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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon) (15)
Author’s note: for other spiritual reflections on the last part of the Roman Canon, see The Liturgy of the Eucharist: Eucharistic Prayer III (10).
“Through him, and with him, and in him…”
The last few prayers of the Roman Canon remind us that the celebration of the Eucharist, and all our worship, is done through Christ. At one point in history the phrase, “Through Christ Our Lord” was added at the end of almost every segment of the Roman Canon, and these reminders still exist in parentheses as an option during the celebration of the Eucharist.
St. Paul reminded St. Timothy that God wants all to be saved, and he wants them to be saved through Christ: “[God our Savior] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2:3–6).
Our Lord’s Incarnation itself established a mediation between God and man. In one Person divine and human nature could experience a wondrous exchange of spiritual goods, and Our Lord assumed a human nature to restore that exchange. Human nature, due to sin, had become an impoverished beggar on the verge of death, because its first members, Adam and Eve, had lost their divine gifts due to their folly. Those gifts were meant for all humanity, past, present, and future, not just them.
Our Lord was literally born to mediate. In Eastern Christian theology and mysticism it is described as man becoming divinized (theosis) through the grace of Christ: through this mediation divine nature heals and restores human nature, but also transforms that human nature into something it never was before: a son or daughter of God, filled with the theological virtues and able to grow in grace and to be shaped more and more into the image of Christ in order to better reflect the image and likeness of God.
As St. Paul describes it: “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:15–17).
One man’s “trespass” (Adam, committing the Original Sin) brought death into the world, ushered in “many trespasses” and brought condemnation upon himself and everyone who came after him. Our Lord, in his Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection, not only made atonement for that “trespass” of which he was never guilty, but also enabled us to establish and grow in a communion of life and love with God, filled with divine life.
With this mediation in mind it should be no surprise that the Amen at the end of the Roman Canon is also called the great Amen. The bishop or priest is holding up the one Mediator in that moment and praising God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–for granting us divine life. Whenever you hear the closing prayer “Through Christ Our Lord,” keep this mediation and gift in mind.