman Missal (c) 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.
  • Photographs. (c) 2019, Allen Morris. Stained glass, Hull Minster.
  • Commentary. (c) 2021, Allen Morris.

6 thoughts on “Prayers at the Eucharist II: Eucharistic Prayer II

    • That’s very kind – thank you. I’m hoping that there will be a sort of synergy between the different strands – history, text, performance. And not just in my head! Though getting something in there will be an achievement…

      Like

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