June 25, 2017
Why are we using the Eucharistic Prayer printed in the Order of Service and where does it come from?
The current Eucharistic Prayer being used for this summer is Prayer C in Rite 2 and begins on page 369 in the BCP. It is different from our usual prayers, 1, 2, A and B. Characteristic of all those prayers, which emanate from Roman rite prayers, Prayer C adopts forms which are more common in Eastern rites.
Among those characteristics is no provision for a proper preface geared to the theological emphasis of a particular Sunday. Proper prefaces can be found in the BCP, by season and occasion, beginning on page 344 for Rite 1 and page 377 for Rite 2. The fixed preface in C covers many of the same topics of the prefaces for prayers A and B. There is special emphasis on creation, more than in any other Prayer, including D, there is a reference to the fall with a penitential petition, there are responses from the people to many parts of the prayer, there is a reminder of the Old Testament drama of God calling his people back into relationship, and the summary of salvation history climaxes with the proclamation of the incarnation and atonement.
Unlike the other prayers in Rite 1 and 2, this prayer places the oblation and epiclesis of the elements (i.e.-- "And so, Father, we . . . Sanctify them by your Holy Spirit to be. . .) before the institution narrative (i.e.--On the night he was betrayed he took bread. . . After supper, he took the cup of wine. . .). This is the pattern of the Roman Rite, even today. The epiclesis (which is the calling of the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine) is more direct and clear in this prayer than in others.
Additionally, in the penultimate stanza, where the people identify the God before whom they give praise and worship, both the pre-Mosaic identifier, or name, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as the church identifier, God of our Lord Jesus Christ, are used and connect the narrative of salvation history across the story-lines of Judaism and Christianity.
In the final stanza of the prayer, the doxology begins: accept these prayers and praises, Father, through Jesus Christ our great high priest echoes the prayer included in the BCP 1549, the first Book of Common Prayer, and it refers to the letter to the Hebrews 4:14, where Jesus is both sacrifice and sacrifice.
Prayer C, therefore, is a rich prayer and especially well used in the season after Pentecost, or as Bishop Shannon told us, the part of the year specifically devoted to the people and our work before God in salvation history. This Sunday, as we read of Abraham and Sarah, we can embrace the tale told in this prayer as consistent with our worship in this time.
The Rev. David Lucey