Prayers at the Eucharist I: What Eucharistic prayers do we have?

Looking at particular prayer forms can easily become quite technical and somewhat ‘geeky’ – of keen interest to the specialist but bewildering to everyone else.

I hope we can avoid that in this series of articles which will begin by looking at the Eucharistic Prayers of the Roman Rite.

There are perhaps more such prayers than we may be aware.

Most people will be aware that there are 4 Eucharistic Prayers available for regular use by the Church. These – Eucharistic Prayers I, II, III and IV are included in the Order of Mass (the standard pattern for Mass provided in the Roman Missal).

However the Missal also includes two different Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation; and a Eucharistic Prayer for use in Masses for Various Needs.

The Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation may be used in Masses which focus on reconciliation in one form or another, as well as during the season of Lent.

The Eucharistic Prayer for use in Masses for Various Needs is a single prayer but exists in four major variants – the first headed ‘The Church on the Path of Unity’; the second headed ‘God Guides His Church along the Way of Salvation’; the third, ‘Jesus, the Way to the Father’; and the fourth, ‘Jesus, Who Went About Doing Good’. This prayer is not designed to be used on Sundays or the principal feasts of the Church but for Masses for Various Needs (eg for the Church or her minsters, or a spiritual gathering; for vocations, for charity, and for relatives and friends; for Evanglization and for persecuted Christians; In time of famine, for those in prison and for the dying).

In addition there are three Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children (One of which exists in two forms one for use during Eastertide and the other outside of Eastertime) – designed for use with children who have not yet received their first Holy Communion. And finally there is a Eucharistic Prayer which is for use at Masses with people who are deaf, and may only be used when the Mass is signed as well as spoken.

That is quite a variety, especially for the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church which, until the changes to the Rite following Vatican II, had only one Eucharistic Prayer (the present Eucharistic Prayer I) – although then as now it was varied by a multitude of alternative Prefaces (ie the first part of the Prayer which comes after the Preface Dialogue and before the Sanctus or Holy).

This variety ought to mean that those responsible for preparing the Church’s Liturgy for celebration will always give thought as to which of these various prayers is the most appropriate for use at a particular celebration. Circumstances may preclude particular prayers for use, for one reason or another, but there is always a choice to be made, and always some choices are going to be more appropriate than others.

Over the coming months there will be opportunity to consider these various prayers in more detail. But next week there will be another post giving an analysis of Eucharistic Prayer II into its various distinct parts – including Preface Dialogue, Preface and Sanctus!

This analysis will introduce some technical language – hopefully avoiding too much geekiness – as this is likely to prove helpful as we look at further particular prayers – both in this series of ‘Eucharistic Prayer’ postings, but also, the week after, when we turn back to the ‘Origins and influences’ series of postings on this blog, and look at some of the very earliest texts for Eucharistic Prayer.

A log with links to previous postings in this series is kept here.

Acknowledgements

  • Translation of Scripture: English Standard Version (c) 2001-9, Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
  • Photographs. All (c) Allen Morris: 2011, Missal; 2016, Stained glass, Kings Lynn Minster,
  • Commentary: © 2021, Allen Morris

2 thoughts on “Prayers at the Eucharist I: What Eucharistic prayers do we have?

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