The Eucharistic Prayers

by the Rev. Jane Sigloh

The word Eucharist means Thanksgiving. Each Eucharistic Prayer has a slightly different focus in its expression of gratitude.

Written in the language of the earliest prayer book. It is highly penitential in tone and focuses on the forgiveness of sins as God’s primary salvific act through Jesus Christ. He was/is the “full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.”

A shorter, modern adaptation of the prayers of previous American BCP. Similar in its focus on forgiveness of sins but not as heavily penitential as Rite I. “. . . when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you in your mercy, sent Jesus Christ, your only and eternal Son, to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us, to reconcile us to you, the god and father of all.”

Incarnational in tone. “. . . and above all in the Word made flesh, Jesus, your Son. For in these last days you sent him to be incarnate from the Virgin Mary, to be the Savior and Redeemer of the world. In him you have delivered us from evil, and made us worthy to stand before you. In him you have brought us out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, out of death into life.” Best one for use in Advent and Christmas.

Like Eastern prayers it calls for much congregational response. Expresses gratitude for the whole of salvation history from Creation of “the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, etc.” to the human race “and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill.” The purpose of the incarnation is expressed in broad terms. “And in the fullness of time you sent your only Son, born of a woman, to fulfill your Law, to open for us the way of freedom and peace.”

Adapted from St. Basil. Used on solemn occasions. More Christians across the world use this prayer than any other. Best used with Baptisms and on Maundy Thursday. In the words of Leonell Mitchell, praying shapes believing. It is the burden of liturgists and worship committees to examine carefully how we are “shaping believing.” The Book of Common Prayer offers rich alternatives for every season of the year.