Explanation of the Mass - Liturgy of the Eucharist (Part 3)

Through a series of informational articles, we will try to explain terms, prayers, and actions that happen at Mass and why they happen.  You will learn about the prayers the priest prays silently during Mass, as well as the people’s parts.  References to GIRM in italics refer to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the book from which rites related to the Mass are codified.  We hope this information will help to make your participation in Mass more meaningful and understandable.


The Eucharistic Prayer

GIRM 78. Now the center and high point of the entire celebration begins, namely, the Eucharistic Prayer itself, that is, the prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. The Priest calls upon the people to lift up their hearts towards the Lord in prayer and thanksgiving; he associates the people with himself in the Prayer that he addresses in the name of the entire community to God the Father through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.  Furthermore, the meaning of this 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.  The Eucharistic Prayer requires that everybody listens to it with reverence and in silence.

GIRM 79. The main elements of which the Eucharistic Prayer consists may be distinguished from one another in this way:

(a)   The thanksgiving (expressed especially in the Preface), in which the Priest, in the name of the whole of the holy people, glorifies God the Father and gives thanks to him for the whole work of salvation or for some particular aspect of it, according to the varying day, festivity, or time of year.

Prayer over the Gifts

Priest:  The Lord be with you.  R/.  And with your spirit.

Priest:  Lift up your hearts.  R/.  We lift them up to the Lord.

Priest:  Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.  R/.  It is right and just.


The priest then begins an appropriate seasonal prayer that typically begins, “It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, through Christ our Lord.”  This prayer ends with language inviting us to acclaim the Holy, Holy, Holy.

(b)   The acclamation, by which the whole congregation, joining with the heavenly powers, sings the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy). This acclamation, which constitutes part of the Eucharistic Prayer itself, is pronounced by all the people with the Priest.

“Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts.  Heaven and earth are full of your glory.  Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.”  The Holy, Holy, Holy is from Revelation & Isaiah – the angels in Heaven sing this.  Hosanna Habeas means “May God Save.” 

The people kneel as a sign of respect and adoration for the remainder of the Eucharistic Prayer.  There are 10 Eucharistic Prayers from which to choose.  Father Dave usually uses #2, which begins, “You are indeed Holy, O Lord, the fount of all holiness.”

(c)    The epiclesis, in which, by means of particular invocations, the Church implores the power of the Holy Spirit that the gifts offered by human hands be consecrated, that is, become Christ’s Body and Blood, and that the unblemished sacrificial Victim to be consumed in Communion may be for the salvation of those who will partake of it.

The epiclesis (from Greek meaning “invoke upon”) includes the following by the priest:

                * Calling down of God’s Spirit upon the bread and wine

                * The words of consecration

                * Elevation of the bread and wine, now the Body and Blood of Christ

                * Genuflection in reverence and adoration after each elevation