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Lifting Our Hearts in the Eucharistic Prayer

The most solemn part of the Mass is the Eucharistic Prayer. Eucharist means thanksgiving. Yet, it is a bit strange that there is not a lot of giving thanks in the Eucharistic Prayer. It is mostly about the sacrifice of Jesus and about intercessions for various persons and needs.

However, this prayer does begin with thanksgiving. We and the priest engage in a very solemn, very ancient, and usually sung, dialogue. The normal, “The Lord be with you”, and “With your spirit”, starts it off. But then it gets interesting. We are told to ”Lift up your hearts.” We have just brought forth the bread and wine and now we are to be fully engaged in the offering which is to take place, including our hearts. And so, we say, “We lift them up to the Lord.”

And what is it that we are to do? “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God,” sings the priest. And we respond, “It is right and just.” Here is clearly stated our duty, our duty to praise and thank God for all the great blessings given us. This is an obligation we gladly take on because we are so grateful for these gifts. One of the best gifts has been the Scriptures we heard proclaimed and the preaching which has enfleshed those proclamations.

Then there are three parts of the sung Preface. First of all, we can only give such praise and thanks through Jesus. He is the avenue of all the graces which have come to us and so too he is the means for us to approach the Father with our prayers. We don’t often think about this. The Eucharistic Prayer is offered to the Father, but it is only because of Jesus that we are able to do this.

Secondly, the Preface then usually speaks of how Jesus has achieved this open door for us. It is by his death and resurrection. The actual way in which any of the many Prefaces state this may vary, but it is again always clear that this was achieved by Christ.

Finally, the Preface joins our praise and thanks to that of the Angels and Saints in Heaven. We are never alone in this duty of worship. We are, of course, linked up with one another. But we also are joined by a great heavenly host. The Letter to the Hebrews expresses why this is so helpful: “Therefore, we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

It is then that heaven and earth join in singing “Holy, Holy, Holy.” This prayer of Thanksgiving, so clear in the Preface, now moves into the consecration and prayers of intercession reminding us of the great things God has done and the great things we ask that He keep doing in our midst.