Our Lenten exploration of the first Eucharistic Prayer brings us this week to the central words of Christ, what we call the Consecration. This is the vital core of the whole Mass—the moment when Christ becomes present in the Eucharistic Species. What began as bread and wine become, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Body and Blood of Jesus. I struggle to restrain myself from ending every sentence of this reflection with exclamation points; this is the most exciting thing we can possibly do in this life! This timeless Mystery truly is the source and summit of our Christian life.
The gestures of the priest are the same gestures that have been used for centuries. He lays his hands over the gifts of bread and wine and invokes the Holy Spirit upon them. He takes the bread in his hands and recounts and imitates the words and actions of Jesus at the Last Supper. In this powerful moment, the priest acts in the person of Jesus Christ as he recites the words Jesus said at that first Eucharist with his disciples.
This action brings us into that moment in time with Jesus. Jesus’ words transcended time as He said: “This is my Body which will be given up for you…This is the chalice of my Blood” Not only do these words link the Eucharist He celebrated at the Last Supper to the sacrifice of His Body on the Cross, but they also link that first Eucharist with the Eucharist we celebrate at each and every Mass. Time itself cannot limit the power of Jesus in the Eucharist.
Our English language translation of Jesus’ words, “Do this in memory of me,” can barely scratch the surface of such a profound mystery. We do not merely remember Christ’s Sacrifice; we participate fully in it! We take and eat, take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus which is really, truly, substantially present in the Eucharist. In receiving Jesus in the Eucharist we fulfill the very purpose for our existence: union with God.
With Christ now fully Present in the Eucharist, the priest genuflects before the Presence of Jesus and proclaims the Eucharist well to be: “The mystery of faith.” This is the single most significant and meaningful event in human history, now made present before us on the altar. Our response is no less profound as we sing (yes SING!) what ought to be the mission statement of every Christian life: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.”
Believe this. Love this. Do this. The Liturgy is our life.