Some of the little known treasures in our collection of liturgical texts are some relatively new Eucharistic prayers. In 1994 the United States bishops approved the use of these new prayers, and a year latter the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship authorized their use in our country. They are called the Eucharistic Prayers for Use in Masses for Various Occasions, and may be used by parishes and other faith communities in their celebrations of the Eucharist.
This brings to thirteen the number of Eucharistic prayers to choose from. There are four for general use, two that focus on the theme of reconciliation, and three for the celebration of Mass with children. The addition of these most recent prayers is in keeping with the norm that each national conference of bishops may propose new Eucharistic prayers for use in their countries. In fact, these most recent prayers originated in Switzerland in 1974, and subsequently several other European countries petitioned the Vatican for their use.
Each prayer has a general theme: The Church on the Path of Unity, God Guides the Church along the Way of Salvation, Jesus, the Way to the Father, and Jesus, Who Who Went About Doing Good. Those who hear these prayers at the celebration of the Eucharist will notice that the texts are more poetic than the current translations of many of the Eucharistic prayers with which we are familiar. An example of the beautiful wording is found in the the prayer entitled “The Church on the Path of Unity.” The preface explains why we are giving thanks and praise: Father, “by the word of your Son’s gospel you have brought together one Church from every people, tongue and nation, and having filled her with life by the power of your Spirit, you never cease through her to gather the whole human race into one. Manifesting the covenant of your love, she dispenses without ceasing the blessed hope of your Kingdom and shines bright as the sign of your faithfulness, which in Christ Jesus our Lord you promised would last for eternity.”
Toward the end of the Eucharistic prayer we then express our particular needs in the intercessions: “Lord, renew your Church, which is in Western Washington, by the light of the Gospel. Strengthen the bond of unity between the faithful and the pastors of your people, together with Francis our Pope, Peter our Bishop, and the whole Order of Bishops, that in a world torn by strife your people may shine forth as a prophetic sign of unity and concord.
Remember our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the peace of your Christ, and all the dead, whose faith you alone have known. Admit them to rejoice in the light of your face, and in the resurrection give them the fulness of life.”