New Words for Worship Part 23: Revised Eucharistic Prayers

New Words for Worship Part 23: Revised Eucharistic Prayers
The third edition of the Roman Missal in English currently being implemented in Australia and other English-speaking countries contains 10 Eucharistic Prayers: Eucharistic Prayers I-IV, Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation I-II and Eucharistic Prayers for use in Masses for Various Needs I-IV.
The words of the new Eucharistic Prayers offer some challenges. These explanations prepared by my colleague, Rev Dr Tom Elich, might help to make them words of worship.
Elect. In the third Eucharistic Prayer, this word is used to identify those whom God has chosen to enter the Kingdom of God. The examples which follow include the Virgin Mary, the blessed apostles, the glorious martyrs, and all the saints.
Merit to be coheirs. This phrase from the Second Eucharistic Prayer asks that we be joint heirs with the saints to eternal life. We merit this not by any work of our own, but by God’s mercy. The idea of eternal life as our inheritance is used again in the third Eucharistic Prayer (we may obtain an inheritance with your elect) and in the fourth Eucharistic Prayer (enter into a heavenly inheritance).
Oblation. An offering to God, a term closely related to ‘sacrifice’. Both can be either what is offered or the act of offering something to God. The oblation of your Church in Eucharistic Prayer III is not just the bread and wine, but the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood. Thus our offering is the same as that of the Cross when Christ offers himself to the Father. So we ask God to recognise in our offering at the altar Christ’s offering on the cross.
Order of Bishops. Holy Orders include three degrees – deacon, priest and bishop. ‘Order’ is used to name a class or rank in a hierarchy. So we say that those who are seeking baptism are part of the Order of Catechumens in the Church. As a collective noun for bishops, it expresses the unity represented by the bishops around the world – successors to the apostles – with the Bishop of Rome as the centre point. We use the term ‘collegiality’ for this shared leadership of service in the Church.
Passion. This has nothing to do with Mills-and-Boon Romantic novels. It is used in our Eucharistic Prayers as a general term encompassing the suffering and death of Christ.
Sacrifice of our Reconciliation. Sacrifice is an offering made to God, intended to establish a rapport between heaven and earth. Christ offers his life to God on the cross and, since the divine and human come together in the person of Christ, this is the ultimate act of reconciliation. ‘Reconciliation’ is one of the strongest ways of describing what Christ has done for us: this is the new covenant of love which binds us to God.
Sacrificial Victim. This is easily misunderstood today because we speak so often of victims of crime or a ‘poor-me’ victim mentality. In the Eucharistic Prayers it has a more technical sense. ‘Victim’ is closely related to sacrifice as the adjective helpfully indicates. The Latin word is actually Hostiam from which we get the word ‘host’ and is sometimes simply translated as ‘sacrifice’.


Elizabeth Harrington