In the Lutheran Book of Worship (my mother was a Protestant), the different prayers are set side by side, so that the difference in length is obvious. So as a child, I immediately saw which prayer was being used, and inwardly rejoiced if it happened to be the shortest one. Somehow I missed the drama of our redemption as it is recapitulated in the liturgy of the Eucharist!
Eucharistic Prayer I would have put me off. But in zoning out, I would have missed the opportunity to recall the mystery and glory of our salvation in Jesus Christ. Not only that; Eucharistic Prayer I gets its length partly from the lists of saints—apostles and martyrs, and special mention of Abel, Abraham, and Melchizedek.
Now, the saints don’t appear in any of the Eucharistic prayers I heard regularly as a child, which is a pity. Remembering the saints connects our Sunday worship with our weekday life: ‘we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help’. We ask the Lord to ‘admit us into their company, not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon’. Meditating on the saints (especially if we are fortunate enough to have our namesake mentioned, as two of my children are) also gives us concrete examples of faith, so we have a sense of where we’re asking the Lord to direct his attention when the priest prays that the Lord ‘look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church’. These are the ones who have gone before us in the faith, lights who mark the way of Christ in this life and point us toward the joy of heaven. So the next time Eucharistic Prayer I begins, we should receive it as a gift, and listen for the names of those saints. We pray in communion with them as we gather for the celebration of the Eucharist, and seek to reflect the same light that shone through them as we go forth in the peace of Christ.
Part of a series by Medi Ann Volpe