Non Solum: The Centrality of the Eucharistic Prayer

co-authored by Fr. Anthony Ruff and Nathan Chase

Today’s Question: The Centrality of the Eucharistic Prayer

Pray Tell recently received a Non Solum question from a reader expressing concern over the tendency in some communities to devalue the Eucharistic prayer (the central ritual element of the Mass) in favor of the reception of Communion. One hears of Catholics today seeing no loss when Mass is replaced by a Word and Communion service – one gets Communion, so what’s the difference?

Is there anything parish liturgists can do, the readers asks, to correct this imbalance? Or is it only the priest who can change this? And is change really possible?

This problem has deep roots in the Scholastic era of the Middle Ages, and before. Reception of Communion had become infrequent, and theological reflection became obsessed with defining the nature of the Real Presence, with resulting undue interest in the moment of consecration. Latin liturgical language, silent canon (Eucharistic prayer), elevations, ringing of bells, and the like, all served to separate the eucharistic Real Presence from Christ’s abiding presence to the Church, the words of institution from their larger context of the recital of God’s redeeming act in Christ in the preface and canon, and the reception of Communion from the assembly’s sharing in the offering of the Eucharistic Prayer.

The liturgical reforms sought to re-balance things. As Nathan Mitchell shows in Cult and Controversy, the Eucharistic prayer, as the central part of the Mass, is meant to lead to the reception of Communion. But the effects of centuries-long practices and ways of thinking continue to work their damage. What has worked, in your view, to re-establish balance? What work remains to be done? What things can be done, concretely, to reinforce a richer and more balanced view of the Eucharistic mystery?

Moderator’s note: “Non solum” is a feature at Pray Tell for our readership community to discuss practical liturgical issues. The title comes from article 11 of the Vatican II liturgy constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium: “Therefore there is to be vigilance among holy pastors that in liturgical action not only are laws for valid and licit celebration to be observed, but that the faithful should participate knowingly, actively, and fruitfully.” (Ideo sacris pastoribus advigilandum est ut in actione liturgica non solum observentur leges ad validam et licitam celebrationem, sed ut fideles scienter, actuose et fructuose eandem participent.) May the series contribute to good liturgical practice – not only following the law, but especially grasping the spirit of the liturgy!


  1. Seems to be an appropriate time to post Fr. Taft’s article from the recent issue of Worship, don’t you think?

  2. Simply sing the Eucharistic Prayer
    and have the people stand during the Eucharistic Prayer
    (actually the more responses the people have to sing during the Eucharistic Prayer the better)

    otherwise psychologically it is a service of readings with homily accompanied by usually coordinate hymns.

    I love my favorite parish and the local Orthodox church both of which sing the Eucharist Prayer standing.

    The other places are pretty boring most of the time, the low points of my liturgical week.

    I am amazed at the many priests with fine voices who think that a sung Eucharistic prayer should be reserved for special occasions.

    Every Lord’s Day is a special occasion. The evangelical churches which deemphasize the church year in favor of the Lord’s Day have far higher average rates of attendance.

    When I was young it was a $1 offering for a low mass; $5 for a sung Mass. So today maybe a $20 offering for a sung EP; a $5 offering without one. That would get their attention. The people are not the problem the priests are the problem.

  3. The most effective Eucharistic prayer I have ever experienced was at a conference where the entire prayer was sung with frequent sung congregational responses (this was over 15 years ago, when such things were not so frowned on from on high). Even though I thought the music itself was not particularly good (a friend of mine said the words of institution sounded like a Disney ballad), it was quite effective in making the Eucharistic prayer a common sacrificium laudis of the entire assembly. I have experienced a similar effect (with much better music) at the liturgies of the Fraternités Monastiques de Jérusalem, who punctuate their sung Eucharistic Prayers with sung responses by the assembly.

    [As a side note: I wish liturgists would stop making scholasticism their whipping boy. It is an intellectually lazy habit that relieves them from having any actual familiarity with scholastic theology. Most of the liturgical practices mentioned in the post pre-date the rise of scholasticism. Moreover, it was a renewal of scholastic theology in the early 20th century that inspired and informed most of the pioneers of the liturgical movement both on the continent and in the U.S.]

  4. Apart from infrequent communion in the pre-Vatican II era, much of which is due to the fast from midnight, but also a bit of Jansenism here and there, there was great respect for the Roman Canon even prayed in a low voice and in Latin. I doubt that any Catholic in the pre-Vatican II period would have thought it would be a good idea to have Communion Services as we now have in many places even when there isn’t even a technical need for it, for example replacing daily Masses. At our Sunday Masses I chant the Eucharistic prayer, no matter which one, beginning of course with the Preface and then continuing with the Epiclesis through the consecration and Mystery of Faith. I think to chant the entire Eucharistic prayer each Sunday might be a bit much and should be reserved perhaps for “progressive solemnity.” And if a priest isn’t good at chanting (like Pope Francis) they should then model Pope Francis’ “chanting.”

    1. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #4:
      Actually, during the Baroque era, and well afterward, communion was frequently given outside of Mass. Sometimes when it was given during Mass and the number of communicants was large, a priest began distributing it from the tabernacle while the canon was being said by the celebrant.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #5:
        Fritz, thanks for the memory! In the 1940’s, when serving Mass, I recall Communion distributed before morning Mass for those who were in a hurry to get to work. Also, in line with Ron’s comment above, Taft’s recent article is sure worth a read or two.

      2. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #5:
        Actually now that you mention it, in my first assignment as a pastor in 1991 the parish did have a custom of distributing Holy Communion to people prior to the Mass, such as the organist or musicians in the choir loft. I put an end to that practice. However, on occasions even now, when someone misses Holy Communion who was in the choir, they receive after Mass. At a Mass at St. peter’s Square for the Mass of Consecrating the world to Mary, I was privileged to distribute Holy Communion and prior to the canon, we all went into the basilica to receive our ciborium of already consecrated hosts and then we stood in line as the Canon was prayed by Pope Francis, barely hearing it, except for the”gongs” at the Epiclesis and Elevations and then as the Lord’s Prayer was chanted, we came out and fanned into the large assembly toward the periphery and began distributing to people even prior to the Lamb of God being completed. I think even indoors that priests fan out to communicants during the Our Father and begin distributing before Agnus Dei is completed.

  5. We go back to the initial question of why no Eucharistic Prayer? Not from choice of a service of Word and Communion over full Eucharistic celebration, but because of the absence of person ordained to serve the community in that role.
    This absence arises from a variety of factors. It is not beyond our wit to find ways to overcome this. Could we, for example consider the following?
    Separate the three areas of service as in priest, prophet and king (shepherd?), and allow that people may serve the community in one of those areas without necessarily being involved in the others. Ensure that each community, the Body of Christ, will have a number of persons prepared and designated for presiding at a celebration of the Eucharist, so that a full celebration including Eucharistic Prayer will be always possible. A person ordained for this does not necessarily need to be drawn into the hierarchical structure of priesthood as we have been used to. Such a person might also exercise the office of prophet, speaking and breaking the Word for the community; or other suitable recognised members of the community could serve in this way.
    Would this destroy the “ontological” nature of ministerial priesthood as at present, or would it extend it? Would it enrich our understanding of the nature of a priestly people, or would it dilute it?
    Would such a development, ensuring that each Christian community, which is a Real Presence of the Body of Christ, be consistent with the full tradition of the Church? If not, why not?
    Would it be perceived as a threat to the current hierarchical structure of the Church, or would it be an experience of liberation and fuller life?
    I can only pose the questions. I await wisdom and enlightenment!

    1. @Pádraig McCarthy – comment #6:
      You raise some very timely, pertinent and serious questions that I believe need to be discussed and addressed by ALL members of the faithful (ordained, vowed religious and laity). I have held and shared the solutions that you propose at various times and with various associates in the past. I believe the “time is right” for having these discussions and for implementing viable solutions that would preserve and ensure the availability of “complete” Eucharistic celebrations – even in the absence of presently ordained ministerial priests.

  6. I always used to sing the EP using the old Mass of Creation. The parishioners loved it.

    Are there any decent new translation settings out there with a sung EP?

    1. @Fr. Pat Barkey – comment #7:
      I simply chant it using the chant form in the Roman Missal, although I tend to improvise and since I do it each Sunday, I don’t even need to turn to the notation any longer, just do it from memory, but a bit improvised. I scrupulously follow the notes though, for the prefaces.

    2. @Fr. Pat Barkey – comment #7:

      This is the local parish which always has the Eucharistic Prayer. It uses a variety of new translation EPs, e.g the one for special needs. Hey you almost don’t see the Latin Background. I guess because it started out in Dutch long ago before becoming Latin and now being re-translated. They have often used the Mass of Creation.

      The pastor is George Smiga a scripture scholar who teachers a lot in many places around town which is probably why his email is not there.

      There are a variety of ways given to make your request. I am sure it will be handled by someone. Beside the pastor, the music director is very competent and might be able to give you more time and personal attention. The choir has won several regional interfaith music competitions.

  7. The EP can be the high point of the Mass. If the priest approaches this prayerfully, whether spoken or sung, it makes all the difference. But in much of my experience, priests rush through the EP as quickly as they can rattle off the words. After the Liturgy of the Word, celebrants can go into autopilot mode. “Praybrethrenthatmsacrificenyoursbeacceptabletogodthefatheralmighty…”

    This may be a byproduct of one priest having to pray 4, 5 or 6 Masses every weekend, or of the endless carping by some parishioners about Mass going too long. Most people are interested in the music, the homily, and receiving Communion. Anything else is just blah-blah-blah that stands between them and the parking lot.

    1. @Scott Pluff – comment #9:


      There was a priest at my church who used to do exactly that, at pretty much every mass no less. It was quite obvious that he couldn’t care less about, well, anything and everything, and well, whad’ya know, he later got arrested for using and selling cocaine.

      Which is to say, while I do not think that only the priest can change things when things are “bad,” I do believe how the priest says the prayer matters a lot, whether it is sung or “chanted” à la Pope Francis (as Fr. Allen said @ comment #4).

  8. A sentence of commentary from the celebrant before the Preface once in a while should be enough to remind everyone.
    There are places where Mass is so infrequent that when the priest visits it is celebrated mightily.
    It is all too easy to forget what a momentous thing is happening when it is almost habitual.

  9. Official regulations not withstanding – one of the most beautiful and community inspiring eucharistic prayers/acclamations I experienced was at a Dallas parish. The DM had composed his own *Table Prayer* which was music using a recognized parish Holy, Holy & acclamation & amen that allowed the presider to sing along or to proclaim and cued folks into the acclamations (more than usual) by both the music, volume, etc.
    The parish enthusiastically responded; were involved and it was used at major feasts and seasons. It also allowed the presiders to either sing or proclaim (based upon comfort, skill, etc.)
    To my mind, this effectively involved the whole praying community; showed them by music, etc. that the euchariistic prayer is ONE prayer that we acclaim/respond to, and experientially accomplished what this post is about.

    Caution – IMO, chant is not always the best…..folks can not always hear the chant words; it can be monotonous; if the presider is not skilled, it can be a painful process and inhibit making the eucharistic prayer the core prayer.

  10. Can anyone here shed light on the history of “communion services” in the Catholic Church?
    My hunch is that people who support kneeling through the entire Eucharistic prayer, sanctus bells, and dramatic elevations wouldn’t be the same ones promoting them.
    I would guess rather that if people believe that nothing essential is lost by the lack of the Eucharistic prayer, then it is because they have been taught to think of the Mass solely in terms of its meal aspect.
    I’m also surprised that people who value the Eucharistic prayer would at the same time be in favor of eliminating kneeling and the use of sanctus bells. These practices, done only during the Eucharistic prayer dramatically demarcate it from other parts of the liturgy.

    1. @Stanislaus Kosala – comment #16:
      Yes, the origin is in the document concerning Worship of Eucharist Outside of Mass, which offers an order of service for communion without Eucharist. In situations where priests are not available, the question then arose of whether to pray the Hours or some devotion, or to have a communion service, and the decision was generally made to have the communion service because that is what the people wanted most.

      And no, in my experience the people who are pressing for communion services are not fixated on the “meal aspect” at all — they are daily Mass goers who have a more devotional attitude toward Eucharist. The point of daily Mass, for them, is the reception of Communion. If anything, they are deeply old-school with respect to the merits of frequent Communion.

      1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #20:

        To follow up on Rita’s comment with a question: Is there a predominately Catholic culture or society where Sunday Morning Prayer has substituted for Mass? Anglicanism and Lutheranism both have a long history of celebrating Morning Prayer on Sunday in the place of the Eucharist, though this practice has subsided greatly after the western Christian liturgical movement rose to prominence.

        Personally, I do think that Morning Prayer followed by communion from the reserved sacrament, and not the neither-here-or-there communion service, should be the standard if a priest is not present. However, like Rita observes, many Catholics expect the communion service, which is a Mass with the offertory, preface, and eucharistic prayer excised. I’d rather pray a service which is more compatible with historical and liturgical Christian worship than a liturgy created out of convenience.

      2. @Rita Ferrone – comment #20:
        That’s very interesting, thank you for clarifying. This isn’t something that I would have expected. Are you saying that there was some sort of consultative process involved in making the decision to permit communion services?
        Would you say though that a type of catechesis which speaks of the mass solely as a meal creates a situation in which it could be difficult to distinguish between the mass and a communion service? Could be a problem that is similar to the old problem of people confusing mass and adoration of the reserved sacrament in a monstrance at a time when many people thought that the high point of the mass was seeing the host?

      3. @Stanislaus Kosala – comment #27:
        The consultative process about communion services, as I experienced it, went on parish by parish. There were days when the parish priest could not be present for the daily Mass. This happened diocese-wide during days of priest conferences, but sometimes for other good reasons too. What to do for the regulars who attend daily Mass? Just cancel, or substitute something else? If something else, what?

        The priests at the parish where I worked talked to the daily Mass attenders and asked them. This was not an uncommon process. The people preferred a lay-led communion service to some of the other alternatives, because at least that way they would receive Holy Communion. Some did feel it “wasn’t as good” if a priest wasn’t there, but Holy Communion is Jesus truly present, and they didn’t turn up their noses at the Eucharist. After all, the Communion they received was duly consecrated by a priest in the first place. So, if Sister Marie or Deacon Bill led the prayers and gave out Communion, it was still Jesus, right?

        In some dioceses, the bishops disagreed, and decided it would be better to deprive the people of Holy Communion altogether if a priest could not be present. This so-called “pastoral” decision was supposed to be catechetical. No priest, no Communion–to drive home the point that you need a priest.

        So there. Take Communion away, to make a point about Holy Orders. That’ll teach ’em.

        No one I know was especially edified. (Some liturgists applauded it.) This was primarily because the existence of lay-led Communion services was never a “statement” about Holy Orders somehow being dispensable. It was a response to people wanting daily Communion. Somehow “fasting” from Communion so they would “learn” something they already knew didn’t answer their hunger.

        If we ceased to give Communion to the sick when Father was not available, how many would receive it in hospitals, and nursing homes?

      4. @Rita Ferrone – comment #29:
        To reply to the last question in your first paragraph, I have always thought, and continue to, that daily Mass can be replaced with the Liturgy of the Hours, which can be led by a layperson. From Monday through Saturday, regular rhythm of Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer, and Evening Prayer could be celebrated. I would shy away about reception of Communion at these services because in my experience with the Hours is that they draws to the Sabbath (the Lord’s Day) and the reserved Sacrament is primarily and pastorally there as viaticum for the sick and the dying.

        Next to the Mass itself, the Hours are the Church’s second form of communal prayer. I don’t know why it is so undervalued. We seem to do only Vesper services in Advent and Lent –to say nothing how most places do not formally conclude the Sacred Triduum with Vespers on the evening of Easter Sunday, but that is another issue.

      5. @Stanislaus Kosala – comment #27:
        “Would you say though that a type of catechesis which speaks of the mass solely as a meal creates a situation in which it could be difficult to distinguish between the mass and a communion service?”

        I follow your logic, Stanislaus, but in my experience an overly strong stress on meal is coupled with such a reliance on the institution narrative that it actually militates against Communion services because the account of the meal would be missing. Sadly, it can also go along with a tendency to disparage Communion of the pre-sanctified as “leftovers.”

        Theologically robust meal enthusiasts (I am one) do not particularly like Communion under one form either, which is inevitably the case in Communion services. So, no, I don’t think you can peg this phenomenon to a catechesis of meal vs sacrifice. (I’m a sacrifice enthusiast too, but that’s another story.)

        I can only tell you my experience. The special ministers of the Eucharist who were engaged in the practice of Communion services as lay leaders were so devout, some of them had never even touched the Eucharist with their hands prior to becoming Extraordinary Ministers. Their reverence for the sacrament of the altar was immense, and absolute. Eucharist was everything to them. It was the sacramentum caritatis to which their lives gave witness, and before which, despite their virtues, they counted themselves as unworthy servants.

        Maybe they were too good. Maybe people saw their faith, and didn’t listen to the words anymore. Maybe the person in the pew didn’t “miss” the Eucharistic Prayer because their hearts were grateful anyway and that was their prayer, their offering-without-words recited in the heart by people who had been going to Mass every day of their lives. I think the whole thing is hard to put into a box and file away under “misunderstanding” or “poor catechesis” or the excesses of one devotional style or another.

      6. @Rita Ferrone – comment #32:
        “In some dioceses, the bishops disagreed, and decided it would be better to deprive the people of Holy Communion altogether if a priest could not be present. This so-called “pastoral” decision was supposed to be catechetical. No priest, no Communion–to drive home the point that you need a priest. So there. Take Communion away, to make a point about Holy Orders. That’ll teach ‘em.”

        Well put. An odious approach.

      7. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #35:
        I heard that recently from a priest. He thought that a Rosary would be better, not even the Liturgy of the Hours. A liturgy of the Word would cause “confusion.” Or “expectation.” I suggested he just ask the people what they want.

        And told the story of a parish I knew that had sent four guys to Holy Orders in the diocese. And the community was merged into three others to form a sprawling new parish. (It was their idea, granted.) I suggested to my priest friend that a fat lot of good “ungering for the Eucharist” and motivation to “support” vocations did them. they weren’t even given an opportunity to make a deal: we send you three priests, keep one, and leave our parish alone.

        There’s a lot of “poor catechesis” in play these days. Some of it is even in seminaries.

      8. @Rita Ferrone – comment #32:
        Thanks, Rita – two of Stanislaus’ original points concerned me, also.

        In terms of meal – from Thomas Richstatter:

        “If the shape of the Eucharist is “gathering, story telling, meal sharing, commissioning,” the theology of the Eucharist can best be understood by balancing three metaphors: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. In my opinion those that succeed balance meal, sacrifice, and body of Christ. (presence)

        I use “Holy Thursday” as a metaphor for the “meal dimension of the Eucharist.” The shape of the Eucharist is that of a Meal (with its gathering, story telling, bring the food to the table, saying grace, eating and drinking, and commissioning).” (much of pre-VII, the eucharist was seen only from the Good Friday (sacrifice context)…. it is important to stress the fact that the shape of the eucharist is that of a meal. I find that still today many Catholics consider Holy Communion as something “added on” to the Sacrifice of the Mass. Most Catholics think of “going to Communion” as their individual reception of the host rather than sharing a meal.”

        “….do not believe that all Catholics, or even most, have shifted their thinking about the Mass from an individual act to a collective act. The Lex Orandi reminds us that the Eucharist a “we” (collective, plural) action. Sharing a meal is much more than simply “eating.” The eucharist is much more than simply “receiving Communion.” The theology has shifted from an individual action to a communal action; from eating to sharing a meal; from receiving Holy Communion to celebrating the Eucharist; from receiving something to giving something: thanks and praise.

        This is an area where the lex orandi needs further development. As the shape of the eucharistic sacrifice is that of a meal, everything possible should be done to make the celebration more “meal-like.” Bread should look and taste like real bread. The wine should be good wine. And there should be lots of both! Important symbols are the one loaf of bread and the one cup of wine. It is important that each communicant experience the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the one loaf. The posture and movement of the congregation should point to the fact that we are eating and drinking together at a meal.:

        Other points – chanting only the first part of the EP creates confusion – isn’t it one, unified, complete prayer – why chant only half? Same with the use of bells – it is an older approach that *notifies* us, watchers…and why if we are singing the acclamation or a reason for added acclamations – there are different parts to the EP.
        Finally, in terms of a meal (or pre-sanctified eucharist), the most over looked and unfulfilled rubric over the last 40 years is the request that each community’s eucharist use the bread which is there – not accessing the tabernacle – again, to reinforce the community meal/prayer rather than an object from an earlier eucharist that can be disconnected from what we are doing.

      9. @Bill deHaas – comment #36:

        Bill: Important symbols are the one loaf of bread and the one cup of wine. It is important that each communicant experience the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the one loaf.

        If I walked into a Divine Liturgy and tried to make my way past the Holy Doors to “take a piece off” of the Lamb, I would be body-blocked by any ministers present before I could even place a finger on the altar.

        Many might say, “that’s ridiculous. Any sane person wouldn’t disrupt a Divine Liturgy with such an obvious profanation.” How is my example any different than the example Bill has provided? Why would “each communicant experience the breaking of the bread” be an act of piety in the West but a sacrilege in the East?
        Although at many times I have bordered on becoming a schismatic, I never doubted the teachings of the Second Vatican Council on the eucharist. The conciliar amplification of the mystery of the Eucharist to include both the holy sacrifice and the paschal mystery brought full circle what Trent could not express in a more vivid fullness.

        I do not fully understand the latter day over-emphasis on the baptismal priesthood in the celebration of the Mass. Yes, the baptized laity are integral to the celebration of the Mass, and not just in attendance. This is apparent in the consistent use of the first person plural in the verbs of the Canon and every eucharistic prayer.

        Somehow this reality has been transformed into the idea that laypersons should be involved in any aspect of the Mass possible. I do not see how touching the Eucharist will impart any more knowledge of the unbloody sacrifice than simple adoration. Still, current liturgical theory inexorably wishes for the laity to comprehend more in a sensory manner rather than cognitive manner. The notion that the baptismal priesthood must participate even at parity with the ministerial participants at some points is an impoverishment of a another benefit of the lay state: an ability to contemplate this awesome sacrifice from another perspective than the celebrant. Distance, then, imparts benefit.

        I realize the great gravity and sensitivity required by this topic. Just because I, as a person not called to the priesthood, does not consider himself excluded in some way from the clerical participation certainly never excludes the possibility that others feel differently. Still, perhaps it is a good idea to place a renewed stress on the Eucharist as a mystery to contemplate first.

      10. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #37:
        “I do not fully understand the latter day over-emphasis on the baptismal priesthood in the celebration of the Mass.”

        Because the Mass is as much about the sanctification of the Body of Christ as it is about worship of the Father.

        “Somehow this reality has been transformed into the idea that laypersons should be involved in any aspect of the Mass possible.”

        I find this to be more a misunderstanding, or a myth. Some people imitate what they see in priests, or the attitudes of the priesthood. If involvement-in-anything is indeed derigeur, it is because priests showed us the way.

      11. @Rita Ferrone – comment #32:
        Most of what you say seems right to me and I agree that taking holy communion away from people in order to teach them a point about holy orders and the Eucharistic prayer is wrong absurd (just as taking away adoration of the host in a monstrance in order to teach a point about receiving holy communion is also wrong in my opinion). I think that for a while I bought into the anxiety that these services are a first step to the position maintained by Schilebeeckx and the Dutch Dominicans that questions the necessity of holy orders for a celebration of the Eucharist.
        In your experience has there been any occurrence at all of people failing to see the essential difference between communion services and the Mass? The reason that i’m asking this is because I myself have heard people state that they do not see an essential difference after they experienced such services.

    2. @Stanislaus Kosala – comment #16:

      “I would guess rather that if people believe that nothing essential is lost by the lack of the Eucharistic prayer, then it is because they have been taught to think of the Mass solely in terms of its meal aspect.”

      Perhaps, but my guess its quite different: it is because they have a strong emphasis on receiving the sacrament as object, without much concern for the integrity of the liturgical action.

      “I’m also surprised that people who value the Eucharistic prayer would at the same time be in favor of eliminating kneeling and the use of sanctus bells. These practices, done only during the Eucharistic prayer dramatically demarcate it from other parts of the liturgy.”

      No, they don’t. They dramatically demarcate part of the Eucharistic prayer from other parts of the Eucharistic prayer.

      1. @Christian McConnell – comment #31:
        How does kneeling throughout the entire Eucharistic prayer demarcate one part of it from others?
        Aren’t the parts of the Eucharistic prayer already demarcated? Epiclesis, Institution narrative, anamnesis, doxology, etc.
        The rubrics already instruct the priest to show the host and chalice, to elevate the elements during the doxology, to genuflect at certain points, and for the people to make the memorial acclamation.
        Why are some demarcations ok but not others?

  11. I am not sure I agree with this premise in the original post:

    One hears of Catholics today seeing no loss when Mass is replaced by a Word and Communion service – one gets Communion, so what’s the difference”

    Everything seems to proceed from this premise but I don’t think it is true in general. Some years ago I was at my Saturday vigil with church full of fellow parishioners and the priest became ill just prior to Mass. A couple of doctors there attended to him, and got him in the hospital. Meanwhile, I was asked to lead a communion service for those who were there, some of whom would have no option to come back on Sunday when we could get a neighbor priest to substitute. We did everything, including hymns, except a homily and the EP. In other words, everything I thought I could do. Even in those exigent circumstances I don’t think many – if any – thought it was the same. I know the difference and I am pretty sure most people I worship with know the difference.

    1. @Charles Day – comment #17:
      Agreed with the semi-mythology on “what’s the difference?” I think what’s often in operation a Liturgy of the Word with distribution of Communion is that some laity and deacons leading them are better preachers and presiders than the priest. And if they’re getting Communion from the tabernacle anyway, why not go with the quality? (And the brevity?)

      Acknowledging the importance of the Eucharistic Prayer, let me play devil’s advocate on one point. We do have a long-standing tradition in the Roman Rite of doing a Word and Communion service with people. Why is it okay for the sick and the dying and their families? But not for a community that sees a priest less than once a week? Practically, of course, it’s about available time, either of the visitor or the ill person. Theologically, what’s the difference? I’ve never known a priest or a liturgist who could tell me.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #26:

        It also has to do with rules limiting bination and trination (which were reforms designed to prevent the abuses of earlier eras, lest we forget).

  12. I think posture could help a lot. As I see it, standing during the act of offering that follows the Consecration (as prescribed by GIRM) indicates that the congregation is part of what is being done through the priest’s words—whereas kneeling at that time indicates, falsely, that the congregation’s primary occupation is adoring the presence of Jesus in the elements of the Eucharist. Kneeling is allowed in the USA, Canada, Australia, and other places (Britain and Ireland?) through an exception to the general rubrics. However, those in Rome who permitted this exception, and the bishops who have taken advantage of it, evince a misunderstanding of what happens at Mass. Don’t they?
    I’ve read several popular explanations of the Eucharist, some coming from very traditionalistic writers, that completely ignore that the entire congregation offers the Body and Blood of Jesus to the Father in union with Jesus. As they tell it, after the Memorial Acclamation Father says a bunch of stuff, including prayers for the dead, and then we have the Doxology and Great Amen. What’s the matter with these people?
    And Father Allan, I’m afraid that you’re contributing to the problem if you chant the Canon through the Memorial Acclamation and then switch to speaking. My parish once had a priest who did that, so I’ve seen how it comes across. You’re communicating that after the Memorial Acclamation the really weighty part is over and the act of offering and invocation of the Holy Spirit are of lesser importance. I’m sure that’s not what you intend to do, but that’s what you’re doing. Please reconsider.

  13. And Father Allan, I’m afraid that you’re contributing to the problem if you chant the Canon through the Memorial Acclamation and then switch to speaking

    This is interesting. Five to ten years ago this is how my favorite parish did it, but they stopped and went to the full chanted EP because they found out it was against the rubrics to do only the first part.

    Now I am not interested in rubrics so I don’t know where this came from. But it needs to be investigated.

    Surely Allan of all people would not want to be violating the red! And misleading other people in that direction!

    1. @Jack Rakosky – comment #19:
      I’d have to actually see the red on that one which I haven’t. That would be like saying you couldn’t chant the preface unless you chant thr EP or you’d have to omit chanting thr Mystery of Faith and the per Ipsum if the rest of the EP isn’t chanted. The OF allows for great flexibility in terms of what is chanted and what isn’t. Mix and match is allowed.

      1. @Fr. Allan. McDonald – comment #33:
        It seems to me, though, that a priest is obliged not to mix and match in such a way as to produce bizarre results (chanting the Consecration and then reciting the Memorial Acclamation, for example) or to give the impression of downplaying certain parts of the EP (such as reciting the priest’s portion that follows the Memorial Acclamation and chanting everything before and after).

      2. @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #42:
        In terms of the examples you give, true enough, but when the majority of the Eucharistic Prayer is chanted, beginning with the Preface Dialogue and through the Mystery of Faith, to speak the rest of the Eucharist Prayer up until the Per Ipsum which is then chanted with the Great Amen, cannot be viewed in the same way. Granted, I could chant the first paragraph after the Mystery of Faith (the one normally said alone by the main celebrant in a con-celebrated Mass, prior to a concelebrant taking over) but that is really a minor adaptation on my part. BTW with EP II I chant it from the beginning since there is such a brief part prior to the Epiclesis.

        BTW also, for most of us schooled in progressive solemnity, we seldom chanted even the preface with its dialogue except for those solemntites that required some “dressing up” if you will. Thus most of us schooled in progressive solemnity never really felt comfortable chanting any of our parts and celebrated most Masses as Pope Francis does, with the only sung parts being the Kryie, Gloria, Responsorial Psalm Alleluia, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, Great Amen and Agnus Dei.

        It took me about 12 years before I felt bold enough to chant the Preface each Sunday and actually get use to doing so and overcoming my feelings of inadequacy in my ability to sing or chant. And it took about 25 years after my ordination to do what I’m doing now with the rest of the Eucharistic Prayer. Maybe after 40 years I’ll get comfortable chanting the entire EP! Blame all that on being ingrained with progressive solemnity in the 1970’s.

      3. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #49:
        Progressive solemnity is usually about the liturgical year, not the progression in skill of individual liturgical ministers. Progressive solemnity is also not about individual elements in whole pieces of the liturgy. I think we sing acclamations always, even daily Mass. When the EP is sung, the whole thing should be sung, or possibly nothing at all. It’s one reason why, though I like the setting, I never encouraged priests to sing the Mass of Creation. Marty Haugen’s EP II was much better, as I always got the impression he ran out of ideas in MC or his publisher told him to hurry up and let’s get this in print.

      4. @Todd Flowerday – comment #50:
        Todd, that’s my point, most of us didn’t sing the EP at all or the preface dialogue and preface due in large part to this notion of progressive solemnity and doing it only for special times during the liturgical year. We didn’t get comfortable doing it since we did it so infrequently.

      5. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #49:
        Father Allan, are you saying that to chant the EP through the Memorial Acclamation and then switch to recitation doesn’t suggest that the act of offering and the second epiclesis are less important than the sung parts before and after? Because that’s surely the way it has seemed to me in the pew.
        My big point in this thread is that when, just after the Memorial Acclamation, the priest says “We offer to you his body and blood,” the people in the pews are thereby doing something extremely momentous, and vast numbers of them are oblivious to what they’re doing.
        What can be done to make people more aware? Well, one immediate step would be to get them off their knees at that time. And one way to communicate that something important is going on is to use chant for the act of offering, on the assumption that the priest also chants the Words of Institution.
        (The Latin Rite custom, prescribed in the GIRM, of kneeling for the Consecration has an utterly different rationale.)

      6. @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #58:
        I don’t know about other places but Italy and Canada stand after the consecration of the Precious Blood, Canada kneels after the Sanctus, Italy at the Epiclesis. Chanting the Epeclesis and consecration goes with the Kneeling custom of Italy thus proving I am half Italian and as it concerns my chanting of EP II it proves I am half Canadian. 🙂

      7. @Fr. Allan. McDonald – comment #60:
        “I don’t know about other places but Italy and Canada stand after the consecration of the Precious Blood.”

        Do you mean after the consecration of the wine? By the way, it’s the EP which is the prayer of consecration.

      8. @Gerard Flynn – comment #69:
        I think I’m correct that once the bread is consecrated and the wine consecrated, both are the Body and Blood of Christ. If the priest dies immediately after the consecration of the Precious Blood, the bread and wine are the Precious Body and Blood of Christ, but the Sacrificial aspect of the Mass is incomplete, requiring some other priest to complete it to make the sacrificial aspect valid, which also requires the priest to consume the Holocaust to complete the Sacrifice.

      9. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #77:
        Gerard: here’s a better way to express this from Herbert McCabe’s God Matters:
        The notion of transubstantiation depends on the idea that there can be a kind of transformation in what it means to exist which is not simply a change in what it is that exists. But such a change — unprecedented except for the possible parallel of God’s creating a world by bringing non-existence into existence — is beyond language and almost beyond intelligibility. That is why Thomists like McCabe warn against the careless assumption that when we use words like transubstantiation “we really know what we are saying.” Transubstantiation, he wisely notes, is a difficult and dangerous term, for “it sounds as though we were concerned with a quasi-chemical change within the host, . . . that the Eucharist can be discussed in terms of an exact account of what happens within this piece of bread.” (McCabe, 151) And that, of course, is precisely what cannot be done.
        It is important, then, not to become so obsessed by a term (even one hallowed by long use) that we are more concerned about its potential as a test of “ideological purity” than about its actual meaning for people today. In the Eucharist, bread and wine indeed “suffer a revolutionary change” — not because they “change into something else” but because “they become more radically food and drink.”
        The ultimate goal of Eucharist, then, is not to change bread but to change people, to transform the celebrating assembly into what it receives, viz., the body of Christ.
        Consequently, to treat sacramental language as though it were merely a “litmus test of orthodoxy” is manipulative, cynical and little short of sacrilegious.
        The language of the Eucharistic Prayer is not a platform for proclaiming dogmas; it is doxology whose goal is praise of the God “who lives in unapproachable light, Source of life and goodness.” (EP IV)

        The response above misses the point – it is not an object.

      10. @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #58:
        Paul – agree. We have anewly ordained associate pastor who also chants all over the place in terms of the EP. Asked him why? His response reveals little understanding about the unity of the EP; that it is one payer, etc. Rather, his response has to do with trying to make things different and thus make folks aware…..something to do with a teacher who recommended that they chant parts of the liturgy (but obviously no understanding beyond that dictum). And we continue to confuse the elevation at the narrative with what is supposed to be the final, great elevation at the end of the EP…doesn’t the complete prayer build to that ending? and then our AMEN.
        And agree with your comments on posture for the community. (we used to kneel until after the institution narrative and then stand which made little sense – one of the STL archbishops finally put a stop to that)

      11. @Bill deHaas – comment #63:
        Kneeling until after the Institution Narrative and then standing makes eminent sense to me, and I wish it were the rule in the USA! Kneeling can be appropriate when the priest is doing something FOR the congregation but is (I think) exceedingly inappropriate when the priest is doing something WITH the congregation.

      12. @Paul R. Schwankl – comment #68:
        Paul, I don’t think this distinction holds up, that the priest is doing something “for” the congregation here, “with” them there. He’s both with them and for them all the way through. And the Eucharistic Prayer is a unit, from its beginning (“The Lord be with you. And with your spirit.”) to its conclusion at the Amen. It is this unity that should be supported by appropriate posture.

      13. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #73:
        I take your point, Father Anthony. Sorry for the provocative “for”; evidently Clifford Howell’s “Of Sacraments and Sacrifice” is not the last word on eucharistic theology. I believe he said there, concerning the Consecration, that the faithful “have no part in this at all” but may only witness and adore (or similar words). (I hope I’m not Father Howell’s only surviving reader.)
        As a practical matter, I’m happy enough to abide by the GIRM’s universal rules of posture, including kneeling at the Consecration, especially in view of the longevity of this practice. The Eucharistic Prayer may be essentially one act, but the genuflections of the priest set off the Consecration from what precedes and follows, and make standing by the congregation at that time a bit problematic, I think.

  14. Pius X lives on. Frequent communion as the medicine of life is a powerful belief for many, and the push for it precedes by half a century the later development of praying the Eucharistic Prayer as a holistic experience!

  15. I have heard well educated nuns say that they could do without the Mass but not Holy Communion. They had no idea what was missing when only Communion is offered. On the other hand I also heard sisters tell me that in pre-Vatican II days the priest told them to receive Communion offered as soon as Mass was started and then stay for the whole Mass that followed and make it their thanksgiving.

  16. If I look at the responses so far from the perspective of parish-level liturgy planners, working within the current missal and ethos of the U.S. today, I see:
    – Sing the entire Eucharistic Prayer, including more acclamations for the people: Realistically, how many of our priests are able and willing? In my parish, with four priests, I think two could do it, one would give it a good try, and one would refuse.
    – Stand for the Eucharistic Prayer: few dioceses in the U.S. allow this, I think because it is seen as less reverent than kneeling.
    – Bells at the consecration: Doesn’t that just exacerbate the problem, with its emphasis on the Eucharistic Prayer as a matter of “confecting the Eucharist?”
    – Priest recites it more slowly/meaningfully: Complete a matter of the priest’s style.

    I really think a large part of the problem lies in the teachers and catechists who prepare children for Holy Communion. They are passing on their own limited understanding. It seems that very few of them teach at all about the Eucharistic Prayer when they teach about Holy Communion. It’s easier to teach how to receive Communion than it is to teach how to put yourself into the Eucharistic Prayer.

    Preaching, too — I have heard several homilies about the Real Presence, but never one about the Eucharistic Prayer.

    I received a sample booklet from LTP yesterday that addressed this, by Paul Turner, IIRC, which was really well done. But it took several pages. Not an easy topic to cover when you’re starting from Ground Zero with people who have been raised to see Holy Communion as the high point and raison d’etre of their participation in Mass.

    I hope we can think about this topic from a very practical, doable perspective for real parishes today. Thank you, everyone, for all your observations.

  17. Rita # 21 Frequent communion as the medicine of life is a powerful belief for many
    Jordon # 22 Personally, I do think that Morning Prayer followed by communion from the reserved sacrament, and not the neither-here-or-there communion service, should be the standard if a priest is not present

    The Byzantine Tradition does combine Vespers with some OT readings and Communion in the Liturgical of the Pre-Sanctified which is used in Lent. The service is seen as medicine of life, food for the journey rather than as the feast of the Kingdom. And of course in the early church they took the Eucharist home and even used it literally as medicine as well as food.

    I too would prefer a combination of Morning Prayer and/or Evening Prayer with a single continuous reading from the OT or Epistles combined with a communion service. If the psalms, hymns and canticles were sufficiently standardized and sung as in the Byzantine tradition it could even by a sufficient high church but short (30 minute) service. In some places where pastoral staff were sufficiently educated a brief homily during and/or bible study after the service on the continuous reading might be an added benefit.

    I might even go to such a high church service even though I do not now go to daily Mass. I do not see the daily 30 minute low Mass even with a few add-on, e.g. hymn before and after and Sanctus as a sufficient image of the feast of the Kingdom.

    It is interesting that Andrea Grillo writes in chapter 2

    In this perspective, the real and most serious liturgical abuse is the reduction of the Eucharist to its minimum, to its essentials, to its conceptual skeleton. It is a perspective that gives rise to an urgent need for a full spacio-temporal understanding of the eucharistic action, recovering all the richness of the readings from Scripture, the homily, the prayer of the faithful, a language that is understood, Communion with bread and wine, unity of the celebration, and possibility of concelebration. It must be noted: not one of these elements is traditionally understood to be ad necessitatem, but all of them are ad solemnitatem. In the old perspective, they are all dispensible elements

    Yes the feast of the Kingdom requires solemnity even if it is a very simple solemnity of readings, prayers, well know hymns and chants. Even our celebration of morning prayer and evening prayer should have a flavor of that solemnity and point toward the Eucharist as it does in the Byzantine tradition.

  18. Mr. Kosala’s comment number 16 is exactly right. If people don’t understand that the sacrificial nature of the Mass, they aren’t going to miss the Eucharistic Prayer.

    1. @Tom Piatak – comment #40:
      Another blame game. If the celebration of the Mass, especially the proclamation and/or singing of the Eucharistic Prayer demonstrated sacrifice, then it would be clear.

      It’s an artist’s principle: show, don’t tell. It works for ministry, too. The people who kneel, ring bells, and gaze on elevations are practicing spiritual devotion, not liturgy.

  19. Here in the Diocese of Gaylord, Communion services are not allowed. This decision was made by Bp. Patrick Cooney and upheld by now Archbishop Bernard Hebda. The thinking behind Cooney’s decision was to avoid confusion between a service and the Mass, and to do away with a lay-person’s “Mass”, which I can tell you first hand, happened. It was more about the leader than Eucharist. Each parish has one or two lay-persons trained to lead SCAP and it’s only used in emergencies. In Northern Michigan, weather has necessitated it’s use in parish clusters. After seeing much abuse, I welcomed the decision.
    Sung Eucharistic Prayers: Mass of Creation was revised with a fully chanted setting of EP2. Joncas’ New Mass for John Carroll presents the Mass for Various Needs and Occasions. Scott Soper’s Mass of Awakening offers EP 3. Tony Alonso’s Mass of Joy and Peace has an added EP 2. Joncas mentions in the notes for Missa ad Gentes that a setting of EP 4 will be available. Schutte’s Mass of Christ the Savior has a sung setting of EP 2. Hommerding, as noted above, has a Melodic EP in multiple keys.
    My previous parish was remodeled and kneelers were removed. The community stood from the “Pray brethren” until the conclusion of Communion. I found it to be absolutely beautiful. Standing in the presence of God. The pastor was musical, and we used Haugen’s Mass of Creation, Joncas’ Psallite Mass, Hurd’s Mass of Glory, Haugen’s Mass of Remembrance, Janco’s Mass of the Angels and Saints, and Joncas’ No Greater Love. (Haugen’s Eucharistic Prayer II was next, but I moved to a closer parish) Mass of Glory was loved, Mass of Remembrance was loved, of course Creation was, and No Greater Love was adored. I can remember clear as day the first time we used it… Lent… it was prayed as written, with the choir echoing the presider on the preface “Your Spirit changes our hearts….” “Your Spirit is at work…” I started choking up as the people joined the choir on the “misere nobis” mantra of the intercessions…

      1. @Jeff BeBeau – comment #47:

        I think composers are now more inclined to produce more cantillated parts over metered passages, especially since you can’t accompany the priest with keyboard or instruments (WINK WINK). All of the revised Creation EP 2 is set that way. That should make crafting sung prayers much easier. Doesn’t seem to be a priority at the moment though.

  20. continued –

    unexpectedly, most joined in on the doxology. That day, the Eucharistic Prayer was prayed in it’s fullness. It was not a performance. There was full, active, and conscious participation.

    I pray that someday soon, we can return to Spirit-led options of the great anaphoras.

  21. Mr. Flowerday,

    There is plenty of blame to go around. Levels of regular attendance at Mass in the Western world are a fraction of what they were before Vatican II. And, according to this survey published at the invaluable Nineteen Sixty Four blog, 37% of American Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence and 50% of American Catholics don’t even know what the Church teaches about the Real Presence:

    Say what you will about the Church before Vatican II, but American Catholics then at least knew about the sacrificial nature of the Mass and the Real Presence. Maybe, just maybe, the elimination of altar rails, kneeling, statues, incense, altar bells, and the like may have helped to undermine belief in the sacred nature of the Mass and of its importance.

    1. @Tom Piatak – comment #52:

      It’s important to be cautious with surveys like the one you have mentioned. It’s difficult for many people to choose one option out of three or four which “best describes” any religious belief or tenet. Many people might not choose the correct teaching in the phone interview, but correctly explain the doctrine in person.

      It is likely that many Catholics do not know the catechism well. I do not see this phenomenon as dependent on Vatican II or the reformed liturgy. Poor catechesis is not necessarily due to the worship style of a church.

    2. @Tom Piatak – comment #52:
      “Levels of regular attendance at Mass in the Western world are a fraction of what they were before Vatican II.”

      Sure, and they are a fraction of what they were before Humanae Vitae, the counterculture, the suburbs, television, and WWII. That you would single out Vatican II (an incomplete project in my view and in the view of many) implies that you are blaming two popes and a few thousand council bishops.

      “American Catholics then at least knew about the sacrificial nature of the Mass and the Real Presence.”

      Unfortunately, there is no proof of this. We might like to think that parroting the Baltimore Catechism implied a knowledge and hopefully an understanding. But nobody did surveys. For all we know, the Mass was largely admired in, say 1930, but people were even less informed and experienced about Christ. They sure received Communion less often. They understood a lot fewer words than even MR3. And given the way things seemed to have fallen apart after 1965, I’m inclined to think that pre-conciliar Catholicism may not have been all that deep.

      The attempt to recover some imagined past with altar rails, mail-order statues, and cheap brass bells will prove fruitless unless and until we are prepared to address the real issue: converting believers into disciples.

      That is, of course, today’s biggest challenge: moving us from mere belief into being the disciples Jesus called us to be. It is not enough to believe in God and profess the Catholic Church. It never has been. We have been called to much more than that.

  22. Mr. Flowerday:

    I agree with you about the importance of showing, not merely telling. That was the purpose of the altar bell, the incense, the statues, the altar rail, kneeling, and the like. They show that what is happening at the altar is of central importance.

    1. @Tom Piatak – comment #53:
      I fear that they also tend to suggest, falsely and perniciously, that what is happening in the pew is of minimal importance. At least making the congregation kneel when they are taking active part in the sacrifice has this effect, in my view.

  23. I believe this error is also encouraged by the unfortunate practice seen in many retrovations (my neologism, feel free to share) of moving tabernacles from appropriate and devotional chapels of reservation to central axis eyesores.

    Sadly this practice is encouraged and even mandated by prelates who enjoy little to no liturgical training.

  24. A couple of thoughts drawn from observing priests who tend to treat the EP more as something that they just need to get everyone through (it may be subconscious, but the sensibility nearly glows with radioactivity):

    1. Don’t use a conversational tone and speed of voice to offer the EP. Practice doing it without a body microphone, imagine having to fill the space and at a speed where one could be understood. You won’t need that volume when you don the body microphone, but it may help transform how you do it. (Chanting it can be lovely, just no constant accompaniment (not only verboten, but it ends up sounding more like a soundtrack rather than prayer – one of those ideas that ends up as a cure that’s worse than the disease.)

    2. Don’t rely only on EP2 or EP3 for Sundays. Use EP1 whenever a special Communicantes formula is available (that applies to weddings, too, a very interesting thing); use EP4 (and its preface, of course) during Ordinary Time more often. Where possible, use the other permitted EPs as well. They can be lovely.

    * * *

    As for more acclamations in the EP: Count me as not persuaded by that idea. The Memorial Acclamation is one of the postconciliar developments that seems to have not worked out particularly well, and if anything if EPs are revised in the future, the MA could be allowed a dignified retirement.

    1. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #57:
      Sorry – based upon my experiences, disagree with most of your points.
      1) agree with your proclamation idea; disagree about the accompaniment and soundtrack…yes, you are correct that poorly done this would be the result. But have too often experienced when this is well done.
      2) agree, we have many EPs to choose from – reconciliation ones are often much better than the Roman Canon (which I recommend being used rarely). Children’s EPs are also an excellent option when applicable.
      3) diagree about your opinions on acclamations and your judgment that the memorial acclamation has not worked out well. You give no reasons for your judgment.

      1. @Bill deHaas – comment #61:
        Agree. I’ve been to too many OF masses in dinky tiny parishes to immense cathedrals over the past almost 40 years to know the Canon with the doxology chanted in Latin or the vernacular, and with all the bells and smells (in some cases with two thurifers) , facing east or west, is a dramatically more beautiful and moving rite than it ever was in the EP version of that rite. The Anglican and Western Rite Orthodox version even more so at times.

    2. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #57: And Bill # 61

      My views are closer to Bill’s on this one.

      First essentially the Preface is part of the EP and therefore the Rome Rite has great variability. Having heard the Prefaces both chanted and spoken, I prefer spoken (although beginning with a chanted introduction and ending with a chanted conclusion) so that they can be done slowly and distinctly and we can hear and understand them without an aid.

      In contrast to the Preface where I need to listen, in the EP I sing along mentally in union with the priest. So I want to know the text and melody very well. Therefore the EP should be very predictable, e.g. use the same one each year during Advent, etc. and not too many EPs to absorb. I would not chant the special EP1 phrases for that reason. I agreed with Bill that we have much better options than EP1.

      In my experience the more people’s responses during the EP the better as long as they are also predictable and well learned. I agree we have overemphasized the MA. Actually I would prefer the Byzantine response of one simple sung Amen after each of the institution narratives accompanied by a profound bow and silence. I agree with Bill that the EP reaches its climax with the solemn doxology and Amen at the end.

      The Byzantine liturgy has a very beautiful We praise You, we bless You, we give thanks to You, and we pray to You, Lord our God. shortly after the institution narratives.

      I would break that up into several smaller phrases and use them at various points during the EPs It would beautifully complement the priest’s words in a better manner than the rubber stamp Amen.

  25. About understanding the Real Presence:

    It seems to me that there is one bit of evidence that suggests that people understood the Real Presence better earlier in th 20th century than later in that century. Use of the word “transubstantiation” to say what is going on at Mass nowadays irritates many, many people no end. That didn’t happen when I was young (I’m 83). I suspect it’s because the meaning of the word has been lost. And because many of the faithful have lost the meaning they don’t realize that Jesus-God is really present on the altar.

    Yes, it’s most important to be a disciple. But being a disciple includes belief in the Lord — that He is Lord God and is miraculously present to us on the altar. Or is the problem that these days many of the faithful don’t believe in miracles?

  26. Mr. Flowerday,

    By saying that Vatican II is an “incomplete project,” aren’t you blaming at least two Popes?

    The Baltimore Catechism was far from perfect, but at least those educated with it were exposed to the basics of the Catholic faith. The same, alas, cannot be said of many of the catechetical approaches that replaced the Baltimore Catechism. Until the survey I linked to came out, I thought those claiming that many Catholics no longer believed in the Real Presence were guilty of gross exaggeration. Unfortunately, they were not–half of all American Catholics are ignorant of something as basic as what the Church teaches about the Real Presence.

    The facts are the facts. Before Vatican II, Mass attendance was high throughout most of the West. After Vatican II, Mass attendance collapsed. This does not necessarily mean that the changes imposed after Vatican II are responsible for the collapse, but it surely suggests that those changes failed to accomplish what they were intended to bring about. The Council Fathers certainly did not desire Mass attendance to collapse. And it’s awfully hard to form disciples out of people who show up to Mass a few times at year at most.

    1. @Tom Piatak – comment #64:
      “Aren’t you blaming at least two Popes?”

      No. Not for Mass attendance. Poor bishops in the US, well ….

      “Before Vatican II, Mass attendance was high throughout most of the West …”

      It’s my contention that Bob Dylan plugging in, the death of Marilyn Monroe, and Yoko Ono intruding on the Beatles were to blame. It all went downhill with that. Vatican II had nothing to do with it.

      It’s important to recognize the difference between causation and co-incidence.

    2. @Tom Piatak – comment #64:
      About Mass attendance and the liturgical reform of Vatican II, you say:

      “it surely suggests that those changes failed to accomplish what they were intended to bring about”

      Pope John Paul II doesn’t agree with you.
      “Certainly the liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active, and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful.” – Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 10

      Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, Ratzingerian theologian and current head of the CDF just named a Cardinal, doesn’t agree with you.
      From the Tablet account of his address in Wurzburg in December:
      “Archbishop Müller contradicted those who blamed the increasing disappearance of the faith and dwindling Mass attendance in the formerly Christian countries of the Western world on the reform of the liturgy following the Council, and expressly underlined the merits of the 1970 Missal. “All Catholics who think and feel with the Church realise that the reform was a success,” he said.”

      That reporting is accurate, I was there.

      Finally, I don’t agree with you either. The attendance data, as Bill has noted, responds to many phenomena of culture, thought, and conflict that are not liturgical, number one, and not pegged to the Council, number two. Second, the hypothesis that the reform pushed people out the door fails to account for the massive growth of the Church in Africa and Asia during the same period as the decline in developed countries. Third, you don’t know how many people would have left the pews without the reform even in those places that have experienced decline in numbers, and how many the reform actually kept active and engaged and faith-filled, which are the real terms of comparison. The latest “hit” has been the abuse scandals. Again, not liturgy, not Vatican II, but clerical abuse and its cover up has been the driving factor.

  27. We have had this specific discussion many times complete with links, documentation, etc.
    Fact – plenty of documentation and studies indicate that the European catholic church was already seeing significant decreases in attendance long before Vatican II.
    This is a complicated picture:
    – tension between rote, childhood memorization (Balt. Cath) and whether that translated into active faith practice (as Todd said well – discipleship) – this is an open and on-going question/discussion
    – differences in how the church and its moral authority was viewed – the whole *focus on sin* driving mass attendance began to erode (this change towards authority was societal, cultural, not just church) And this change was both positive and negative depending upon your subjective worldview
    – no reputable study has been able to determine that the reforms of VII caused a drop in attendance…in fact, just the opposite given what I cited above about the European church (unfortunately, that immediate trend after the end of VII did not last) Thus, Todd’s excellent citing of Humanae Vitae in which you can see drops but not because of VII reforms
    – the notion of *attendance* as the measurement for discipleship; for faith journey, etc. Suggest that attendance is not the best measuring standard
    – As John Courtney Murray stated well after passage of Dignitas Humanis – *development of dogma (doctrine, liturgy, moral theology) is the underlying theme of VII* ….VII is a beginning not an end. (Todd’s *incomplete*) Reference some of the recent posts about the 50th anniversary of the passage of SC…most posited that the reforms have only just started or impacted the life of the church.
    – part of the opinions shared on the 50th anniversary highlighted that the two aims of SC – reform of the liturgy – and – so, that the church will be reformed have only been partly realized. Liturgy was reformed in fits but has it then reformed the church (Todd’s discipleship)? That is the continuing journey and question.
    Finally, your interpretation of the Real Presence survey results is just your opinion – doesn’t align with what experts have said in their careful reviews and studies.

      1. @Brian Palmer – comment #67:
        Thanks, Brian – always helps to have actual data. Page 45 says it all – pre-VII 74%, during VII – 71%, after VII – 73%.

  28. The question of the centrality of the EP is part of a greater question: the centrality of the Mass itself in a Catholic’s life.

  29. Two points to inject here:

    1) The claim that the Eucharistic prayer is, by its nature, a single uninterrupted whole doesn’t really hold up to historical scrutiny. Work by Paul Bradshaw and others indicates that many early “Eucharistic prayers” were in fact catenae of individual prayers (note that Justin Martyr says that the presider “sends up prayers and thanksgivings“). I suspect that the idea that the EP must be treated as a single unit comes from the presumption that the so-called EP of Hippolytus represented a third-century norm, which we now know to be untrue. The Roman Canon received much criticism in the 50s and 60s for its “choppy” structure, but this is now widely seen as an indication of its antiquity. So there might be good grounds for criticizing things like kneeling, bells, and singing some parts and not others, but I don’t think that destroying the unity of the EP is one of them.

    2) My (albeit minimal) experience of the EF low Mass is of an extended period of zen-like meditation, followed by a couple of scripture readings and a sermon from the pulpit, followed by another extended period of zen-like mediation (with bells ringing in the middle of it to signal a brief moment of Eucharistic adoration), followed by the reception of communion, followed by a briefer period of zen-like meditation, followed by the Leonine prayers. In other words, it makes a pretty good communion service for those inclined to silent meditation. I do not, however, see any reason why someone would think that this would help people appreciate the significance of the Eucharistic Prayer.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #76:
      Hi Fritz,
      Good points, but here’s my response to no. 1. Whatever the tangled history, and whether ApTrad is 3rd century or (more likely) a document with layers from various areas and places, and whatever the early Eucharistic Prayers were like: I’m with the GIRM and all the post-conciliar documents on the unity of the Eucharistic Prayer. That is an important point on theological grounds, and it doesn’t depend upon any particular version of early Church history.


      1. @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #81:
        But isn’t one of the standard arguments for the modern liturgical reform that by the mid-20th century we knew so much more about the history of the liturgy than they knew at the time of the Tridentine reforms? Why wouldn’t the same be true of our knowledge today vis-a-vis what they knew 50 years ago?

        Also, the GIRM does allow things like incense and ringing bells at the elevations, as well as requiring a change of posture on the part of the assembly. So if we are going take it as authoritative regarding the unity of the EP, shouldn’t we also take it as authoritative with regard to these practices, and presume that they do not undermine that unity?

      2. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #82:
        Deacon – welcomed Fr. Ruff’s input which I agree with. Wonder if the GIRM continues to be a *compromise* document e.g. ringing bells is so ingrained in places for example. Thus, these rubrics are not *authoratiative* but historical, hang-ons, etc.
        Also, it really is a *minor* elevation – the end of EP has the major elevation (but wonder how often PPs are aware of that?) Incense – hadn’t thought about that but could it be seen in the same way as the memorial acclamation? It really does break up the EP.

      3. @Bill deHaas – comment #87:
        How do we determine which parts of the GIRM are authoritative and which parts are simply a compromise? Should there be a version relaced where the parts meant to be taken seriously are highlighted in gold and the other parts highlighted in red?
        What if a traditionalist priest decides that different parts of the GIRM are not authoritative and decides to pray the Eucharistic prayer in silence?

      4. @Stanislaus Kosala – comment #88:
        Talking historically and how a document such as GIRM is put together – you have taken my thoughts too far.
        See Fr. Ruff above – says it better than I.

      5. @Bill deHaas – comment #91:
        Fr. Ruff(#90) seems to acknowledge the same concern that I raised. The problem is that historical accounts are not promulgated with the documents, and shouldn’t be necessary in order to interpret them. What happens when accounts of how a document comes together differ? Does it then become the issue of whoever has power to control the historical narrative?

        Shouldn’t other official documents provide us with the horizon for understanding a given document?

      6. @stanislaus kosala – comment #95:
        Mr. Kosala – beg to diffeer with you and this is connected to the issue that JP and KLS are discussing also.
        First, understanding both the history and the context is NECESSARY in order to interpret and understand; much less, implement documents such as GIRM. (example – if one is too literal or fundamentalist, then you read the document as *black and white*; or a version of “say the black, do the red”. This ignores how SC was written and developed – starting with principles of liturgy such as full, active, conscious participation; enculturation; etc. One could do the red/say the black and never realize full/active/conscious participation because that is not where the community is at.)
        Review the Yves Congar posts – or Fr. Joncas comments on each article of SC – these reveal differing accounts….you need to know/understand the complete process (not just one side or ideology).

        Who controls history – find that usually gets resolved over time via peer reviewedd studies; histories/interpretations that have to stand investigation; by the experience of the whole church; and in depth studies by experts. (yep, not black and white and can be messy for a period of time. Example – the VII documents were studied for years and the authoritative Alberigo history volumes were published. Some have now begun the process of critquing that interpretation…history develops over periods/cultures.
        But, on the whole, what you have is a balanced narrative – the principle is that a DL, DM, presider has to make liturgical decisions to achieve the principles (and yes, that is abused at times by those who take power)

        There are written and published guidelines and interpretations for most documents. But, as SC states, it is still the local community’s responsibility to use their skills/insights to make the liturgy alive.
        Key for me is *balance* (as KLS says above, cherry picking reveals a lack of balance or an ideology).

        KLS goes on to say: “… requires a fiduciary sensibility and detachment from self-serving interpretive habits….. much depends on self-awareness and clarity regarding assumptions. Without sufficient shared assumptions (suggest that Fr. Joncas’ SC article by article post surfaced *assumptions*), persuasion is much more unlikely.

        For example – In a recent post about SP, some used the notion of *unity* vs. *division* and reflected that one pope’s MP (talk about the control of the historical narrative) may have created more disunity than unity (which is at the core of the liturgy). Any way, something to think about?

      7. @Bill deHaas – comment #100:

        I’m unconvinced by such an approach. You seem to want to at the same time:
        1. bind the normative status of a document to accounts of the context in which it was written.
        2. insist that the documents are binding beyond the original context in which they were written.

        I don’t see how you can hold on to both of those at the same time.
        Over time new documents inevitably modify the meaning of old ones as the old ones come to be interpreted in the light of new events and circumstances. If you reach back to Vatican II ignoring the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI because you have a historical method that accesses the original meanings of those documents, what’s to stop you from doing that to Vatican I, or Trent, or Nicea?
        Take an analogy from scripture. The Gospels were not written with the intention of being side by side in a canon. Maybe the author of the Gospel of Mark would not have approved of the Gospel of John, yet we treat them as compatible, and to read Mark in light of the other three Gospels that came later is to read it differently than to read it just by itself and to take it beyond the immediate concerns and intentions of its author.

      8. @Stanislaus Kosala – comment #1:
        Mr. Kosala – one reply and use your example of Trent:
        – recent book by John O’Malley, SJ on Trent. What he surfaced is that numerous ideas, even things we thought engraved in stone from Trent never happened at the council. They emerged decades later under various popes and then over hundreds of years became known as Tridentine and assumed from the council.
        In fact, the documents and notes of Trent were ordered boxed up and kept secret for hundreds of years by successive popes. So, what many of us labelled as Tridentine; we now know is not. So much for historical accuracy.

        Not saying we would skip over various popes – rather, we would understand the context, their contributions both strenths and weaknesses. It also makes a distinction between day to day regulations or laws and what the intent of the original document was.

        Your example of the gospels – agree but you again focus on the *literal* details of each gospel – rather, each gospel conveys a context and meanings – that is the focus. Each gospel writer brings forth their experience and understanding of Christ….you appear to get too attached to the details that may or may not have literally happened. The same occurs for some when using things such as the GIRM.

      9. @Bill deHaas – comment #3:
        I hope you don’t mind my responding, but I’m genuinely curious about this line of thought which seems to appear often on this blog.

        I haven’t read O’Malley’s Trent book but does he ever make the case that certain claims of popes after Trent lose their normative force because they did not take into account the processes by which certain documents promulgated at Trent came to be?

        To bring this back to the issue of this post. The way I understand your position is this:
        1. Kneeling of the faithful at the consecration is incompatible with taking the Eucharistic Prayer to be a unified whole.
        2. The GIRM does not present the two as incompatible and mandates kneeling by the assembly during the consecration.
        3. However the GIRM has that mandate because of certain pragmatic determinations during its development and not because of any underlying theology.
        4. As a result, the normative force attributed to the GIRM does not extend to those sections where it mandates kneeling.

        I don’t want to engage you in a discussion if you’re not interested in it, but could you at least tell me whether or not the above is an accurate presentation of your view? If not, then where does it go wrong?

      10. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #82:
        Hi Fritz,
        As others have said, the GIRM is a compromise document. So I guess I should be honest and say that I like the over-arching vision of GIRM, but even more so I like the writings of the liturgical scholars who have presenting a compelling (to me) view of the Eucharistic Prayer. I guess I’m more influenced by the latter than the former. But still, the GIRM mostly supports this vision – but as you point out, it does allow little mannerisms here and there that seem to be in tension with the overall vision. Such is life.

      11. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #92:
        It seems to me difficult to avoid that if we’re going to characterize documents like the GIRM, and even the constitutions and declarations of Vatican II, as “compromise documents”. If they’re compromise documents, that means (to me) that some things have been retained in them for the sake of temporary appeasement, to be excised at a later date. And why should people who do not need appeasing feel beholden to parts of a document clearly not intended for them?

        How does one avoid this approach to a “compromise” document?

      12. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #94:
        People who cherry pick arguments merit having cherry picked arguments ignored and ridiculed; the arguments merit no respect (note, the arguments, not the persons). There are plenty of people across the spectrum whose arguments merit this treatment. And folks should be especially ready to call out allies on their own “side” of an issue who engage in this kind of argumentation, because that behavior tends to corrupt respect for more worthy arguments.

      13. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #96:
        I feel a bit like I’m being scolded, rather than having my question answered. I was not defending Weigel (I hadn’t even read the article you posted until today), I was sincerely asking how one treats a “compromise” document in a way that avoids the “gold-and-red” approach.

      14. @Jeffrey Pinyan (@JeffPinyan) – comment #97:
        I wasn’t scolding you at all. Sorry for the confusion. I think improving the credibility of interpreting a compromise document (as so many documents are) requires a fiduciary sensibility and detachment from self-serving interpretive habits. That’s a less scolding way to put what I meant.

        All that said, much depends on self-awareness and clarity regarding assumptions. Assumptions are not as readily tested by logical probing. Without sufficient shared assumptions (especially about metaphysical and epistemological issues), persuasion is much more unlikely.

    2. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #76:

      2) My (albeit minimal) experience of the EF low Mass is of an extended period of zen-like meditation

      This is a very good description of EF low Mass. Your description also highlights the reason why I love EF low Mass. This is my favorite eucharistic liturgy. I am in the minority though, even in the traditionalist community. For many traditionalists, the huge pontifical Mass with all the trimmings is the height of the “Tridentine experience.”

      It’s interesting that you consider the quiet of the EF low Mass to be “zen-like”. For me, the rosary and EF low Mass are a perfect match. Quiet or “silent” (non-aspirated) recitation of the rosary during the periods of near silence block out stray thoughts. The rosary focuses the mind on higher considerations, such as the theological import of a prayer. It’s important to note that the rosary is not a mantra, though. Mantras are often recited for their sound, while the rosary is a prayer with literal meaning.

      It is extremely difficult for me to concentrate on the prayers at most celebrations of the ordinary form, save for instances where a priest does not use a microphone while saying Mass and when the Mass is said without any musical accompaniment. CCC 1157 states that song and music contribute to the “glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful.” It must be true, though, that neither song or music are necessary for either God’s glory and sanctification. So, why are there not more “quiet” OF Masses if Mass alone sanctifies?

      I do wonder if the reforms forgot about people like me who would rather sit in awe of the sacrament and wonder about the imponderable sacrament. I suppose then that liturgical multitasking is not merely a preference but also orthodoxy.

      1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #83:

        I suspect the reforms intended that you’d have that primary opportunity for that experience in Eucharistic adoration outside Mass. (Until some pastors in various places decided that such adoration was somehow the enemy of the liturgical reforms.)

      2. @Karl Liam Saur – comment #84:

        Karl, I agree with what you say about adoration. I attend Eucharistic adoration every Wednesday evening (all-night vigil), and it is a great blessing to my spiritual life. There, I can turn endless circles of thought and prayer in my mind. The silence is a challenge to spiritual development. I am convinced that adoration should not be the only place for a great, roaring silence.

        I am well aware that the reformation of the Roman liturgies was necessary because the cultural and intellectual experience in which the Roman rite finds itself. So often I say, “well the Orthodox still …” Well, so? Many Orthodox Christians were liturgically and scholastically frozen under Ottoman control, while “the West” went through multiple and coincidental revolutions of philosophy, science, and politics. I am convinced that the reformed liturgy as it is carried out in many places tries to draw back disillusioned persons wrung out after multiple washings in Descartes, Kant, Marx, and Freud. Maybe, after the bends and turns of “Western” culture, most (including myself) cannot consider the Eucharist alone in a stark, fearfully silent Golgotha. Rather we must consider the Eucharist than at a distance, this great distance covered over by a continuous saying and singing which is often rote and lifeless.

        Through my time at PTB I have fully accepted the new liturgical books. I do not generally accept the implementation of reform, particularly in the almost compulsive nature of “participation”. I do not believe that the reformed books call for the mode of worship found in most churches today. Then, the right thing to do is to go back to hearing the EF. Despite the great moral failings of the 1962 missal, its liturgical practice I best understand. Is not consumerism also a “western” foible?

  30. We still have not been able to impress upon folks the difference between receiving already consecrated hosts and participating in the Eucharist. Until we have all or the vast majority of people receiving bead and wine consecrated at Mass, the difference will continue to elude.

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