Consecration (Preliminary Prayers)
The consecration is the beginning of the climax of the liturgy. It is what everything has been building towards throughout everything that precedes it. It begins with the priest extending his hands, looking towards heaven, and then making a profound bow. This series of motions accompanies a mental adjustment for the priest, whereby he is acknowledging the heavenly throne and altar and expressing humility as an unworthy servant who can only ascend to the altar by the mercy of God.
The consecration itself is broken into four main sections. The first is the consecration proper, which includes the words of institution, followed by the oblation, followed by the invocation or the epiclesis, and concluding with the great doxology.
The consecration begins with a declaration of praise for the glory of Almighty God and a statement of appreciation for the work of the Father in giving His only Son Jesus Christ, to suffer death upon the cross. The priest begins with his hands on the altar itself, joining himself with what is to be done on the altar. When the priest makes mention of the Father giving of His only Son Jesus Christ he bends to kiss the altar as a physical act of appreciation and honor for Jesus’ work of redemption.
The priest stands and crosses the oblations (bread and wine) three times during the words "one oblation of himself once offered." In so doing He is recounting that these items have been set apart; they are no longer mundane bread and wine but are bread and wine that have been sanctified and prepared to be consecrated into the body and blood of Christ. The priest continues through this portion of the consecration with his hands spread over the oblations, as if to incorporate everything upon the corporal (the white cloth upon which the chalice and paten filled with hosts is laid) in this declaration of the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice. In other words, what has been sanctified and what will be consecrated in union with Christ’s "full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction." Through this we are reminded that we are not adding to what Christ did, nor are we sacrificing Christ anew; rather we are participating through the consecration of these elements, in what Christ already did on the cross when He pronounced the sins of humanity finished and bloody, violent sacrifice to be finished.
(as published in St Luke's Sunday Bulletin, 7/29/18)