Eucharistic Prayer: Memento for the Church

Intercession or Memento for the Church

Intercessory prayers are first inserted into the Eucharistic prayer toward the end of the fourth century and continue to be formulated throughout the fifth. 

“. . . which we offer you firstly for your holy catholic Church. Be pleased to grant her peace, to guard, unite and govern her throughout the whole world, together with your servant our Pope N. and N. our Bishop, and all those who, holding to the truth, hand on the catholic and apostolic faith.”

It is not surprising that the prayers for the Church should be the first of these intercessions in the Roman Canon. Going back to the days of the apostles and first martyrs, such has been the most prevalent prayer of the Church’s shepherds. A couple of the marks of the Church emerge: she is “holy” and “catholic.” We are a people sanctified by water and the Holy Spirit.  We are also “catholic” meaning that we belong to the universal Church established by Christ.  “One” is already implied and she is taken for granted as “apostolic” since she is established by Christ. We pray for peace (unity in Christ) and for protection. It resonates with John 17:20-22:

“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one . . .”

We make the prayer of Jesus our own. We ask protection from both temporal and spiritual harm.  Heresy and schism are deemed even more serious than persecution.  We acknowledge that our Pope, bishops and others must be one with the good shepherd.  Jesus is the true invisible head of the Church. We are not masters of the truth but its servants.  We hold onto what has been entrusted to us in revelation and passed down from the apostles.  Those involved with the formation of the Roman Canon seem to find delight with the insertion of names, here the Pope (visible head of the Church) and the local Bishop, and later the saints and maybe the dead for whom prayers are offered.  It is likely that “all those who, holding to the truth” originally refers to the priests entrusted with the pastoral ministry. However, over time it becomes descriptive of all the active “orthodox” faithful.  As part of this oration, prayer for the emperor disappears along with the old empire. Later there are efforts to restore the insertion of the emperor’s name with the revival of 800 AD and later to add the particular king of the locality.  However, the Missal of Pius V after Trent makes no mention of the civil ruler, except in exceptional and rare circumstances, and then only for Christian monarchs.

The variations of this prayer in the other anaphoras are as follows:

[2] “Remember, Lord, your Church, spread throughout the world, and bring her to the fullness of charity, together with N. our Pope and N. our Bishop and all the clergy.”

[3] “Be pleased to confirm in faith and charity your pilgrim Church on earth, with your servant N. our Pope and N. our Bishop, the Order of Bishops, all the clergy, and the entire people you have gained for your own. Listen graciously to the prayers of this family, whom you have summoned before you: in your compassion, O merciful Father, gather to yourself all your children scattered throughout the world.”

[4] “Therefore, Lord, remember now all for whom we make this sacrifice: especially your servant, N. our Pope, N. our Bishop, and the whole Order of Bishops, all the clergy, those who take part in this offering, those gathered here before  you,  your  entire  people, . . .”

About Father Joe

Father Joe Jenkins I am the pastor of Holy Family Church and a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.
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