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THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: Eucharistic Prayer III (8)
Through the intercessions of the Eucharistic Prayer we express that our celebration is done in communion with the whole Church, both on earth and in Heaven, and is offered for her and for all her members, living and dead. We express our communion, we strive to exchange spiritual goods, and we make intercession so that the whole world can also benefit from those goods.
“May he make of us an eternal offering to you, so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect, … with all the Saints, on whose constant intercession in your presence we rely for unfailing help.”
We express our communion with the saints in Heaven, and we ask for their intercession so that one day we may be with them in eternity: we ask for help to be holy and to be saved. The liturgy is not just celebrated on earth; it is also celebrated in Heaven and we unite in worship and intercession with our brothers and sisters who have passed from this earth into glory.
“May this Sacrifice of our reconciliation, we pray, O Lord, advance the peace and salvation of all the world.”
Through the sacrifice of Christ Paul’s exhortation is fulfilled: “We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:20–21).
The Eucharist, Christ’s sacrifice, has reconciled us to God, and we pray that this work of reconciliation to God continues and extends to the whole world. We asked for the intercession of the saints; now we too intercede for the whole world so that they one day will be saved and enjoy eternity.
Our Lord teaches us to reconcile with others before we approach the altar with our offering, so we should examine ourselves to see whether we have reconciled with others: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23–24).
This is one of the reasons why later in the celebration we exchange a sign of peace. We strive to be reconciled to God and reconciled with others.
“Be pleased to confirm in faith and charity your pilgrim Church on earth, with your servant N. our Pope and N. our Bishop, the Order of Bishops, all the clergy, and the entire people you have gained for your own.”
We express our communion with the whole Church on earth. The priest celebrating the Eucharist is doing so on behalf of the local bishop (or the bishop himself), and the local bishop is exercising the ministry that he has received from Christ through Holy Orders and carries out in communion with the Pope and other bishops, in a diocese or other area of ministry determined by the Pope. Through the local bishop and the Pope the entire communion is expressed, since between them they represent all the believers in the Church on earth, but we also remember the order of Bishops, clergy, and the entire People of God. We are the pilgrim Church, members of the Church who here on earth are on pilgrimage toward the Promised Land of Heaven. With this prayer we express Catholic communion.
We know that not every Christian on earth shares full communion with the Catholic Church, therefore while we express our Catholic unity and communion we should also pray in this moment for Christian unity when all Christians throughout the world will be able to celebrate the Eucharist together. For Catholics there is no greater expression of communion than to fully participate in the same celebration of the Eucharist.
“Listen graciously to the prayers of this family, whom you have summoned before you: in your compassion, O merciful Father, gather to yourself all your children scattered throughout the world.”
The children we mention here can be understood in the metaphorical sense as all those souls in need of salvation and not pursuing it, but it can also refer to those Christians who have fallen away from the faith and are now scattered by sin. We pray for the conversion of sinners, so that they come home. We ask the Father, like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), to help sinners come to their true home: the Father’s house. This is the moment to remember those people we know in a dark place due to sin, not just fallen away Christians, but all sinners.
We also pray that those scattered and afflicted by evil in the world, even if they haven’t committed it, receive help from their Father, and us, to come to the safety of home again.
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