Archbishop Stephen Brislin offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Wednesday 31 March 2021, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.
We have entered Holy Week and we walk with Jesus on the path of calvary and resurrection. No matter where you are, no matter whether we can attend the Services or not we can and must make this a time of reflection and appreciation for our salvation. Tomorrow we celebrate the Chrism Mass in the morning, when the oils of catechumens, the sick and chrism will be blessed for use during the coming year. Tomorrow evening we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and the institution of the Sacraments of Orders (Priesthood) and Eucharist. On Good Friday we recall the crucifixion and death of our Saviour, and on Sunday celebrate his Resurrection. The coming days are days of blessing and holiness, let’s not waste them.
The excerpt from Scripture is from today’s Gospel, Matthew 26:14-25
Go into the city to such a one, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’ And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover. When it was evening, he sat at the table with his twelve disciples; and as they were eating, he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me’.
Let us pray:
Almighty God and Father, you sent your only Son into the world to take of our flesh, and to submit humbly to the Cross. Graciously grant that we may learn from him patient suffering and so share in his Resurrection. We make this prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever, amen.
In the Mass, after the offertory and the “Prayer over the Gifts” (of bread and wine), the Eucharistic Prayer begins with the short dialogue, “The Lord be with you”, “Lift up your hearts”, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God”, to which the people respond “And with your spirit”, “We lift them up to the Lord”, “It is right and just”. This dialogue once again establishes the communion between priest and people. It also establishes the sacredness of the prayer we are entering into. As I have said, the whole of the Mass is “God-directed” – God is our focus, and the Mass is a prayer to God. But as we begin the Eucharistic Prayer, through which the bread and wine will be consecrated, we not only make God our focus but “we lift up our hearts to him”. Not only is this offering ourselves to him but it is the desire and hope of unity with him, it is our wish that we be with him “one heart” in the love that he has for us and we have for him. We are giving ourselves to God in love. We also acknowledge that it is “right and just” to give God thanks, an essential acknowledgement as we will see later. In fact, the word “Eucharist” derives from the Greek, meaning “thanksgiving” or gratitude.
The Eucharistic Prayer is largely prayed by the priest alone, but there are there other dialogues within it, namely the Sanctus (Holy, holy), the Proclamation of Faith and the “Amen” right at the end of the Prayer, which is the assent of the people “it is so”, “it is certain”, “it is true”.
The Eucharistic Prayer weaves elements of Jewish Table Prayers as well as the prayers of the Passover into the memorial of the Last Supper, underscoring the continuity between Old Testament and New Testament and the fulfilment of the prophecies of old.
The Prayer is structured in a certain order and includes eight distinct partsi; Firstly, thanksgiving, most especially in the Preface after the short dialogue I mentioned above and ending with the Sanctus. The priest, speaking on behalf of all gathered and, indeed, on behalf of the whole Church, thanks God for the work of salvation. There are Prefaces for the various times of the year and for special celebrations. The Sanctus, by which the whole congregation joins the heavenly powers in singing God’s greatness and goodness, is based on Isaiah 6:2-3. It is a cosmic hymn of praise.
Thirdly, there is the Epiclesis, in which the Church implores the power of the Holy Spirit that the gifts offered by human hands be consecrated, that is, that they become the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This is followed by the Institution Narrative and Consecration by which the words and actions of Christ are repeated. The Sacrifice is effected which Jesus himself instituted at the Last Supper when he offered his Body and Blood under the species of bread and wine, and gave them to his Apostles to eat and drink, with the instruction to continue the practice in memory of him.
Fifthly, there is the anamnesis, where the Church in obedience to the command ”Do this in memory of me”, recalls especially his Passion, Resurrection and Ascension into heaven, the great acts of our salvation. The Oblation by which the Church, especially those gathered here and now, offers the unblemished sacrificial Victim to the Father, in the Holy Spirit. The intention is not only to offer the unblemished Sacrifice, Christ, to the Father, but also to offer our very selves, so that day by day, through Christ, we will be brought into ever greater unity with God and with each other, so that God at last can be all in all.
Seventhly, The Intercessions give expression that the Eucharist is offered in union with the whole Church of both heaven and earth, and that the sacrifice is made for her and for all her members, living and dead. The intercessions express unity with our Shepherds on earth – the Holy Father who is the leader of the universal Church, and our Bishop who is the shepherd of our Diocese. These are prayers for the pastoral office rather than the individuals. Finally, there is the concluding Doxology, by which the glorification of God is expressed and which is affirmed and concluded by the people’s “Amen”. In many respects, the “Amen” at the end of the Doxology is the most important response of Mass for it affirms our belief in the miracle of Jesus’ Body and Blood, given to us through the transubstantiation of the Bread and Wine.
I will continue to speak about the Eucharistic Prayer next week.
Let us now pray for God’s blessing:
The Lord be with you R/ And with your Spirit
Bow down for the blessing:
God our Father, look kindly on your family for whom your Son Jesus offered his life. Do not count their sins against them, but in your abundant mercy forgive them and give them a share in life everlasting. Through Christ Our Lord, amen.
May Almighty God bless you, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (+), amen.
i The explanations are based on those given in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), no 79.