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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon) (11)
“In humble prayer we ask you, almighty God: command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your divine majesty, …”
In Christian art there is a recurring theme of an angel at the foot of Christ’s Cross on Calvary holding out a chalice to catch his Precious Blood as it drips to the earth. In some depictions that angel is bearing the chalice toward Heaven. The celebrant in this moment of Mass bows as we all pray that spiritually the offering of Christ’s Body and Blood may be presented to the Father.
The origins of this prayer are lost in time, and the “holy Angel” in this prayer may also refer to Our Lord himself. When he offered himself on the Cross and died he bore his own flesh and blood into eternity as an offering to the Heavenly Father. He is now alive and glorious in the Heavenly liturgy that continues for all eternity. Even as we ask that the gifts be taken to Heaven Our Father looks upon the gift of his Son on our behalf.
We can’t take our offerings to Heaven personally, until the last day of our earthly life when we take our self-offering to Judgment and, by God’s grace, glory. Everything we do should also be lived in a spirit of offering to the Heavenly Father through his Son. It’s a good moment to see whether something we’re doing with our life wouldn’t be a pleasing offering as well.
These gifts are shocking if we forget that Our Lord said to do this in memory of him. On Calvary Our Lord was executed for our crimes, not his own, and now we present him to his Father hoping that it will please him. Can you think of any father who would be pleased by such a horrible thing? The only Father who fits the mold is a Father who knows that his Son offered himself out of love for those who are now entreating his mercy, and appreciate the sacrifice of Father and Son. It’s no wonder the celebrant keeps his head bowed in this moment; our hearts should be just as contrite.
“…so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son, may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.”
The celebrant in this moment stands straight after his bow and makes the Sign of the Cross, just as we usually do when someone imparts a blessing upon us. We make the Sign the Cross upon receiving a blessing because we know the Most Holy Trinity is the source of all grace and blessing, no matter who invokes it upon us.
In this moment of the Eucharist we all hope that the Lord is showering down his grace and blessing upon us. However, our hope in this moment is that the grace and blessing will come through receiving Our Lord in the Eucharist. The greatest grace and blessing is communion with God; communion with God is nourished and strengthened by receiving him in the Eucharist.