Eucharisitic Prayer I (The Roman Canon)

05-06-2018Weekly ReflectionFr. Joe Fessenden

The most traditional in the Roman Rite (that’s the one we belong to) is Eucharistic Prayer I. This prayer differs slightly from the rest in that it is more a collection of short prayers that have all been put one after another than a single long prayer composed as a whole. I want to wander through this prayer and the other Eucharistic Prayers over the next few articles. If you want something much deeper than what I can write, here, I highly recommend The Mass of the Roman Rite by Joseph Jungmann, S.J., or The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass by Nicholas Gihr. Both were written before the reforms of the 20th century, but the Roman Canon remains similar enough that they apply.

I want to offer one note to help you follow along. The parts of the Roman Canon are generally identified by the first word or words in the Latin text, I am going to present the sections, here, with those headings.

The first section is the Te igitur. This is a plea for acceptance of the gifts offered on the altar. It is important to remember that we can never command God. He does all that he does because he has promised to do so, but still from his own free will.

The priest then offers some general intercessory prayers for the Church and her hierarchy, the Commemoration of the Living, and the Communicantes, which includes the first of the lists of saints in the Roman Canon. This list opens with “Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse” then goes on to list, in a hierarchical order, twelve apostles and twelve martyrs of the early Church of Rome. The Communicantes also includes proper inserts for several major feasts of the Christian calendar.

The Hanc igitur is another prayer for acceptance of the gifts on the altar. Theories about why this seeming repetition of the Te igitur, here, but it is difficult to say with certainty why the repetition exists.

Finally, the first half of the Roman Canon concludes with the Quam oblationem, which serves as the epiclesis in this prayer, even though the invocation of the Holy Spirit is implied instead of explicit. Whether or not this is meant to be an epiclesis, as such, is a point open for debate, but, since the reform of the Liturgy has developed the form of the Eucharistic Prayers to include two epicleses, one before and the other after the consecration, the phrasing of this prayer, imploring God to “make [the offering] spiritual and acceptable so that it may become for us the Body and Blood of your most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ” is interpreted, not without cause, to fill this role.

Then we move into the consecration which was discussed in a previous article.

Fr. Joe Fessenden