The Eucharistic Prayer: the Church's greatest prayer
What congregations say and hear at Mass will change with the revised English translation of the Roman Missal, but the meaning of what Catholic theologians call the greatest prayer of the Church is unchanged.
The Eucharistic Prayer, heard in the middle of every liturgy around the world, recalls the saving mystery of Jesus' death and resurrection and is the highest point of the Mass, said Monsignor Joseph DeGrocco, professor of liturgy and director of liturgical formation at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, N.Y.
The revised translation does not change what's happening during Mass, especially during the consecration, Monsignor DeGrocco said. It just brings the words said closer to the literal Latin translation.
"We believe that when the Church prays the Eucharistic Prayer, that mystery is actually made present," he said.
"Within that prayer, as part of that making present the mystery, the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ."
Various forms of the Eucharistic Prayer will continue to be used throughout the year, depending on liturgical seasons and special occasions, Monsignor DeGrocco said.
Each form expresses the essential beliefs of the Church, but emphasizes different aspects of the theology, he said.
In addition to four principal Eucharistic Prayers, Eucharistic Prayer forms exist for Masses of reconciliation and Masses for various needs and occasions.
Essentially the priest is free to choose whichever prayer he wants to use, but there are guidelines and aspects of good liturgical practice and theology that make some prayers more appropriate at times than others.
Each of the expressions of Eucharistic Prayer offers an emphasis, said Eileen Burke-Sullivan, S.T.D., assistant professor of Pastoral and Systematic Theology and director of the Master of Arts in Ministry Program at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb.
By listening to the different Eucharistic Prayers throughout the year, people gain a better understanding of our beliefs.
"The way the prayers are written gives a sense of why and when; they help the assembly to understand more fully how it is called to act more fully in the person of Christ," she said.
—Lisa Maxson, USCCB
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