Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Eucharistic Prayer as Petition


So, two-to-three parts/elements to the Eucharistic prayer: Thanksgiving, Petition, and the Institution Narrative as Bridge/Big Number. Monday, we talked about thanksgiving, and what exactly that means in the eucharistic prayer, how parts of the prayer will remember specific moments in salvation history or graces that we are thankful for.

That remembering leads very naturally into petition. In fact, liturgical remembering is always also a request. The act of remembering in the eucharistic prayer is a little like Chubby Checker singing "Let's Twist Again, Like we Did Last Summer." Why does Chubby talk about all the great times they had last summer? Because he wants to do them all again. In the eucharistic prayer, we're the same way -- we talk about all the great things God has done, because we want him to keep being that way, and to give us those graces right here, right now, and even, if we can think really boldly, to bring what he started to completion.

And that's why, generally after the institution narrative, we enumerate exactly those things we as a church want.

And what sorts of things do we ask for?

Mercy: "Have mercy on us, make us worthy to receive you." (II)

Welcome: "Welcome into your kingdom our departed brothers and sisters..." (III)

Acceptance: "Look with favor on these offerings and accept them as once you accepted the gifts of your servant Abel, the sacrifice of Abraham, our father in faith, and the bread and wine offered by your priest Melchisedech." (I) (I love this one. So many cool connections to the Old Testament!)

The greater union of our hearts...: "Make us grow in love, together with our Pope, our bishop, our clergy, all your people" (II) ...and the transformation of our community more and more into Christ: "Gather all who share this one bread and one cup into the one body of Christ, a living sacrifice of praise." (IV) [So, too, in most prayers you'll hear some sort of request that we be filled with the Holy Spirit, which is another way of talking us being made better through our presence here.]

The betterment of our world: "May this sacrifice advance the peace and salvation of all the world." (III)



If you want to put it more simply, what we request is transformation, to be transsubstantiated in the same way the bread and wine are. Here we are God, mixed up, ordinary, imperfect, a little dicey; please, accept us and make us better, all of us, more like you, for the benefit of ourselves and for our world.

In a sense that sense of transformation is what differentiates this set of petitions from the ones we did before the eucharistic prayer. There's lot of overlap, too, but our context here is a little different.

Again, my own little practice, which may or may not suit you -- when I get distracted during the eucharistic prayer, it's usually in this part, because this tends to be the longer piece. And when it happens I'll try to repeat to myself the petition that I brought to this Mass. I'll just say it to myself again, with the hope it will snap me out of my distraction and draw me back into the action of the liturgy.

A variation might be to bring back to mind an area of my life where I think I'm being invited to be transformed, to be more Christ-like.

We give thanks and ask to be transformed.

Tomorrow, I'll post one further detail about the progression of the petitions. And Friday, we'll jump into the institution. Whee!

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