Intercessions For The Deceased In Eucharistic Prayers
The final intercessions in the Eucharistic Prayer are prayers for the deceased. We remember Christians, as well as all the departed “whose faith only God can know” (EP IV). In Eucharistic Prayer III the Church prays: “To our departed brothers and sisters and to all who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life, give kind admittance to your kingdom. There we too hope to enjoy forever the fullness of your glory through Christ our Lord, through whom you bestow upon the world all that is good.” The formulation in the four new Eucharistic Prayers states “Remember our brothers and sisters (N. and N.), 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 fullness of life.”
As seen in the four new Eucharistic Prayers, individual names may now be mentioned. This was customary in the early Church as evident in Eucharistic Prayer I (“Roman Canon”) for both the living and the deceased: “Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N. and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you” and “Remember also, Lord, your servants N. and N., who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace. Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light and peace.” (Since the Roman Canon was the only Eucharistic Prayer used in the Catholic Church until Vatican II, this would also have been the custom until 1967; however, most of us never remember names being read aloud.) Over time, mentioning individual names was deleted because names could unintentionally be overlooked, which could easily have been considered a slight.
Remembering the dead is always connected with the commemoration of the saints. Immediately following intercessions for the deceased, we remember the saints “Have mercy on us all, we pray, that with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with the blessed Apostles, and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages, we may merit to be coheirs to eternal life…” (EP II). In the four new Eucharistic Prayers, we find: “Grant also to us, when our earthly pilgrimage is done, that we may come to an eternal dwelling place and live with you forever; there, in communion with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with the Apostles and Martyrs … and with all the Saints, we shall praise and exalt you through your Jesus Christ, your Son.”
Commemorating the saints also occurs before remembrance of the dead as in the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation: “Help us to work together for the coming of your Kingdom, until the hour when we stand before you, Saints among the Saints in the halls of heaven, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, the blessed Apostles and all and the Saints, and with our deceased brothers and sisters, whom we humbly commend to your mercy.”
Connecting the prayers for the dead with remembrance of the saints expresses the Church’s belief in the communion of saints. We are intimately united with those who have gone before us, and we look forward to enjoying their love and friendship forever in heaven. We also express our faith that our earthly worship is united with the heavenly worship as described so beautifully in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 4 and 5). Just as we worship God on earth, so one day we hope to join in the heavenly worship of God forever.
Father Sauer continues his look at the Mass in the Jan. 19 issue of The Message.