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The Liturgy of the Eucharist: Eucharistic Prayer III
“Therefore, O Lord, we humbly implore you: by the same Spirit graciously make holy these gifts we have brought to you for consecration,…”
The Eucharistic Prayer continues with the Epiclesis, where the priest or bishop extends his hands over the gifts being offered and begs the Father to send the Holy Spirit so that the offerings can be sanctified in preparation for becoming the Body and Blood of Christ (see Catechism, 1105). Each sacrament is powered by the Holy Spirit, and in this moment we’re asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit so that in a moment he can transubstantiate the sanctified offerings into Christ’s Body and Blood.
One of the ways of envisioning the Holy Spirit is fire. Fire transforms whatever it touches (see Catechism, 696). Elijah called down fire from Heaven upon the altar he had built to consume the offering he made at Mt. Carmel (see 1 Kings 18:38–39). The Holy Spirit doesn’t consume in this moment; he transforms. As the Catechism describes it, “As fire transforms into itself everything it touches, so the Holy Spirit transforms into the divine life whatever is subjected to his power” (n.1127).
When the offerings “catch fire” that flame is meant to spread; the transforming fire will also sanctify us when we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. In this moment the sanctifying fire of the Holy Spirit is not just called down upon the altar, but upon all those participating in the celebration.
“… that they may become the Body and Blood of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ,…”
The bishop or priest makes the sign of the Cross over the offerings as he says these words, a reminder that each Person of the Holy Trinity is involved in what is about to take place:
[The sacraments] are efficacious because in them Christ himself is at work: it is he who baptizes, he who acts in his sacraments in order to communicate the grace that each sacrament signifies. The Father always hears the prayer of his Son’s Church which, in the epiclesis of each sacrament, expresses her faith in the power of the Spirit (Catechism, 1127).
We express our faith in the power of the Spirit through the epiclesis. We don’t see this transformation, but in faith we know the Father answers our plea to send His Spirit.
“…at whose command we celebrate these mysteries.”
We don’t just pray in the celebration of the Eucharist, we obey. The Lord commanded us to do this in memory of him (see Luke 22:19). We have obeyed, and in a moment we will remember him in a way that brings him sacramentally among us.