The preface proclaims our gratitude

By Linda Zahorik | For The Compass | October 5, 2016

The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.

American writer William Arthur Ward has said “God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say ‘thank you?’”

In our Gospel today, we hear of ten lepers who were healed, with only one taking a few seconds to return and thank Jesus. It is easy for us to let an entire day slip away without giving thanks to God. For that reason, Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is a blessing to us. When we gather for Mass, we gather in thanksgiving. The word “Eucharist” (as in “the Mass”) is a transliteration of the Greek word eucharistia, which came from a Hebrew word berekah. All three words have the meaning of thanksgiving.

How often have you heard the word “thanks” spoken in the Mass? Listen for it in the Gloria, after the Scriptures, in the preface and at the dismissal.

In particular, the preface is a prayer in which we thank God for the many gifts in our lives. With gratitude we anticipate the great miracle about to occur in the Eucharist. There are certain prefaces that are always linked to a particular eucharistic prayer, however a variety of prefaces have been written for use throughout the church year such as prefaces for Advent or Lent, for Ordinary Time, for the feast day of Mary or a saint, and those to be used for the dead. The common element in every preface is leading us to unite with the angels and saints in a prayer of thanksgiving.

This Sunday’s Mass is in Ordinary Time; therefore we will have a variety of prefaces being prayed in our diocese. In order to take a deeper look at the structure of a preface, I want to call your attention to the preface that always must be used with Eucharist Prayer IV. As with all prefaces, it begins with an opening line reminding us that it is always right and just to give God thanks. Then this preface exhorts us to offer thanks for specific reasons (1) God is living and true; (2) God is the source of life; (3) God made all that is; and (4) God brings us joy.

Lastly, it invites us to join with the entire communion of saints and angels in praising God.
If you have hymnals in your church, they most likely contain a section of the order of the Mass. Go there to read some of the prefaces. If you are at home, with access to a computer, you can go to the National Pastoral Musicians site,, where all the prefaces are given. You can even listen to them being chanted at that site. Take time to pray some of those prefaces. Read them slowly and really get into what the words are saying. Then, when you come to Mass, listen carefully to the particular preface being proclaimed. Let it evoke from you a spirit of thanksgiving and let it lead you into the mystery that is going to unfold before you. Then with your full intent, sing out on the “Holy, Holy,” giving God another 60 seconds or so of heartfelt praise and thanksgiving.

Zahorik is pastoral associate at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, Oshkosh.

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