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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: Eucharistic Prayer III (7)
“… we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.”
Along with an anamnesis where we remember what Our Lord said and did we offer his Body and Blood. Our Lord is being remembered, and he also being offered, now sacramentally. Now we are offering him and, hopefully, united to him in a profound way. Just as Our Lord was alive when he instituted the Eucharist during the Last Supper we offer him now not dead, but alive. We offer him risen, glorified, ascended, and at the right hand of the Father. Through his divinity, but also through his humanity, through what he experienced on earth and in how he responded to everything that was thrown at him, he is a holy sacrifice, a sacrifice pleasing to His Father and he lets us offer him for our benefit as well.
“ Look, we pray, upon the oblation of your Church and, recognizing the sacrificial Victim by whose death you willed to reconcile us to yourself, …”
That profound union with Christ in this moment of oblation and offering is what we are: the Church. The Head (Jesus) and the Body (us) of the Church are united in offering the sacrificial victim who reconciled us with God and enabled us to be in communion with him. We wouldn’t be reconciled with God or able to offer anything at all if not for the very sacrificial victim we offer to God the Father in this moment. Like children offering Our Father a gift that our big brother helped us to pick we stand before the Father with the Son’s help.
“… grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ. …”
However, offering the Son in this moment goes even deeper than just cashing in on our big brother’s windfall. We are united so deeply to the Son that when the Father looks upon us he sees us, the Church, as his Son, united in what the Church has tried to fathom by understanding herself as the Mystical Body of Christ.
A new invocation of the Holy Spirit at this point of the Eucharistic Prayer is considered by many to be another epiclesis, just as one was made over the offerings just before the institution account. We are going to consume the sacrifice we are now offering to the Father, and we hope that through receiving Communion we’ll become more deeply united in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. Through that union we too become an offering that is more pleasing to God, but only if we welcome Our Lord’s action and the Holy Spirit’s.
If we’re nourished by the Son and filled with his Spirit in this moment of the celebration of the Eucharist we are not just spectators while the priest or bishop is offering Christ as the sacrificial victim; we are offering ourselves. Not many of us will be handed over, tortured, and executed in offering ourselves as Our Lord was, but being open to whatever the Lord asks of us in this moment and in every moment of our lives is a true spiritual sacrifice that makes us a pleasing offering to the Father as well. That openness is what shows that we are nourished by Our Lord and filled with his Spirit.