My friend Ivar asked me to write a Eucharistic Prayer for the season of Advent. In particular, he was hoping to highlight the aspects of creation and redemption that relate to evolutionary biology. That’s a tall order. Here’s my attempt.
For those of you unfamiliar with sacramental Christianity (Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran…) we have fixed formulas for blessing the bread and wine that we experience as the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. The prayer does not magically transform food into flesh. It’s a thanksgiving (Greek: eucharist) and request that we might share the common life of our adopted family using a ritual started by Jesus. Often considered the focal rite of Christianity, the Church has been very careful about the rules for celebrating it properly.
I should also note that this is not a prayer in praise of evolution. Eucharistic Prayers are always, essentially about Christ with us. Nonetheless, our understanding of evolution sometimes challenges us to rethink the relationship of God to Creation. I hope this prayer will invite people to do just that. (Bracketed portions are optional.)
Eucharistic Prayer Z
The Lord is with you. And also with you.
Lift up your hearts. We lift them to the Lord.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give God thanks and praise.
It is truly right to give thanks to you, the Author of Creation,
for in the beginning you set fire to the void, and lit the furnace of the stars.
You alone are eternal, you alone are steadfast, and by your will all things came to be.
Within the starry night, you set planets, separating the day from the night,
and planting the seed of life in the time between. We your creatures remember your love,
celebrate your will, and await your coming. In your hand is the life of every living thing.
[Upon Earth, you made your ways known in extravagant variety:
mustard seed and Leviathan, locust and yeast,
a wilderness both within and without our walls.
You said it was not good that the human should be alone,
giving us plants for food and animals to be our helpers.
And you made Adam and Eve, bone of one bone, flesh of one flesh,
to be two and yet one, by your grace.
To this day, we are never alone, but draw breath together.
One sows and another reaps; one gathers and another casts away,
while the whole creation groans in labor,
bringing forth the fruits of your Spirit,
and awaiting the redemption of our bodies.]
And, through it all, from the beginning of time,
your Son, Jesus Christ, was working out our salvation.
Therefore, we praise you, joining our voices with angels and archangels,
and giving voice to every creature under heaven, we praise you as we sing,
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and Earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
We come before you today, O Lord, awaiting redemption and needing salvation,
for Paradise was not enough.
In our blindness and arrogance, we sought a solitary life,
stealing from the trees and killing our brothers.
[We separated ourselves from one another,
from the lily, the sparrow, and the cedar.
The very ground brought forth thorns and thistles to stop us.]
We even sought to separate ourselves from you,
the source of all that was, and is, and shall be.
But your creativity knew no bounds.
In every generation you reached out to us, as a mother cares for her children.
Again and again, you called us to return.
Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law.
And, in the fullness of time, you sent your only Son,
who gave life to the world,
to bear our humanity, as son, brother, and friend
to reknit the sinews of our common life
tattered and frayed and severed as they were.
[In the bread of life,
wheat, ground and shaped by human hands,
raised up by yeast and flavored by bacteria,
he reminded us that we never eat alone.
In the cup of wine,
grapes, crushed by human feet,
transformed by yeast, and made new by bacteria and archaebacteria,
he gave us hope for a new and different life.]
On the very night we handed him over to suffering and death,
our Lord, Jesus Christ took this bread, broke it and blessed it,
and shared it with his friends, saying,
“Take, eat: This is my Body, which is given for you.
Do this for the remembrance of me.”
After supper, he took the cup of wine;
and when he had given thanks to you,
he offered it to them, and said,
“Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant,
which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Whenever you drink it, do this in remembrance of me.”
We know that these mysteries are too great for us.
We know that we are not yet ready to understand,
divided as we are against one another and against ourselves.
And yet we seek to understand.
[We know you as the God of gravity and entropy, evolution and decay.
We know you as the God who transformed our planet with toxic bacteria,
meteor showers, and ice ages that killed species without number.
But we also know you as the God of the Cambrian Explosion,
who made flowering plants and mammals in their time.
We know you in the calling of Primates to be conscious, intelligent, and civilized,
who raised us up to hear and speak your Word in the world.]
We ask you to send your Spirit upon this bread and this wine
that they may reveal to us your love and will.
We ask you to send your Spirit upon us,
that we too, may be sacraments of your presence,
the hands and feet of Christ,
the very Body of God, incarnate.
Though we are not worthy, we are willing.
Though we are not united, we are called.
Though we are not yet, we hope to be,
made bold by our Savior Jesus Christ.
By him, and with him, and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit
all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and forever. AMEN.