The central part of the Eucharistic Celebration is the Eucharistic Prayer. Many think that the high point of Mass is Communion. Communion is very important. That moment of union with the Lord Jesus and one another is really the reason we are there. As important as Communion is however, it is not, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, (GIRM) the most important moment. The GIRM, in reference to the Eucharistic Prayer, says in paragraph 78, “Now the center and high point of the entire celebration begins, namely the Eucharistic Prayer, that is, the prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification.”
Jesus sacrificed his life to God the Father on the tree of the cross. His death was the culmination of a life of sacrifice. Jesus invited his followers to follow him. Following him means that we are to give our lives in sacrifice to God the Father as well. Better said, we are asked to join our sacrifice to the sacrifice of Jesus. The response to Jesus’ sacrifice to his Father was the resurrection. God the Father gave life back to his Son. What our faith tells us is that this sacrifice and response in love between the Son and the Father is not just something that happened once in history. This is the eternal relationship of God the Father and God the Son, and this exchange of love is animated by the Holy Spirit.
Before Jesus offered his sacrifice on the cross he left us a way to enter his sacrifice. During the Last Supper Jesus gave us the Eucharist. He told us that the bread in his hands was his body and the wine in the cup he held was his blood. He told us, as recorded in John’s discourse on the Bread of Life (chapter 6), that this bread and wine was his body and blood. He asks us in Luke’s gospel to “Do this in memory of me,” (Lk 22:19). Jesus asks us to continue to offer his body and blood to God the Father in the celebration of the Mass. Therefore, we speak of the Sacrifice of the Mass. We are remembering with bread and wine that becomes Jesus’ body and blood that he sacrificed his life to God the Father to free us from sins and bring us into relationship with the Father.
During the Celebration of the Mass, then, we are invited to not only remember and re-present the sacrifice of Jesus; we are also told that we must join this sacrifice. The GIRM says, again in paragraph 78, that…” the meaning of this (Eucharistic) Prayer is that the whole congregation of the faithful joins with Christ in confessing the great deeds of God and in the offering of Sacrifice.” We join our sacrifice to Jesus’ sacrifice and offer it with him to God the Father. We are, in this great action, present with Jesus, offering ourselves to God the Father. We believe that the Father hears our prayer because it is joined to Jesus’ offering and gives life back to us. Therefore, the communion we share is the culmination of Jesus’ sacrifice and therefore of ours as well. Thus, the Eucharistic Prayer is the center and high point of the entire celebration.
If you have any questions about the Celebration of the Mass or any aspect of our liturgical life, please send your questions to Father Michel Mulloy, firstname.lastname@example.org.