Drama of the Divine Liturgy (the sacrament, part 9)

Consecration (Words of Institution)

The consecration continues with the words of institution, whereby the words of Christ himself are said by the celebrant. The priest begins by taking the host in his left hand and, during the words, "and when he had given thanks,” makes the sign of the cross over the host as a manual gesture of that giving of thanks. Then he leans forward bowing over the bread to be consecrated and says the words of institution themselves, "this is my body . . . do this in remembrance of me." While saying this words the breath of the priest’s voice passes over the host; the symbolism is profound, for it is the recognition that it is the wind, the pneuma (Greek for spirit, breath, and wind), namely, the Holy Spirit, working through the priest who makes the transformation from bread to body occur. As a result, the Trinity is present at this moment, for we are in the presence of the Father in heaven (as stated at the outset of the consecration when the priest prays, "All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father"), the Holy Spirit is breathed out upon the host, and the result is the real presence of the Son, Jesus Christ, under the species of bread.

With Christ now present, an act of devotion is appropriate. The priest genuflects, bending his knee before the Incarnate Lord, elevates the host so that the congregation as a whole can acknowledge their own devotion by crossing themselves, he sets down the host and genuflects a second time. During the elevation it is customary for all present to echo the words of St. Thomas, "my Lord and my God," for through Christ's great mercy upon us He has seen fit to make himself present with us. Each of these moments (genuflection, elevation, genuflection) is accentuated by the ringing of the Sanctus Bell

A similar formula is followed for the consecration of the wine. During the introductory words the priest takes the chalice in his hands and gives thanks as he did with the host. Then, after the words, "drink ye all of this,” the priest leans forwards and tilts the chalice towards himself to say words of institution into the chalice, "this is my blood of the New Testament . . . Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me."

Like with the host, Christ is now present under the species of wine, therefore an act of devotion is appropriate. The priest genuflects in honor and adoration for Jesus' presence, elevates the chalice, at which time the people cross themselves in adoration, and then returns the chalice to the corporal. During the elevation, it is customary for all who are present to utter the words, "Jesus, have mercy," for it is through Jesus' mercy that we enter into this sacrament. Again, at each genuflection and at the elevation the Sanctus Bell is tolled.


(as published in St. Luke's Sunday Bulletin, 8/05/18)