I’m sure if I asked the average person to name the most important moment within the great Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass, I’d usually get the correct answer – “the consecration.” But if my next question was “And what are the other two most important parts?” do you think you could answer?
One very, very important thing happens right before the consecration. The priest extends his hands level over the gifts of bread and wine and “calls down” the Holy Spirit upon them. This is known technically as the epiclesis (epp-ee-KLEE-sis; a Greek word meaning “calls down upon”).
Yes I know it’s a weird word, but it’s one worth knowing! Remember, it’s not the priest who changes the bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood. Rather, it is the action of Christ Himself, through His very own Holy Spirit, that works this miracle through the priest. For this reason the priest, on behalf of the community, asks that this be done. The words of epiclesis are accompanied by a most powerful gesture of blessing, palms held open above the altar. It’s virtually a “laying on of hands” over the gifts.
In fact, the epiclesis is usually best understood as the beginning of the process of consecration. From this point on at Mass, we have before us not merely “natural” things but “supernatural” ones!