When we pray, many of us close our eyes and bow our heads, perhaps to block out any distractions that might prevent us from lifting up our minds and hearts fully to our Father. Some might even look up or raise their hands when they pray — literally lifting aspects of their physical bodies toward God.
This tendency to raise up — to lift our minds and bodies — during prayer is natural and logical, especially at the Mass, when we also raise our awareness of being in the presence of the divine.
The liturgy is that singular time and place when and where God’s people come together to be lifted up by prayer and united in communion. In Scripture, we are told “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom 12:1). And this happens in a totally unique way at the holy Eucharist. At Mass, the body and blood of Christ are lifted up and offered to the Father. You are a member of the Body of Christ, so you are part of what is lifted up and offered at each and every Mass!
People who do not attend Mass often say, “I can pray on my own.” Though this is certainly true, private prayer never takes the place of the worshipping community at prayer in the sacred liturgy. At Mass, you are being united to the sacrifice of Jesus; you are being strengthened in the bond of communion with the entire body of Christ. Simply put, it’s just not the same when you’re not there.
Remember that, by virtue of his ordination, the priest offers the eucharistic prayer on behalf of the people of God. The priest addresses the words of the eucharistic prayer to the Father, as he stands in the person of Christ, the son (in persona Christi).
How do we know that we, too, are being lifted up as part of the sacrifice of the Mass when the priest offers to the Father the body and blood of Christ? Listen closely to these portions of the eucharistic prayers the next time you are at Mass and allow yourself to be offered up along with them.
Make these words part of your own prayer as you prepare yourself for Mass. For it is Jesus himself who is waiting to lift you up to the Lord, to raise your mind and heart to the Father and to unite your gift of self with his own perfect sacrifice.
Eucharistic Prayer I (The Roman Canon)
“… that all of us, who through this participation at the altar receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son, may be filled with every grace and heavenly blessing.”
In the Old Testament, the sacrifices offered at the temple were said to be completed when the family who provided the sacrifice received a portion of it back to celebrate a communal meal. The Eucharist is the same for us. We offer ourselves along with the bread and wine at Mass, but then we receive back something better than what we offered in the first place: the true body and blood of Christ.
Lord Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, grant me the grace and heavenly blessing to become what I receive at Mass.
Eucharistic Prayer II
“Humbly we pray that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.”
When the Eucharist is divided and distributed, it actually has the effect of uniting and gathering us! This is the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the church to bring us into communion with (i.e., to be one with) one another. If the church is the body of Christ, then the Holy Spirit is the soul of the body.
Lord Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, fill me with your Spirit as I unite myself to you and my brothers and sisters at Mass.
Eucharistic Prayer III
“May he make of us an eternal offering to you, so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect.”
Jesus offered himself perfectly, once for all, to the Eternal Father on the cross. The Mass makes this perfect offering present and invites us to make an offering of ourselves the only way we can: with and through Jesus himself. We can do this because, as the Letter to the Hebrews says, Jesus “… is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.” (7:25)
Lord Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, help me to make a perfect offering of myself along with you at Mass.
Eucharistic Prayer IV
“… grant in your loving kindness to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice that, gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit, they may truly become a living sacrifice in Christ to the praise of your glory.”
A sacrifice is the handing over of something precious to another. It is no sacrifice to give up something we do not need or do not want, or that means nothing to us. It is an entirely different thing to give up something precious and valuable. St. Paul told the Romans to “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). We actually become part of the worship at Mass when we offer the precious gift of ourselves to the Father in union with the precious body and blood of Christ.
Lord Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, I want to place myself on the altar along with you, so that through you and with you, I might be pleasing to the Father.
Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I
“Look kindly, most compassionate Father, on those you unite to yourself by the Sacrifice of your Son.”
The sacrifice of Jesus unites and reconciles us to the Father. At the cross, death guarantees life, defeat turns to victory, and wounds become the means to heal.
Lord Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, unite my wounded human heart to your wounded sacred heart, and teach me how to make a gift of my life to the Father.
Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II
“Holy Father, we humbly beseech you to accept us also, together with your Son, and in this saving banquet graciously to endow us with his very Spirit.”
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom
you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20).
Lord Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, nourish me with your body and blood and strengthen me by the grace of your Spirit to do the Father’s will.
Eucharistic Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions
“Look with favor on the oblation of your Church, in which we show forth the paschal Sacrifice of Christ that has been handed on to us, and grant that, by the power of the Spirit of your love, we may be counted now and until the day of eternity among the members of your Son, in whose Body and Blood we have communion.”
On Trinity Sunday, we pray: “The Father is Love, the Son is grace, the Holy Spirit is their bond of fellowship; O blessed Trinity.” The grace of this divine love is given to each of us in baptism and strengthened and renewed each time we receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
Lord Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist, strengthen the bond of communion between all the members of the church and keep us bound together by the spirit of your love, until the day when you call us to the Father’s house. Amen.