Sunday, January 8, 2012

Prex Eucharistica Brevior

To my astonishment, the official documents of the work of the liturgical reformers in the late sixties, all in Latin except for some rulings from Paul VI quoted in Italian (!), quite openly refer to their ongoing drafts for what is now Eucharistic Prayer II as Prex eucharistica brevis or Prex Eucharistica II Brevior – the brief or briefer Eucharistic Prayer!  How breathtaking, given that this brevity is what has turned it into the most commonly used Eucharistic Prayer of the modern Roman Rite, which raises the question of whether the Roman Mass is really quite as Roman as it was when the Roman Canon, and it alone, was used for sixteen hundred years at Mass.

What caught my attention was that, while the first half of their draft Prayer was all but identical to the version eventually approved, with only verbal differences of little note, the whole of the intercessions, from after the communion epiclesis down to the doxology at the end, was in reverse order.  Assuming that readers have easy access to the new translation of E.P. II, here is the second half of its 1967 draft, first in Latin, then in a translation I have prepared (based upon the new translation in order to make it sound familiar); the whole passage runs straight on from the prayer in the preceding line, that the Holy Spirit gather all who are sharers of the Body and Blood of Christ into one: cum beata Dei genetrice Maria, beatis Apostolis, 
et omnibus Sanctis qui tibi a sæculo placuerunt 
partem habeamus.
Memento etiam Domine illorum qui dormierunt in spe resurrectionis 
et admitte eos in lucem vultus tui,
Nobis quoque famulis tuis, una cum Papa nostro et Antistite nostro,
et omnibus fidelibus in Ecclesia toto orbe diffusa,
concede ut perficiamur in caritate
et ad regnum tuum pervenire valeamus,
in quo te laudemus et conglorificemus per Filium tuum Jesum Christum
per quem tibi gloria et honor in Sancto Spiritu
nunc et in sæcula sæculorum.

…and may have some share 
with Blessed Mary, the Mother of God, the blessed Apostles, 
and all the Saints who have pleased you throughout the ages.
Remember also, Lord, those who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection
and welcome them into the light of your face.
To us, also, your servants, together with N. our Pope and N. our Bishop,
and all the faithful in the Church spread throughout the world,
grant that we may be brought to the fulness of charity
and be worthy to enter into your kingdom,
where we may praise and glorify you
through your Son, Jesus Christ,
through whom to you be glory and honour in the Holy Spirit 
now and for ever.

What is interesting is, as mentioned, the order: Saints (the Church triumphant) – the Dead (or the Church suffering in Purgatory) – the Church Militant.  This order was reversed in later drafts; while most of the text was retained, certain parts have been united: partem habeamus and ad regnum tuum pervenire valeamus have evidently been combined into the phrase æternæ vitæ mereamur esse consortes; other parts have been changed: gone are Nobis quoque famulis tuis (itself copied from the Roman Canon) and omnibus fidelibus; other parts have been added, such as universo cleroomniumque in tua miseratione defunctorum and Omnium nostrum, quæsumus, miserere.

It may be noted that the words universo clero were intended to substitute for Nobis quoque famulis tuis (since that phrase in the Roman Canon is thought to refer to the celebrating clergy), and similarly Omnium nostrum, quæsumus, miserere was intended to substitute for omnibus fidelibus.  Unfortunately, the impression is given, by separating it from the prayer for the Church, of an unpleasant clericalism, as if the Church consists of only Pope, Bishop and clergy.  That is why so many priests, foolishly and disobediently it is true, have unofficially amended those words of E.P. II for years; and frankly to at the least add "and all the faithful" in a future reform would seem quite reasonable.

An emended draft makes clear that, when this last section was reordered, at first the words et universo clero and omniumque in tua miseratione defunctorum were not yet included, and even the words et eos in lumen vultus tui admitte were omitted for a while, while the Hippolytan doxology was kept, and even reverted somewhat to its original text, cum Sancto Spiritu in Ecclesia.  Later still, E.P. II as we have it to-day was finalized, and sent up for Papal approval...

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