Friday, January 18, 2013

Devotion for today: the epiclesis: calling upon God to bless our gifts

For many of us, the Epiclesis is sometimes said so quickly at Mass that if we are not following along in the Mass Guide or in the Magnificat, we really don’t catch all that is being said. I have printed the four versions that are used in your basic Sunday and weekday Masses, with the exception that I did shorten Eucharistic Prayer I as it is quite long, but very beautiful. If you would take time today to read these carefully, you will find that we are never assuming that God will accept our sacrifice; we ask Him to do so. We do not acknowledge that the bread and wine are acceptable sacrifices: we ask God to send the Holy Spirit to make them holy. The language in these prayers is quite lovely, even in the very short ones, with words such as “dewfall” and “from the rising of the sun to its setting." I hope that you  take a little more time on Eucharistic Prayer IV, for here you will find a summation of salvation history, from the fall of man until the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross, always emphasizing God’s mercy for mankind. This prayer is very similar to the ancient Jewish prayers, where the table blessing included a prayer to God to send the Messiah. Here we are asking God to send the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus, the Messiah, into the bread and wine we offer. At this part of the Mass, let us pray that as the priest asks God to bless and make our gifts holy, we pray that God come to us as well, so that the sacrifice we make of our lives will be blessed and made holy, and that the Holy Spirit will fall upon us to fill us with Christ.

Eucharistic Prayer I: Therefore, Lord, we pray: graciously accept this oblation of our service, that of your whole family; order our days in your peace, and command that we be delivered from eternal damnation and counted among the flock of those you have chosen.  Be pleased, O God, we pray, to bless, acknowledge, and approve this offering in every respect; make it spiritual and acceptable, so that it may become for us the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Eucharistic Prayer II: You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness. 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.

Eucharistic Prayer III: You are indeed holy, O Lord, and all creation rightly gives you praise, for through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, by the power and working of the Holy spirit, you give life to all things and make them holy, and 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. Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you: by the same Spirit graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration, that they may become the Body and Blood of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, at whose command we celebrate these mysteries.

Eucharistic Prayer IV: We give you praise Father most holy, for you are great and you have fashioned all your works in wisdom and in love. You formed man in your own image and entrusted the whole world to his care, so that in serving you alone, the Creator, he might have dominion over all the creatures. And when through disobedience he had lost your friendship, you did not abandon him to the domain of death; for you came in mercy to the aid of all, so that those who seek might find you. Time and again you offered them covenants and through the prophets taught them to look forward to salvation. And you so loved the world, Father most holy, that in the fullness of time you sent your Only Begotten Son to be our Savior. Made incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, he shared our human nature in all things but sin. To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, and to the sorrowful of heart, joy. To accomplish your plan, he gave himself up to death, and, rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life. And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him who died and rose again for us, he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as the first fruits for those who believe, so that, bringing to perfection his work in the world, he might sanctify creation to the full. Therefore, O Lord, we pray: may this same Holy Spirit graciously sanctify these offerings, that they may become the body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ for the celebration of this great mystery, which he himself left us as an eternal covenant.

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