Originally posted on April 24 this year.
That charismatic writer and teacher of the 1950s and 1960s, the distinguished liturgist Fr Louis Bouyer, in his Memoires [published 2014; a kind friend sent me these extracts in French before the English translation was published], tells of his own involvement with the composition of Eucharistic Prayer II.
He was summoned to join the sub-commission charged with inventing the new 'Missal'; after seeing the drafting work aleady done, his instinct was to leave the group instantly ... but Dom Bernard Botte persuaded him to stay, even if only to obtain a less dreadful result. He agreed. I give you my own probably inaccurate translation [corrections welcomed with a sigh of relief] of Bouyer's vivid account of the gumming together of what has, so very sadly, become by far the most commonly used Eucharistic Prayer during this past half-century in the Western Church: Eucharistic Prayer II; the older parts of which, in the 1960s, were thought to be connected with an early Roman writer called Hippolytus.
"You'll have an idea of the deplorable conditions in which this indecently speedy reform (reforme a la sauvette) was pushed forward, when I have told you how the Second Eucharistic Prayer was tied up (ficelee). Between the fanatics who were archaeologising wildly and at random, who would have wanted to ban the Sanctus and the Intercessions from the EP, adopting the Eucharist of Hippolytus just as it was, and the others who didn't give a damn about (qui se fichaient pas mal de) his pretended Apostolic Tradition but only wanted a botched (baclee) Mass, Dom Botte and I were charged with patching up the text so as to introduce these elements, which are certainly very ancient ... in time for the very next morning! By chance, I discovered, in a writing perhaps by Hippolytus himself but certainly in his style, a happy formula on the Holy Spirit which could make a transition, of the Vere Sanctus type, leading into the brief epiclesis. Botte, for his part, fabricated an intercession more worthy of Paul Reboux [a belle epoque humourist and producer of witty pastiches] and his In the Style of ... than of his own areas of academic competence. But I can never reread this weird (invraisemblable) composition without recalling the terrace of the bistro in the Trastevere where we had to work carefully at our allotted drudgery (pensum), so as to be in a position to present ourselves, with it in our hands, at the Bronze Gate at the time fixed by our bosses." [Botte recalls in his own memoires that the Pensionato in which he stayed was too full of red, purple, and cassocks; "my only break was to eat my meals in the little public restaurants on the nearby streets ..."]
I am very thankful, and I know you are as well, that the Trastevere was so much more respectable by the 1960s than it is said to been a generation before Bouyer's time; otherwise this somewhat racy narrator might have been tempted to describe Eucharistic Prayer II as "misbegotten among the filles de joie of the Trastevere". Yes, I knew that would make your mind bogle. It is a shame Bouyer gives no account of which bistro was graced by this historic moment of liturgical history; if he had done so, enthusiasts could even now be planning to gather there for a Solemn Pontifical Liturgical Commemoration of the genesis of this unworthy little Prayer; poor Guido Marini acting as MC with an expression like curdled milk. And Clio should have considered it her duty to preserve the name of the barman who so liberally supplied the crucial drinks ... little did he know how crucial a role he was playing in the corruption of the worship of the Latin Church for the next (quot?) generations. And if only Bouyer had transcribed the menu; that would have given you something agreeable with which to distract yourselves next time you have no choice but to attend an O-God-but-at-least-it's-certainly-valid-and-so-it-fulfills-my-Sunday-Obligation celebration of the Great Sacrifice. (Instead, devise the words in which you will politely remind the celebrant on your way out that Prayer II, according to the GIRM, is not intended for Sunday use ... as Michael Caine used to say, "Not many people know that".)
The next paragraph begins with Bouyer informing us that the Novus Ordo Calendar was the "oeuvre d'un trio de maniaques". He also describes Archbishop Bugnini as meprisable and aussi depourvu de culture que de simple honnetete, all of which really does totally defeat either my schoolboy French or my plain old-style Anglo-Saxon sense of decency de mortuis; I'm not sure which. It's such a terrible burden being an Englishman.