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Musical Musings: Liturgy

Why Not Let the Liturgy Form Us?

by Fr. Paul Schmidt

Part I: Anaphora, epiclesis, anamnesis

Father Paul Schmidt has served as the priest personnel director for the Diocese of Oakland, California, and also as diocesan director of religious education and as pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Concord. He holds a master's of divinity degree from St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park and a master's degree in English from California State University, Hayward. He was a columnist for The Catholic Voice, the Oakland diocesan newspaper, for many years. Father Schmidt is author of the book Buried Treasures: A Guide to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

This article, which has appeared in The Voice (Oakland), is reprinted from The Catholic Herald, the newspaper for the Diocese of Sacramento, with the kind permission of Julie Sly, Editor.

Anaphora, epiclesis, anamnesis -- people reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn about the second part of the Mass, the liturgy of the Eucharist (Nos. 1350-55), may think they have stumbled upon an essay about ancient Greek pottery. Praying the liturgy means praying in many different ways; these words help us understand some of the ways. But first we have to back up to a more familiar word, "collection."

During the Preparation of the Gifts, we put our offering in the collection, as Christians have done from at least the time of St. Justin (second century), whose description is quoted in the Catechism. This, too, is prayer -- sharing resources to provide the elements of the Mass, to support the works of the church, to minister to the poor. As representatives bring our gifts forward in the offertory procession, we place our whole lives at the disposal of God, the giver of all good gifts. The priest summarizes by praying over the gifts in our name. We respond "Amen."

The Eucharistic prayer (anaphora, Greek for an offering of sacrifice and praise) is said or sung mostly by the priest in our name, standing in the orans position, arms outstretched. The prayer begins with a dialogue between priest and congregation and a preface, which highlights the particular thanksgiving of the day or season. In the words which follow, the priest calls upon (epiclesis in Greek) the Holy Spirit to transform our gifts of bread and wine and to transform us. The priest holds and elevates the bread and the cup of wine, as he repeats Jesus' words at the Last Supper (institution narrative): "This is my Body; this is the cup of my Blood." We remember (anamnesis in Greek) what Jesus did at the Last Supper, on Calvary, and in his resurrection. We offer Jesus really present in the signs of bread and wine as our saving sacrifice. We ask God the Father to hear our prayers offered through, with, and in his Son.

This prayer of praise and thanksgiving (eucharist) is an example of praying while someone else says most of the words. We pray by listening to the words recited on our behalf by the priest. We signify our assent by joining our voices in acclamations: the "Holy, Holy, Holy," the brief verse after the elevation of the consecrated bread and wine, the Great Amen at the conclusion of the prayer.

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Part II: More Liturgy of the Eucharist 

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