The Prayer of the Church

The Prayer of the Church

The Mass provides the people of God with the regular opportunity to participate in the life of Christ through the reception of the sacraments and communal prayer. When we gather together as one people, Jesus is present with us: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18.20)

The liturgy of the Mass strengthens the primary virtues within us as we express faith in our profession and in hearing the Word proclaimed, hope in the expectation of the coming of Jesus present in the Eucharist, and love in the reception of the Bread of Life in union with Christ and with all of His Church.

The account of the risen Lord with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus prefigures the Mass in both the liturgies of the Eucharist and the Word: “While He was with them at table, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, but He vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24. 30-32) In the liturgy of the Word, the scriptures are opened to us to reveal the mystery of God. In the liturgy of the Eucharist, Christ Himself is present with us as we recognize Him in the breaking of the bread.

The word Eucharist is derived from the Greek word which means thanksgiving. The Eucharist is a celebration of thanksgiving in which we recall the victory of Jesus over death and our redemption from the slavery of sin by the grace of His mercy. In the Eucharist, we participate in this Paschal mystery as Jesus becomes fully present to us: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

Through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, Almighty Father, for ever and ever.” Through Him, with Him, and in Him, we are joined in communion with the Trinity in the mystery of the Word made Flesh as the bread and wine are consecrated into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit for the glory of the Father. Jesus is at one time, the mediator before His Father, the Sacrifice on the altar, and the Bread of Heaven which yields eternal life in those who worthily consume Him.

The time after Communion provides an important opportunity for prayer to allow Jesus to nurture His presence within us, as St Teresa of Jesus advises: “Delight to remain with Him; do not lose such an excellent time for talking with Him as the hour after Communion. Remember that this is a very profitable hour for the soul; if you spend it in the company of the good Jesus, you are doing Him a great service.” (Way of Perfection, 34.10)

From the dawn of the Church, an account of daily Christian life is provided for us: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers… Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” (Acts 2.42,46-47) The liturgy of the Mass is the cornerstone on which the sound foundation of a Christian life is built, as witnessed in the life of the early Church. We draw life for our spirits and our service from the Eucharist we celebrate and the Word we hear, as Jesus said: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” (John 6.51)

This poem celebrates the beauty of the liturgy of the Mass, which we have celebrated as a Christian people for two millennia :

People of God

The children of the Lord gather
To celebrate and pray as one,
For the glory of the Father,
In the Spirit and through His Son.

The Word builds up faith as we hear;
Our sure hope’s found in communion;
His love will spring in hearts sincere —
Receiving Him, we are as one.

In the Mass, Christ is the High Priest:
He is the One who intercedes,
He is the Eucharistic feast —
The Bread on which His people feeds.

Through Him, our salvation’s secured;
With Him, we’re united in prayer ;
In Him, our hope and life’s assured –
For in His one Body, we share.

The prayer of His church is revealed
By faith – His presence is concealed.

Holy Spirit, help us receive
The Son with our hearts well-prepared;
For the Father’s glory, conceive
The Word made Flesh in all who’ve shared. Amen.

References:

St Teresa Of Jesus, The Way of Perfection

Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 2623-2625, 2655, 2665, 2686-2690, 2767-2772

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), “The Prayer of the Church”, The Hidden Life

(c) Paul Buis, 2005