Eucharistic Prayer I

After the consecration, the prayers says, “we pray that your angel may take this sacrifice to your altar in heaven, Then as we receive from this altar the sacred body and blood of your Son, let us be filled with every grace and blessing” …

This statement fascinates me. One day ta Mass the reading just struck me and I befan to wonder about it’s meaning.

What sacrifice does the angel take to heaven? The sacrifice of Jesus dying on the cross? The sacrifices and offerings we bring to Mass? Does the angel take the the consecrated bread and wine and offer it to God on our behalf and then return to to our altar so that we can receive the graces and blessings?

And who is the angel? It is not taken by a multitude of angels because the word in singular. Is it St, Michael who takes the consecrated body and blood of our Lord? An angel is a messenger. Is it Jesus Himself who offers the sacrifice to the Father?

Yeah, that part was always sort of…I dunno…theologically unexact. More poetic than anything. Because of course, Jesus as High Priest is already in the Holy of Holies in heaven offering the sacrifice, and the accidents certainly remain at our altar…so…

The only thing I can think of is that “sacrifice” which traditionalists hate because it is so “protestant”: the sacrifice of prayer and praise that accompanies the mass.

I just took a liturgical history course last semester in which we spoke briefly about this, but I can’t remember what the consensus view was on the exact nature of the sacrifice born aloft by the angel. I DO seem to remember, however, that in Ambrose’s account of the Roman Canon (he presents it as his attempt to follow the Roman customs, so he’s not saying it’s his version of the prayer) the text referred to angels - plural.

The context seems to indicate the sacrifice of the Eucharist in the Body and Blood, not merely a sacrifice of praise. The prayer immediately before speaks of the “offerings” of Issac and Abel - both persons who were doomed to die in sorrow (though Isaac was spared). This would indicate that the “offering” this angel is “taking” is also a person - Christ, who was slaughtered for our transgressions.

As far as “taking”, of course it does not mean that the bread disappears. It is a metaphysical transportation beyond space/time whereby the Sacrifice on our altar is merged with the one, timeless sacrifice of Christ who is perpetually interceding for us before the throne of the Father. Angels were seen in Jewish thought as the spirits behind every motion, actions, and inspiration on earth, so it is natural to see early Christians referring to an angel being the mechanism whereby the Holy Eucharist is “merged” with the Heavenly Sacrifice.

This is my take, anyway. My theological terms may not be exact, but it seems to make sense.

I think a quick peak at Trent to remind us about the Holy sactifice of the mass

… He, therefore, our God and Lord, though He was about to offer Himself once on the altar of the cross unto God the Father, by means of his death, there to operate an eternal redemption; nevertheless, because that His priesthood was not to be extinguished by His death, in the last supper, on the night in which He was betrayed,–that He might leave, to His own beloved Spouse the Church, a visible sacrifice, such as the nature of man requires, whereby that bloody sacrifice, once to be accomplished on the cross, might be represented…

…For the victim (Christ) is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different. …

Trent Session XXII

My comment below…

The Priest is “re-presenting” the one and finial sacrafice of Christ to the Father in an unbloody manner but what is blows me away is that in a very real way that we are sitting at the foot of the cross – no different than it was almost 2000 years ago.

A brief reading of this prayer, “Supplices te rogamus,” will convince us that here we are face to face with a prayer of apocalyptical vision, understood more easily by the blessed and the angels in heaven than by us mortals here below. Undoubtably many attempts have been made to explain heavenly ideas with earthly words, and some interpreters take one point of view while others take a different one, but the explanation that gives us probably the best insight into this mystical prayer is that of St. Thomas Aquinas. With the sole exception of a brief explanation of the preceding prayer, “Supra quae,” this prayer, of all the prayers of the Canon after the Consecration, led the Angelic Doctor to give, in his Summa, a more detailed discussion, for the difficulties involved stimulated the Doctor of the Schools to give us a carefully worked out interpretation. He comments as follows:

“The priest does not pray that the sacramental species may be borne up to heaven; nor that Christ’s true body may be borne thither, for it does not cease to be there; but he offers this prayer for Christ’s mystical body, which is signified in this sacrament, that the angel standing by at the divine mysteries may present to God the prayers of both priest and people, according to the Apocalypse, ‘And the smoke of incense of the prayers of the saints ascended up before God from the hand of the angel.’ (Apocalypse 8:4) But God’s altar on high means either the Church triumphant, unto which we pray to be translated, or else God Himself, in whom we ask to share; because it is said of this altar, ‘Thou shall not go up by steps unto My altar,’ i.e., thou shall make no steps towards the Trinity. (Exodus 20:26) Or else by the angel we are to understand Christ Himself, who is the Angel of great council (Isaias 9:6), who unites His mystical body with God the Father and the Church Triumphant.” (Summa theol., IIIa, q.83, a.4, ad 9.)

In these few words the Angelic Doctor says all that may be said regarding the meaning of this prayer. He leaves us free to favor one or the other interpretation. However, apart from the discussion of the words, this prayer contains a certain aspect that is not easy to express in earthly language, for, its meaning is in the spheres of heaven, far beyond the reach of earthly comprehension. Its meaning approaches the most sacred precincts of the heavenly courts, and penetrates into the regions where angels dwell. Here the most blessed spirits hover before the presence of the divine Majesty, singing hymns of praise and adoration to the name of God, and, here in the celestial sanctuary, angels chant the glories of God forever. Here, in the holy of holies, the melodies of the angelic choir re-echo through all eternity.

Good post.

The Mass represents the New Covenant with God while preserving parts of the Old Covenant, where sacrifices of your best offspring, both human and animal, were used to pray to and to worship God. Part of the sacrifice was eaten by the priest to solidify/confirm that this was indeed his special offering/sacrifice to God. Did I say that right?

Also, and as an aside, don’t forget the tabernacle, which is also part of the Old Covenant with God, but is still preserved today in a special place in each church.

The Lamb of the OT sacrifice was also eaten after it was offered to God – Much like the Holy Eucharist is at Mass

I also understand that when a Jewish Priest entered the Holy of Holies , a rope was tied to them that , in case he would die or collapse , they could be pulled out rather than layity to set foot on such holy ground to retrieve him. This evolved to no laymen beyond the alter rail. Although ropes are no longer tied to our priest, The serious of their actions is well understood ( yet another example of what was lost Post VII with all the tom foolery going on at the alter with a unruley mob of laity and comedian priests)

Ergo memores gloriosissimae ejus passionis et ab inferis resurrectionis et in coelum ascensionis offerimus tibi hanc immaculatam hostiam, rationabilem hostiam, incruentam hostiam, hunc panem sanctum et calicem vitae aeternae et petimus et precamur, ut hanc oblationem suscipias in sublimi altari per manus angelorum tuorum, sicut suscipere dignatus es munera pueri tui justi Abel et sacrificium patriarchae nostri Abrahae et quod tibi obtulit summus sacerdos Melchisedech

Therefore in remembrance of His most glorious passion and resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, we offer to you this spotless victim, reasonable victim, unbloody victim, the Holy Bread and Chalice of eternal Life, and we beseech and pray that you would receive this oblation on your altar on high by the hands of your angels, as you received the gifts of your just servant Abel, and the sacrifice of our father Abraham, and that which your high priest Melchizedech offered to you

As can be seen it is more of an offering prayer in this case. Understod in that context it may make more sense. What many commentators have remarked on this passage is that just as the faithful are encouraged to offer the Body and Blood of Christ, and moreover to unite ourselves and our thoughts, dispositions, prayers, concerns, etc. so the prayer can be understood as a request for the angels to help us perfect our offering. Our prayers and intentions are perfected by uniting them to Christ. One manual for example, exhorts the readers as follows:

We know at least that there are as many angels in the church as there are people, because every one has his guardian angel at his side to aid him in his prayers and to adore with him Christ present upon the altar. Where fore see that thou ask thy guardian angel to hear Mass with thee and for thee, and in thy name to worship the divine victim, to offer Him to God, to implore His grace. Thus what is wanting on thy part will be made good by him, and the holy sacrifice will be more acceptable to God Almighty.

And St. John Crysostom says (secondary source):

When the priest at the altar offers the stupendous and sublime sacrifice, the angels stand beside him, and all around the altar are ranged choirs of heavenly spirits, who raise their voices in honour of the victim who is immolated. Thus it is not lowly mortals alone who call upon God: the angels kneel be fore Him, the archangels plead on behalf of men. It is their most accepted time; the sacred victim may be said to be at their disposal. Through Him they urge their petitions. We may imagine them speaking in this way: We pray, O Lord God, for those whom Thy Son loved so tenderly that for them He suffered death; we plead for those on whose behalf He shed His precious blood; we implore grace for those for the sake of whom He offered His sacred body upon the cross.

Perhaps one might also view it as a poetic way of expressing the relation between the earthly and the heavenly altar as recounted in the Revelation which I think someone mentioned above.

Technically ICEL has added the word “sacrifice”- it is not there in the Latin which only says “Bid these be brought” (Jube haec perferri). The problem with such an idea is that it seems to refer to the sacrifice of Christ instead of embracing a meaning that includes our spritual offerings made in union with the one Offering (and also that offering insofar as we can offer It).

The passage can be seen as referring to the praises of the people particularly if we see a corresponding passage in the Liturgy of St. Mark that occurs at the Offertory time.

Grant that the end of our lives may be as Christians, acceptable unto Thee and without sin, and be pleased to give us portion and lot with all Thy saints.
Accept, O God, by Thy ministering archangels at Thy holy, celestial, and reasonable altar in the spacious heavens, the thank-offerings of those who offer sacrifice and oblation, and of those who desire to offer much or little, in secret or openly, but have it not to give.
Accept the thank-offerings of those who have presented them this day, as Thou didst accept the gifts of Thy righteous Abel: (offering incense): As Thou didst accept the sacrifice of our father Abraham, the incense of Zacharias, the alms of Cornelius, and the widow’s two mites, accept also the thank-offerings of these, and give them for the things of time the things of eternity, and for the things of earth the things of heaven.
Defend, O Lord, our most holy and blessed Pope N, whom Thou hast fore-ordained to govern Thy Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and our most pious Bishop N, that they through many years of peace may, according to Thy holy and blessed will, fulfil the sacred high priesthood committed to their care, and dispense correctly the word of truth. Remember the orthodox bishops everywhere, the presbyters, deacons, sub-deacons, readers, singers, monks, virgins, widows, and laity.

Many parallels in the Supra Quae, the Te igitur, and the* Supplices te rogamus*

There are different opinions as to who the angel is i.e. if we suppose it to be an angel and not Christ (as someone quoted the Summa above). Some say the guardian angel. Originally some thought St. Gabriel but then he was “replaced” by St. Michael who was more popularly associated with the angel offering incense at the heavenly altar (which also occasioned two other references to him in the Tridentine liturgy: at the incense at the Offertory and at the Confiteor).

One thing that I love about this passage is that some people say it is the oldest ways of expressing the epiclesis for the people. Later developement invokes the Holy Spirit.

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