As we continue our examination of the Service of Holy Eucharist in the 2019 BCP we have come to the Prayer of Consecration. Following the congregation’s singing or saying the Sanctus a pause comes over the congregation in a moment of solemnity as we kneel or reverently stand and the priest begins the Prayer of Consecration. This prayer unfolds in several parts beginning with a recounting of the gospel and the Epiclesis.
In our reverence we are mystically gathered with Christ and the disciples in the upper room and reminded of the Good News – the Gospel! God offered his only begotten son as a once-for-all-time perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. And we are reminded that Jesus commanded his disciples, and all of us, to continue this sacred meal regularly “remembering” what Christ did and does. It is in this “remembering” that this moment in time two thousand years ago moves from the past to the present.
In the second paragraph, the priest, speaking for all the faithful gathered, calls on God the Holy Spirit to infuse the elements of bread and wine, mystically transforming them into the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. At this moment the bread and wine maintain all the properties of bread and wine but at the same time become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. How this happens cannot be understood with the mind but only accepted and received by faith.
The Prayer of Consecration
The People stand or kneel. The Celebrant continues
All praise and glory is yours, O God our heavenly Father, for in your tender mercy, you gave your only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption. He made there, by his one oblation of himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world; and he instituted, and in his Holy Gospel commanded us to continue, a perpetual memory of his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again.
And now, O merciful Father, in your great goodness, we ask you to bless and sanctify, with your Word and Holy Spirit, these gifts of bread and wine, that we, receiving them according to your Son our Savior Jesus Christ’s holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood.
( This paragraph does not occur in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, but ecumenical consensus expects its use.)
It should be noted that the prayer of epiclesis, Greek for invocation, was not a part of the 1662 BCP feeling it too “Romish.” However, as the pendulum swung to the more “protestant” side of things in the Reformation it later swung back towards the “catholic” side during the Oxford Movement of the late nineteenth century. In the middle of the twentieth century across the Anglican Communion developed a consensus that the epiclesis was normative, and that this transformation of bread and wine to body and blood really is a mystical work of the Holy Spirit.
I pray you every blessing this week as we begin the season of Lent.