The eucharistic prayer: “the microcosm of Christian prayer”

I’ve been busy in my early mornings translating Goffredo Boselli’s Il Senso Spirituale della Liturgia (“The Spiritual Meaning of the Liturgy”) for publication. Boselli is a highly regarded liturgical theologian in Europe and a member of the ecumenical monastic community of Bose in Italy.

One reason I’m excited about this book is that the Bose community itself deserves to be better known in the United States (read Joseph Komonchak’s description here and see if you don’t agree), and the publication of this book in English might contribute at least a bit to that.

I’m also excited because Boselli’s book is full of rich and fascinating liturgical theology, but presents it all in a very compelling and accessible way that one needn’t be a scholar to grasp. Here’s a passage that struck me this weekend.

If the Scriptures and the tradition are the regula fidei [the rule or norm of faith], the Missal is certainly the regula orationis, that is, the model, the criterion, the norm of Christian prayer. It is as though, through the Missal, the church says to every Christian: “Take, read: this is the canon of your prayer.” … The Missal teaches the grammar of Christian prayer: what it is, to whom it is addressed, how it is formulated, what it asks.

Among the many liturgical texts found in the Missal, the eucharistic prayer is not only the euchological text of greatest importance; it is also the highest and most expressive synthesis of Christian prayer. In its content, its structure, and its dynamic, the anaphora represents the microcosm of Christian prayer, such that the believer who allows it to penetrate her spiritual understanding has certainly begun to reach the heart of Christian prayer.

Above all, the anaphora teaches Christians the movement of prayer and to whom prayer is addressed. The eucharistic prayer is always addressed to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit: this is the movement of the eucharistic prayer because it is the very movement of the revelation of the mystery of God. Revelation is the revelation of the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. The movement of revelation forms the movement of the act of faith, of which prayer is an essential part. With rare exceptions, the ancient anaphoric tradition attests that prayer is addressed always to God the Father, putting it in perfect continuity with Jewish prayer and at the same time obeying sine glossa Jesus’s command to his disciples: “When you pray say, ‘Father’” (Lk 11, 2; cf. Mt 6, 9). The anaphora is addressed to the Father because it is the prayer of the church, which is the body of Christ: it is prayer in the Son. By addressing the Father in one’s prayer, the Christian is always aware that her prayer, even in private, is never the prayer of one person, an individual; rather, it is the prayer of the community of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, of which she is a part. Prayer addressed to the Father always shows forth the radical impossibility of Christian prayer being private, because when a Christian prays, the entire church prays in her.

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