In my last ti morceau, I mentioned that there are three most important parts of the great Eucharistic Prayer in the Mass. One is the epiclesis, when the Holy Spirit is “called down” upon the gifts of bread and wine. The second of course is the consecration, also called the “institution narrative,” when Christ Jesus’ own words are repeated; He identifies Himself with the bread and wine to the point of changing it into His own Sacred Body and Precious Blood.
Before we get to the third important part, let’s spend some time on the consecration itself. At this time at Mass, the priest most closely identifies himself with Christ (our supreme High Priest). By reciting the solemn words of Jesus – “This is My Body . . . This is My Blood . . .” – the priest “stands in” for the Lord Himself as the miraculous change in the gifts happens.
This is one of the highlights of priestly ministry, to be sure. To be able to “play the part of” the Lord Jesus in such a critically important role is something I’ve always found very humbling and very moving. I’m sure every other priest of the Church feels the same way. The Latin phrase used for representing the Lord like this is “in persona Christi,” and at these times it’s to be hoped that people indeed do see and hear Christ, and not just me or some other priest. Of course, the best way to ensure this is to be Christ-like in every other way, and not just in my prayer at Mass!