In this recent Deep Dive segment, Father Dave examines the wording and usage of Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II during Mass. He explains how this prayer is not used often, but he felt compelled to choose it for daily Mass on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Many people know that the Eucharistic Prayer is that part of the Mass pretty much from when we bring up the gifts all the way until Communion. Probably to many people, that sounds pretty much the same every week or every day at Mass, but there are different options,” Father Dave begins. “They have a similar structure; the consecration, or the words of Christ, are always exactly the same, but the words that surround them have a little variance.” He explains how there are four Eucharistic Prayers that we hear most often at Mass, and there are also Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation and Eucharistic Prayers for Various Needs.
Father Dave starts parsing through the language of Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II and how it applies to to our often-divisive modern world. He quotes the prayer saying, “‘It is truly right and just that we should give you thanks and praise, O God Almighty Father, for all you do in this world through our Lord Jesus Christ. For though the human race is divided by dissension and discord, yet we know that by testing us you change our hearts to prepare them for reconciliation.’ So already we get the sense that when we’re using the word ‘reconciliation’ here, we’re not talking about me saying something harmful to my loved one; we’re talking about big-time reconciliation.”
He continues the prayer saying, “‘By your Spirit, you move human hearts; that enemies may speak to each other again, adversaries join hands, and peoples seek to meet together. By the working of your power it comes about, O Lord, that hatred is overcome by love, revenge gives way to forgiveness, and discord is changed to mutual respect.’ We listed a lot of things there that could apply to many situations in our world broadly.” Father Dave notes how we take responsibility for these failings, but we’re also “affirming in every one of these lines that, Lord, it’s only through you that this can be overcome.”
Moving ahead in Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II, he says, “Even in describing the last supper, there’s a little extra element here. It says, ‘For when about to give his life to set us free as he reclined at supper, he himself took bread into his hands…’ The other Eucharistic prayers say something like ‘on the night before he died.’” Father Dave reflects on how this wording and other themes of unity throughout the prayer reminded him of Martin Luther King Jr. and his mission.
Father Dave moves to what’s called the Second Epiclesis and quotes the prayer saying, “Heavenly Father, we humbly beseech you to accept us also together with your son, and in the saving banquet graciously to endow us with his very spirit who takes away everything that estranges us from one another.” While other Eucharistic Prayers call on God for unity, this Prayer’s different language stood out to Father Dave. “‘Remove everything that estranges us’ is very different, and I would say, stronger language than just ‘make us one in you’ or ‘bring unity to the body of Christ.’ That’s nice for a banner or Christian card, but to take away everything that estranges us from one another? Dr. King tried to do that, and we’re still working on it.”
In concluding his deep dive into Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II, Father Dave highlights how this section asks God to bring us together in his heavenly banquet. At this feast, the prayer mentions Mary, the Apostles and other saints, but also, “Our brothers and sisters and those of every race and tongue who have died in your friendship.” Father Dave says, “In all the Eucharistic prayers, we always have those two distinctions. We’re praying for two subsets of people: When we say ‘brothers and sisters,’ we mean fellow believers. Then we say something like ‘people of goodwill.’ But here it specifically says, ‘those of every race and tongue who have died in your friendship.’ So regardless of their religion, their origin, their culture, we pray for all those who have died.”
“The prayer ends beautifully: ‘Bring us to share with them the unending banquet of unity,’” He continues. “So it’s not just this great heavenly banquet; It is fundamentally a banquet of unity ‘in a new heaven and a new earth where the fullness of your peace will shine forth in Jesus Christ our Lord.’”