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by Paul Turner

While reciting the words of Jesus from the Last Supper, the presider of the Mass shows the consecrated bread and wine to the assembly. His gesture is called the elevation. With each elevation he actually performs two actions. He shows the body and blood of Christ to everyone else, and then he genuflects in adoration.

There is no explicit instruction for what the assembly is to do during the elevation. However, because the presider is instructed to show them the sacred elements, the obvious conclusion is that they should watch. Many worshipers lower their eyes and bow their heads in adoration as the presider performs the elevation. This bow, well meaning in its devotion, probably belongs more with the genuflection that follows the elevation.

The elevation of the consecrated bread at Mass began in 13th-century Paris in an effort to bolster belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Heresies expressing the contrary were flourishing. Because eucharistic devotion at the time focused on the consecrated bread rather than on the cup, the elevation of the cup was only added later.

Although some presiders lift the consecrated bread and wine very high at this point of the Mass, height belongs more to the doxology that concludes the eucharistic prayer, to signify the offering to God. The elevation had to be high when the elevation first appeared in the Mass because the priest, standing with his back to the people, had to raise the elements high enough to be seen.

The elevation permits the assembly to acknowledge their faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Bells and incense may accompany it. Traditionally, many Catholics pray, “My Lord and my God” and “My Jesus, mercy,” as the priest lifts the body and blood of Christ.

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Copyright © 2000, Resource Publications, Inc. 160 E. Virginia St. #290, San Jose, CA 95112, (408) 286-8505. This article may not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher.  For permission e-mail info@rpinet.com.
Paul Turner, pastor of St. Munchin Parish in Cameron, MO, holds a doctorate in sacramental theology from Sant' Anselmo University in Rome.

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