Monday, January 25, 2010

Sweet: Finally, Time to Figure Out My Grocery List!

Let's be honest: the eucharistic prayer is prime space-out real estate. Generally, it's one of a couple different rote prayers that we've heard a million times, and with little opportunity for response. When you add in we've just heard three readings and a homily -- definitely time for a little daydreaming.

Mmm. Brunch.

Now when it came to the homily, I said daydream away. But when it comes to the eucharistic prayer, I think daydreaming's got a place, but it can be a missed opportunity, too. Because the eucharistic prayer isn't the prayer of the priest, it's the prayer of the community -- it's meant for all of us. And it's filled with rich imagery.

Not that we who preside necessarily notice it, either, truth be told. If there's ever a place where a priest is liable to go into autopilot, it's here. You can see it happen -- suddenly there are all these sort of rhythmic cadences we've heard priests use since we were little, but have little to do with the actual words being said. Or the afterburners kick in and the presider is suddenly talking like he's doing a rosary, the words coming fast and jumbled together: hailmaryfulovgracthelordiswiththee [breath], blessedruamongstwomenndblesedisthefrutofthywomJesus. [breath]

When I say the eucharistic prayer, I try to let it be a moment where the words have the chance to be heard and to resonate. At my best, I treat it like poetry, or like scripture -- something that needs time and space so it can be savored.

I've got plenty to say about the eucharistic prayer, but I thought maybe before all that it would be best to take a couple days and just print the prayer. There are actually 10 different eucharistic prayers in a normal sacramentary, so we have a lot of options to choose from. But on a Sunday (for reasons I'll explain later), often the presider uses Eucharistic Prayer III. So over the course of the rest of the week I'll print that piece, by piece. And I'd just invite you to read it to yourself a couple times; read it silently, slowly; read it out loud a couple times; and then just sit with it. Give those words a little space to resonate within you. As I said, this is a prayer, our prayer, and it's meant to be lovely.

Today, a preface (the first part of the eucharistic prayer -- and again, I'll explain a little more about what a preface is next week). It's 13 lines, but there's a lot there. You could read just the first six lines and have a lot to savor. Enjoy.

Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks.

In you we live and move and have our being.
Each day you show us a Father's love;
your Holy Spirit, dwelling within us,
gives us on earth the hope of unending joy.

Your gift of the Spirit,
who raised Jesus from the dead,
is the foretaste and promise
of the paschal feast of heaven.

With thankful praise,
in company with the angels,
we glorify the wonders of your power.


jm said...

I hate to admit that when I hear "fountain of all holiness" I think: the SHORT one! Gives me the chance to gain a new perspective. Thanks for this, Jim. -- Jill

Jim McDermott, SJ said...

Ha! You know, the funny thing is, it's not that much shorter. I've been in situations where, mmm... the homily might have gone a little too long... maybe... and so I'm worried about getting through the eucharistic prayer expeditiously. And it turns out the time it takes is pretty much the same. (Same with whether you go slow or not -- I'm a slow out-loud reader, but it still goes pretty darn fast.)