17 February 2014

April 3 1969

On April 3 1969, Pope Paul VI promulgated the Ordo Missa which was to be incorporated into the imminent edition of his Missale Romanum. In the accompanying Instructio Generalis, he included some remarks about when each of the four Eucharistic Prayers might or should be used.

With regard to EP I, the Roman Canon, he made a legislative statement which he did not make with regard to the other three Prayers. It was that it semper adhiberi potest. This has a very valuable consequence. It means that a priest who resolves that he will use that Prayer invariably cannot be accused of lacking the true mind of the Church, on the grounds that he never uses three other authorised Prayers. It means that when the same text goes on to suggest that Payer II is most suitable on weekdays, this cannot be held to render the use of the Canon Romanus on weekdays to be inappropriate. To use EP I invariably cannot be contrary to the spirit of the new Ordo Missae, because this provision explicitly sanctions such a resolve. Since this Ordo Missae states on its first page that it is ex decreto of the Second Ecumenical Vatican Council, it cannot, unless the Pope was lying, be contrary to the spirit of that Council invariably to use the Canon Romanus.

The Instructio Generalis also remarks that the Canon Romanus is used opportunius on the Sundays and Solemnities of the year; on the festivals of Saints whose names occur in that Prayer; and on days when Proper formulae are provided for the Communicantes or the Hanc igitur.

There are 52 Sundays in the year; and, by my rough estimate, 53 days covered by the other occasions thus listed. So, on between a quarter and a third of the days of the year ... and certainly on Sundays and Days of Obligation ... a strong preference for the use of the Canon Romanus is eminently in accordance with the expressed mind of the Legislator.

But what should become of the alternative Eucharistic Prayers? Are they fit for nothing but the dustbin? I am rather shy of such an attitude ... just as I feel that an earthenware 'chalice' which has been used for the Eucharist should not be rubbish. I am reminded of the suggestion made by Aidan Nichols in Looking at the Liturgy pp 121 sqq.; they are not really Roman; let them be a ritus communis with 'a multiple purpose in view' ... vide his suggestions.


notionsromaines.com said...

I am perplexed as to what we should do with the other EPs. My guess, and I am really guessing here for I have not checked for references, is that each rite within the Church only has one EP (ok, except the Ordinariate rite which has two, but it is a recent, post-Vatican II dev. not something typical of let's say the 1800s). I don't know why we needed non-Roman EPs in the Roman rite when we have other rites (I'm thinking here of Eastern Catholics).

Why not allow Latin priests to celebrate according to the Ambrosian rite instead of importing elements of this rite in the Roman one? A return to a single, unified Roman canon would be very good pointer to the Church's unity and universality.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

With your excellent points one entirely agrees, and this article is indeed a great encouragement to those many priests who would wish constantly to use the Roman Canon. I do not quite follow Aidan Nichols' suggestion, what is the 'multiple purpose'? The offering of Holy Mass seems to me quite a singular purpose. One hesitates, in this light all that is positive, to nit-pick with your article; nevertheless, while for some reason the document to which you refer is always translated into English as "General Instruction", the Latin title is "Institutio Generalis".

Figulus said...


I have been told that the Byzantine rite uses two liturgies each of which has its own particular anaphora, the Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, which is used almost all the time, and the Liturgy of Saint James, which is used rarely. Which liturgy to use is prescribed by tradition and the rubrics; it is not up to the whim of the celebrant.

Figulus said...


Since the Roman Canon can always be used, it would seem that even today there is no need ("ubi opus sit", says Sacrosanctum Concilium 4) for the others, and so those who routinely replace the Roman Canon with some other EP are not taking Sacroscantum Concilium very seriously.

William Tighe said...

The Byzantine Liturgy has two anaphoras, that of St. John Chrysostom and that of St. Basil, each one of which is used on various set occasions throughout the year (the latter almost exclusively in Lent), plus that of St. James, which is used, when it is used at all, on only two occasions in the year. The Coptic Liturgy has three anaphoras, each one used on set dates: St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzus, and St. Cyril (this last the old primordial anaphora of the "Liturgy of St. Mark," now use donly once a year. The Syriac and Maronite Rites have numerous anaphoras, and the "reformed" Maronite Rite of the 70s uses at least 7 or 8 of them. The Ethiopian Rite has several anaphoras, and the Chaldean/East Syrian Rite has three. Only the Armenian Rite among all the Eastern rites has one only anaphora, and that is a fairly late Medieval development. All of these anaphoras (except, perhaps, for those of the "refromed" Maronite Mass) are used on prescribed and invariable occasions, and not at the "whim of the celebrant."

rick allen said...
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ansgerus said...

Best would be to return to the Roman Rite only - one church, one faith, one canon - and to the good custom to keep most of it silent. This also has the positive effect not to disturb individual prayer of the faithful, and does not interfere with parallel singing of the Sanctus. Usually, the usual Gregorian Sanctus (here plural!) end almost at the Hanc igitur, so that you end up with almost the same length like Pseudo-Hippolyt.

notionsromaines.com said...

Thank you Figulus and Mr William Tighe. You have both enlightened me on my guess. From what you two have said, there seems to be something in common: the choice of a particuliar anaphora is not at the ''whim of the celebrant'' which the Roman rite clearly lacks. Very interesting; maybe a good point to start the reform.

rick allen said...

I agree with you that a priest may legitimately decide to use the Roman Canon exclusively. But why is such a decision any less a "whim of the celebrant" than any priest's decision to use all four authorized canons?

[I deleted the comment two steps up because I was wrong that the additional EP's for particular occasions originated during Benedict's pontificate. Still, I am concerned at the implication of this discussion, that one's personal opinions about the appropriateness of alternative EP's makes them in some way illegitimate, and seems to introduce a new, unneeded source of strife in the Church.]

Athelstane said...

Those curious about how and why we went so rapidly from the Roman Canon to numerous Eucharistic Prayers may want to read Fr. Cassian Folsom's essay, "From One Eucharistic Prayer to Many: How it Happened and Why" at Adoremus back in 1996":


At first glance, it's easy to be struck by the impression that many of the liturgical reformers of the 60's had severe cases of "Eastern Envy." But what many seem to have been driven (and still are) is an "anything-but-Roman" animus, especially when "Roman" is seen as insufficiently in line with modern, radical theologies.

Grupo editorial said...

One question if I may, Father.

I understand that you say that 'semper adhiberi potest' means both that the Roman Canon can be used opportune in any occasion and that it can be used opportune in all occasions (i.e. excluding the other EPs).

The wording of the norm would certainly justify the first reading (in any occasion), but does it require the second (in all occasions) to be true? It seems 'semper adhiberi potest' could well be interpreted as just 'in any occasion adhiberi potest'.

Are there any other norms or sources that would also support the second reading? (apart from it being the immemorial tradition of the Roman Rite, I mean).

Thank you.