EUCHARISTIC PRAYER I:
Part 1: The Preface
We begin this week in our study of Eucharist Prayer I by examining the Preface. At this point in the Holy Mass the priest has already given thanks to God for the gifts of bread and wine and has ceremonially washed his hands in preparation for consecration. He turns to the people and exclaims, “The Lord be with you”, as the people respond by saying, “And with your spirit.” This gesture is made to insure that we recognize and acknowledge that the priest, as our representative towards God, and ourselves are unified and in this together, in peace. He then exclaims, “Lift up your hearts”, as we proclaim, “We lift them up to the Lord”. To the degree of the love which we bring to the altar is the degree by which we benefit from the graces about to be received. By “lifting our hearts to the Lord” we acknowledge that our hearts, the very center of our being, is ready to encounter the living God. The priest then says, “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God”, while we answer with, “It is right and just.” Here, we humble ourselves and recognize that God is the Creator and we, the creature. It is “right” to give thanks to our Creator for what we’re about to receive and “just” because in justice we give to God His rightful due.
The following prayer changes day-by-day according to the particular feast day or liturgical season. However, it is always similar to this: “It is truly right and just, our duty and salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father most holy, through your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, your Word through whom you made all things, whom you sent as our Savior and Redeemer, incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin. Fulfilling your will and gaining for you a holy people, he stretched out his hands as he endured his Passion, so as to break the bonds of death and manifest the resurrection. And so, with the Angels and all the Saints we declare your glory, as with one voice we acclaim:” This is an expression of sheer praise. We recognize the true sovereignty of God by acknowledging each of the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity and Their role in our salvation, and we give Them Their rightful due in pure worship.
What follows is the “Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus …,” or “Holy, Holy, Holy … “. Since the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass transcends all space and time we utter these words of Scripture alongside the angels which are present and we all fall to our knees before our King and Lord. We will continue with the Preface next week and learn about the following prayer, the prayer of Thanksgiving.