Eucharistic Prayer: Intercession of the Saints

Intercession of the Saints or Communicantes

“In communion with those whose memory we venerate, especially the glorious ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ, and blessed Joseph, her Spouse, your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, (James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian) and all your Saints; we ask that through their merits and prayers, in all things we may be defended by your protecting help. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)”

The priest prays that the saints will intercede for us.  We are asking that they pray for and with us. The emphasis here is the “communion” of the local worshipping congregation with the universal Church, especially the saints. This is crucially important because the Mass is not the offering of any one individual but is the corporate offering of the Church where members share a communal faith.  The promise of Christ that this oblation will be efficacious is not given a divided people with many solitary offerings. It is given efficacy because the Mass is the mystery of worship that Christ gives his Church, the nation of the redeemed, the new Israel. Outside of this communion, this oblation cannot be made.  We are many but one in Christ. There is an implicit awe in our naming and calling upon the saints. We are cognizant of the distance we must still traverse to fully join their number. The Pilgrim Church longs to be where the saints have gone and to know their joy in the Church of Glory.  

While the Mass orations were not always theologically precise in their long history, it is understood that we focus our prayer of need or peace toward the earthly Church.  The saints have all their hopes realized.  We invoke them for their intercession.    

Note the structured pattern of the naming:

HOLY FAMILY (2) – Mary & Joseph

APOSTLES (12) – Peter, Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon, Jude

MARTYRS (12) – Linus 10-76 AD (bishop & pope), Cletus 25-92 AD (bishop & pope), Clement 35-99 AD (bishop & pope), Sixtus 42-125 AD (bishop & pope), Cornelius 180-253 AD (bishop & pope), Cyprian 210-253 (bishop), Lawrence 225-258 AD (deacon & martyr), Chrysogonus d. early 4th century (martyr), John d. around 362 AD  (martyr), Paul d. around 362 AD (martyr), Cosmas d. 287 or 303 AD (martyr), Damian d. 287 or 303 AD (martyr)

The list is a redaction from around the turn of the sixth century, likely by Pope Gregory the Great. During the centuries that follow the various national churches and orders tend to add their own popular saints to the mix. Eventually all such accretions are removed so as to restore a clear meaning to the prayer. The reformed anaphoras after Vatican II tend to remove even the approved names, except for the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph and maybe the optional saint of the day.

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

[2] “. . . that with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with blessed Joseph, her Spouse, with the blessed Apostles, and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages, we may merit to be co-heirs to eternal life, and may praise and glorify you through your Son, Jesus Christ.”

[3] “May he make of us an eternal offering to you, so that we may obtain an inheritance with your elect, especially with the most blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with blessed Joseph, her Spouse, with your blessed Apostles and glorious Martyrs (with Saint N.: the Saint of the day or Patron Saint) and with all the Saints, on whose constant intercession in your presence we rely for unfailing help.”

[4] “To all of us, your children, grant, O merciful Father, that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, with blessed Joseph, her Spouse, and with your Apostles and Saints in your kingdom. There, with the whole of creation, freed from the corruption of sin and death, may we glorify you through Christ our Lord, through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.”

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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