The Catholic Church in the US is in the middle of a three-year Eucharistic Revival. The purpose is to strengthen Catholics’ faith in the sacrament of the Eucharist. We are now in the second year of the revival, which is focused on parish efforts. This page belongs to one of those parish efforts, a four part series on the Eucharistic Prayers.
Eucharistic Prayer I (EP I), also known as the Roman Canon, is virtually unchanged since the sixth century. It was the only Eucharistic Prayer (EP), or Canon, before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) allowed options with the introduction of three other EPs. It is the longest of the four options and contains a mouthful of saints from early Church history, so many priests avoid it. I rarely use it, but I’d like to use it more frequently during the Eucharistic Revival. Actually, its defenders say recordings show it is only two minutes longer than Eucharistic Prayer II.
EP I offers the fullest reason among the options for offering the Eucharist: “for the redemption of their souls, in hope of health and well-being, and paying their homage to you.” In other words, we offer the Eucharist for spiritual redemption and temporal health and happiness as well as sheer praise to God.
EP I includes the names of 41 saints divided into two lists. The Blessed Virgin Mary is named first because she is the greatest of the saints. Then St. Joseph is mentioned since he ranks in second place. Then in the first lists follows the names of 24 male saints, who were apostles, popes, and martyrs. A second list later in the prayer includes 15 saints, this time topped by St. John the Baptist who shares second place under the Virgin Mary with St. Joseph. The second list concludes with the names of seven female saints. Thus the lists are bookended with women: at the beginning, Mary; at the end, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia,
EP I refers to “this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim.” Of course it means Christ, with “victim” being another word for sacrifice more appropriate for a person (as opposed to the animal sacrifices of the old covenant). In fact, our term Communion Host comes from the Latin word for victim, hostia. These phrases echo Scripture because Leviticus requires lambs “without blemish” for sacrifice. The sinless Christ is the purest, holiest victim possible. EP I puts Christ at the end of a line of sacrifices offered to God throughout biblical history, Abel’s firstlings (Genesis 4:4), Abraham’s son (Genesis 22), and Melchizedek’s bread and wine (Genesis 14:8).