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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Monday, November 07, 2011
32nd Sunday of the Year – 6th November 2011
Multiple Choice

When I was in the seminary we practised saying Mass in our liturgy classes towards the end of our formation. One of my fellow deacons was asked by Fr Allen Morris which Eucharistic prayer he was going to choose. Until that moment, he believed that there was a book which instructed us which one to use – he was quickly disavowed of this notion.

But before talking about what can dictate the priest’s choice, we need to understand that the Eucharistic Prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification and is the centre and summit of the Mass. We quite literally lift up our hearts in prayer and unite our thoughts with those expressed by the priest who addresses God in the name of the community. And since he acts in the person of Christ we also join ourselves with Him to proclaim the marvellous deeds of God.

However, I have a lot more to say than you! There is a bit of dialogue at the beginning, we all say the Sanctus and the memorial acclamation together and you assent to the prayer with the great Amen. But the rest of the time you listen and pray in silence to a text which demands and rewards a lot of attention.

Many priests know parts of the prayers by heart but with the new texts, it is taking time to learn how to express them in a way which helps everyone to pray. This is because the sentences are longer and more involved and as with the other texts I’ve talked about, the vocabulary is richer. But they are rather beautiful and I hope they will truly lift up your hearts and minds.

As I mentioned at the start, there are a variety of these prayers. Before the Second Vatican Council there was only the Roman Canon or Eucharistic Prayer I as it is also known. It is especially appropriate on Sundays, on days when we celebrate the feast of any saints named in it, and on days when a special phrase denoting the nature of the celebration may be inserted into it such as at Christmas, on Holy Thursday, and during the octave (eight days) of Easter and so on. The three others were added right after that Council. Two is the shortest and is based on a prayer from the third century. Given its length, it is designed particularly for weekday Masses or times when the attention span of the congregation is stretched as on Palm Sunday or when there are lots of children present. Three was newly composed after the Council.

It is especially appropriate for Sundays and feast days of saints who are not mentioned in the first as it allows you to insert a name as you will notice I do with St Mary Magdalen on a Sunday. The one you rarely hear is four which is based on an Eastern prayer from the fourth century. It has its own preface (the prayer before the Sanctus) and therefore can only be used on a weekday that is not a saint’s day.
There are also some special Eucharistic prayers. There are two for reconciliation which are particularly appropriate for use in Lent or in times of conflict in the world. There is also another for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions because there are a range of prayers in the Missal which means the intention of the Mass can range from praying for the civil authorities to asking for good weather! These Masses can only be celebrated on a weekday and this prayer was composed to enhance them. Within it there are four variations which allow it to make a better connection to the intention of the day and each variation has its own preface and a changeable part within the body of prayer.

Finally, there are Eucharistic prayers for children and one for the deaf. The language in the former is so simplistic and bears such little resemblance to the normal ones that they have been dropped altogether. The prayer for the deaf is not so simplistic and seeks to fulfil the ultimate purpose of sign language which is to make visible the words of the priest and hence that will remain.
It really is multiple choice. Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 11:11 am