Eucharistic Adoration: Epiclesis, Oblation and Intercession

Msgr. William King makes a marvelous exposition on the history of the Eucharistic prayer (see Pages 6-9), but in reading it I was struck by his descriptions of the elements of the prayer, particularly the epiclesis, the oblation and the intercession made by the priest in persona Christi.

Epiclesis, Msgr. King tells us, means “calling down upon”; as a Benedictine Oblate, I know that an oblation is a self-offering; and we all know that intercessions are pleas on behalf of others. Combined with other important essentials, these three words help to comprise a most powerful and beautiful prayer of “poignant drama and spiritual depth.” Taken on their own, though, they often form the foundation for my prayers at Eucharistic Adoration, too.

I am weak, often at my weakest, when I go to Adoration. But I know my prayer there — even though I have nothing, and of myself am nothing — is made strong, because it is made before the physical presence of the Christ, and because He sees my willingness.

Often, by the time I have reached my pew for my weekly hour, I am like a desert maniac who has crossed the burning sands and finally found a clear stream at which to collapse and drink, and my first prayers are like groanings without thought as I try to gulp down the light and peace radiating before me. After a time, I am able to collect myself, and then my prayer takes the form of thanksgiving: for His presence, for the hour, for my family, for employment and for the good news my friends have shared. These prayers lead naturally to prayers of praise, because gratitude enables praise, which in turn makes our prayers most like the prayers of the angels. Prayers of praise are a reprieve from earth. They are a simple, direct, heavenward thrust of love.

Then, call me presumptuous, but in renewed calm I bring the whole world into prayer; the people on my prayer lists; the Holy Father; priests and religious, naming them when I can; nations; newsmakers; cities; states; continents. My petitions sometimes seem endless, as though I am haranguing God: “Lord, the one you love is sick,” I will pray, or “Lord, the one you love is lonely,” or “Lord, the ones you love are enslaved by rage and hate.”

My petitions seem endless as, like an emcee, I bring everyone in and then mentally, spiritually recede into the background, imagining my own self nose-to-the-ground, almost prostrate, and daring not to look up, as I pray:

“Help them to comprehend the truth and strength and inviolability of your love, the generosity of your mercy; show them the outpouring of your grace; gift them with your healing and let them recognize it and trust that your gifts once bestowed are never rescinded. You, Alpha and Omega, in whom we live and move and have our being, spread forth your peace like sweetest honey to refresh starving hearts and weary spirits. Let your Light touch us, like consoling balm, to soothe and warm our chilled humanity, that we might be opened to your justice and willing to be made whole. But I am no worthy intercessor, only a faulty and broken vessel trusting in your mercy. Consider not what I deserve in your sight, but only the needs of these whom you love, these I bring before you and for whom I, the least, plead. Let my prayer rise before you like incense to carry these forward. Forgive my sins, especially my failures in love, my sins of omission, and cast them behind your back as your prophet Isaiah has promised, and with your grace may I do better. Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, the sinner, in your name I pray …”

Prayer is a force, and it is real. It takes a priest to pray the Eucharistic prayer at holy Mass, but we members of the laity have access to epiclesis, oblation and intercession: we can implore and call down; we can offer our puny selves as conduits through which unimaginable graces may flow, through no doing of our own; we can intercede through the priesthood acquired at baptism.

Elizabeth Scalia is a Benedictine Oblate, and the Managing Editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos.com, where she also blogs as The Anchoress. She is also a weekly columnist at First Things and a regular panelist on the the Brooklyn-diocese-produced current events program, In the Arena, seen at NETNY.net. Contact Elizabeth at theanchoress@gmail.com.