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The Liturgy of the Eucharist: The Eucharistic Prayer (3)
Eucharistic Prayer III was composed to blend the best elements of the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) and Eucharistic Prayer II, which dates back to St. Hippolytus of Rome (ca. 215). It was drafted to be clear in its structure and easy to see the transitions in it from section to section.
“You are indeed Holy, O Lord, and all you have created rightly gives you praise…”
With the “indeed” the bishop or priest shows continuity with what was just prayed in the Preface. This part of the Eucharistic Prayer overall is a simple reiteration of why the Lord deserves our praise. The praise continues into the rest of the Eucharistic Prayer. Even if the praise is no longer explicit, we have to maintain an attitude of praise throughout.
“…by the power and working of the Holy Spirit, you give life to all things and make them holy, and you never cease to gather a people to yourself”
In recalling the work of the Holy Spirit, one reason for which we give praise, this part also acknowledges one of the most important fruits of the Holy Spirit’s work: the Church. Vatican II’s dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, taught that from all eternity God the Father wanted to convoke and gather together those would believe in his Son:
[The Father] planned to assemble in the holy Church all those who would believe in Christ….In the present era of time the Church was constituted and, by the outpouring of the Spirit, was made manifest. At the end of time it will gloriously achieve completion, when, as is read in the Fathers, all the just, from Adam and “from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,” will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church (LG 2).
This convocation goes beyond the present moment of the visible Church. It goes beyond her present and visible social boundaries to refer to all those already saved and all those who will, at the end of their earthly lives, be saved. Everyone saved is saved by Jesus Christ, therefore even those who lived before the foundation of the Church were called and through their faith in the Christ, the Messiah, were saved by him.
In this part of the prayer we’re reminded that we answer this call through living a holy life. The Holy Spirit, as the Lord and giver of life, enables us to do that through the sacraments and through pouring out grace upon us, and in a moment we’ll be asking the Holy Spirit to help us once again.
“so that from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.”
This convocation and gathering has a goal. Believers throughout the world permeate creation with praise for God. Celebrations of the Eucharist are offered in different places, different time zones, and at different times, “from the rising of the sun to its setting.” This language is taken from the prophet Malachi:
For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts (Malachi 1:11).
Malachi in his prophesy is actually criticizing Israel for corrupt and heartless worship. Sacrificial worship was only offered at that time in one place, Jerusalem, at the Temple, so when he refers to everywhere and throughout the day here he is referring to a spiritual worship: the worship of believers throughout the world praying worthily and from the heart.
The Church fulfills this prophesy, which is why Lumen Gentium also makes reference to this passage (cf. LG 9). This part of the prayer not only praises the Lord for gathering us together as his Church, but also reminds us that same Church is striving throughout the world to offer a pure sacrifice to his name, whether spiritually (through our prayers and sacrifices) or sacramentally (through the Eucharist).
The Liturgy of the Hours (or Divine Office) sanctifies each moment of the day even when the Church is not celebrating the Eucharist; it is also a liturgy, but not even that is strictly necessary for a believer to offer praise and worship to God. Even when we are not participating in sacramental worship or the Liturgy of the Hours we can sanctify our day and praise God through prayer and Christian living. Each moment is an opportunity to praise God through how we live. In that way we please God just as so many souls did at the time of Malachi and so many souls continue to do from here to eternity.
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