Eucharistic Prayers Date To 150 A.D.
St. Justin the Martyr (150 A.D.) provides us with the first mention of the Prayer of Thanksgiving at Sunday Eucharist: “After finishing the prayers (intercessions), we greet each other with a kiss. Then bread and a cup of water and wine mixed are brought to the one presiding over the brethren. He takes it, gives praise and glory to the Father of all in the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and gives thanks at length for the gifts that we were worthy to receive from him. When he has finished the prayers and thanksgiving, the whole crowd standing by cries out in agreement: ‘Amen.’ ‘Amen’ is a Hebrew word and means, ‘So may it be. After the presiding official has said thanks and the people have joined in, the deacons, as they are styled by us, distribute as food for all those present, the bread and wine-mixed-with-water, over which the thanks had been offered, and which they carried to those not present.”
Pope St. Hippolytus (215 A. D.) provides us with the first extensive Eucharistic Prayer:
“The Lord be with you. And with thy spirit. Lift up your hearts. We have them with the Lord. Let us give thanks to the Lord. It is meet and right. And he shall so proceed: We give thee thanks, O God, through Thy beloved Child, Jesus Christ, Whom Thou didst send us in recent times as Saviour, Redeemer and Messenger of Thy counsel. Who is Thine inseparable Word through whom Thou didst make all things in Whom Thou was well pleased. Him Whom Thou didst send from heaven into the Virgin’s womb, and Who, conceived within her, was made flesh and shown to be Thy Son, being born of the Holy Spirit and a Virgin. And Who, in order to carry out Thy will and acquire for Thee a holy people, stretched forth His hands in suffering that He might release from suffering those who believe in Thee. And when He was delivered up to voluntary suffering that He might abolish death and rend asunder the bonds of the devil and tread upon hell and enlighten the righteous and show forth the resurrection, took bread and giving thanks to Thee, He said: this is My Body which is broken for you. And likewise taking the cup, He said, this is My Blood which is shed for you. When you do this, make memory of me. Making memory therefore of His death and resurrection, we offer to Thee this bread and chalice giving thanks unto Thee for finding us worthy to stand before Thee and to minister unto Thee. And we beseech Thee to send Thy Holy Spirit upon the oblation of Thy Church, to gather into one (body) all thy holy ones who partake of it that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit for the strengthening of their faith in truth, that we may praise and glorify Thee through Thy Child Jesus Christ, through Whom glory be to Thee and honour, to the Father and the Son, with the Holy Spirit in Thy holy Church now and forever. Amen.”
Did you notice that our Eucharistic Prayer II is similar to St. Hippolytus’ Eucharistic Prayer? Eucharistic Prayer II is a revision of St. Hippolytus’ Prayer and is now one of the many Eucharistic Prayers used in the Roman Liturgy. The inclusion of this ancient prayer in the Eucharist is a beautiful reminder that not everything after Vatican II was completely new. The Church has a great storeroom of traditions from which she “restores” treasures for us in various generations. Such is the Church’s wisdom and the Holy Spirit’s continuous movement.