Why do priests almost always use the Second Eucharistic Prayer?

I hear EPII at about 95% of Masses in the area. Once in a blue moon I’ll hear EPI (only ever celebrated by one priest, who will rarely recite it if it is the occasion of one of the Saint’s names mentioned in it) and somewhat more often EPIII or EPIV. The preference is for EPII, as has been said, because of its brevity.

In a nutshell, it has to do with some of the fashions that prevailed in the 1960’s and 1970’s, when the bulk of the work on the topic was being done. Primary among them was a fetishization of early Church disciplines. It was commonly believed that the Roman Church had strayed too far from the early Church’s practices and that it was necessary to hack away the growth in order to get at a more authentic core (a highly reductionist view, IMO). The scholarship at the time supported the idea that EPII predated the Roman Canon, that in fact the Roman Canon grew out of it; and no one today takes that scholarship seriously. Its authorship (supposedly by Hippolytus) is now disputed; the earliness of its origins is now disputed; and the prevalence of supposed use in the early Church is now disputed. Nonetheless many, maybe even most, priests are still of the opinion that the Roman Canon is a cumbersome bit of Romanitas that needs to be done away with.

Another issue was Orientalism, which went hand in hand with primitivism. It was believed that eastern Churches had stayed truer to early Church practices than western ones, and hence that co-opting eastern elements would promote authenticity in the liturgy. Hence, for instance, one of the big criticisms of the Roman Canon is that it lacks an epiclesis. You will even hear some priests say that transubstantiation occurs at the epiclesis and that the Roman Canon’s lack of the same represents a serious theological defect, and that the Quam oblationem tu Deus represents the remains of an early-Church epiclesis that was hacked out of the Canon later on. As it turns out, though, the epiclesis is a later accretion in the Eastern rites, added later to counter heresies that denied the role of the Holy Spirit in confecting the Eucharist; the Roman rite never dealt with such heresies, hence never had the need to add them.

Plus, the Roman Canon is, in contrast to Eastern anaphoras, highly… well, Roman. That means its legalistic, and modern minds hate legalism (even as they insist on legal positivism). Fr. Hunwicke has some excellent observations of the legalistic structure of the Roman Canon which you can google later.

FInally there is, as you suggest, some run-of-the-mill animus toward traditional practices no doubt at work, too.

Not quite. EPII is inspired by what is sometimes called the Anaphora of Apostolic Tradition. It’s not the Anaphora itself but a redaction of it; EPII is a new composition. Whether or not the Anaphora of Apostolic Tradition is, in fact, of Apostolic Tradition is another question entirely. Some dispute it, hence it is sometimes attributed, not to Hippolytus, but to pseudo-Hippolytus.

To add to this, isn’t abandoning EP1, the traditional usage in the Roman Rite (some think that Gregory the Great was the last to substantially modify it) in favor of something that is supposedly even more “ancient” (though as you rightly point out it is not actually) merely an example of “archaeologism”?

Yes, maybe. And it is very strange since I am often called a reactionary (for preferring/enjoying the EF Mass) by the same people who say we need to do everything exactly the way it was done in AD 215.

But really, I question how much of it is actually authentic archaeologism. I think rather that archaeologism was a convenient blunt object with which to bludgeon to death all the liturgical traditions that so embarrassed the Irish, American, German, and Italian social climbers who exerted so much influence in the immediate postconciliar age. And I think too that it was a kind of academic positivism. The academy said the “Anaphora of Apostolic Tradition” was older than the Roman Canon, therefore we get EPII all the time; that scholarship is dated and heavily disputed now but we are still stuck with EPII. Evidently “getting with the times” isn’t actually that much of a priority.

I must admit that, as a priest, I find this thread both fascinating and amusing.

All this talk about why we do what we do is really very amusing. Although this thread is rather short (at the moment), there’s no shortage of similar threads here on CAF.

I have to tell you folks, that I really do start laughing sometimes when I read comments posted by people who “think they know” why we priests do what we do.

If you want to how a priest goes about deciding which Eucharistic Prayer to choose for any given Mass (or, for that matter, other choices he makes in the Mass), here’s a novel idea:
ask him.

You just might be surprised that his actual reason has nothing to do with what you might think his reason to be.

Fetishization is an insulting and reductionistic term. Why use it?

Rather, it’s a strong theological preference.

It was commonly believed that the Roman Church had strayed too far from the early Church’s practices and that it was necessary to hack away the growth in order to get at a more authentic core (a highly reductionist view, IMO).

Yes, if simply in those terms. My own issue (and maybe this is a bigger issue with becoming Catholic) is that EP I seems theologically one-note. The whole prayer, pretty much, is “we offer you this sacrifice so that our sins will be forgiven.” If you’re going to be one-note, I prefer Cranmer’s approach, even though I agree that it was written with the intent of denying the truth that the Mass is itself sacrificial (by derivation from the one sacrifice). The Roman Canon doesn’t give a clear enough understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice on which the sacrifice of the Mass depends. I have no theological problem with anything it says–it’s what it doesn’t say.

All the modern Eucharistic prayers, Anglican and Catholic alike, have a narrative of salvation history.

You will even hear some priests say that transubstantiation occurs at the epiclesis and that the Roman Canon’s lack of the same represents a serious theological defect, and that the Quam oblationem tu Deus represents the remains of an early-Church epiclesis that was hacked out of the Canon later on. As it turns out, though, the epiclesis is a later accretion in the Eastern rites, added later to counter heresies that denied the role of the Holy Spirit in confecting the Eucharist; the Roman rite never dealt with such heresies, hence never had the need to add them.

How do we know all this? Isn’t it possible that the liturgical scholarship you’re relying on is just as dubious as the liturgical scholarship you’re criticizing? I am not an expert in this field, so I’m honestly asking. . . .

Plus, the Roman Canon is, in contrast to Eastern anaphoras, highly… well, Roman. That means its legalistic, and modern minds hate legalism (even as they insist on legal positivism)

I don’t know what that last phrase means, but I don’t like legalism myself. . . . .

Not quite. EPII is inspired by what is sometimes called the Anaphora of Apostolic Tradition. It’s not the Anaphora itself but a redaction of it; EPII is a new composition. Whether or not the Anaphora of Apostolic Tradition is, in fact, of Apostolic Tradition is another question entirely. Some dispute it, hence it is sometimes attributed, not to Hippolytus, but to pseudo-Hippolytus.

And Hippolytus was, in fact, a rigorist antipope, though supposedly he was reconciled with the Pope when they both ended up in the mines condemned to hard labor for their mutual faith!

Edwin

It is not necessarily. A fetish is an object of unreasonable and excessive attachment and reverence. That early Church primitivism/archaeologism was unreasonable and excessive was said by Pius XII and earlier popes as well; and surely if they could say it, it cannot be altogether beyond the bounds of acceptable discourse.

This is more or less what I mean when I say the Canon is legalistic. For a good discussion of it, see Fr. Hunwicke’s post here (I added some punctuation etc. to clarify certain points):

*The First Eucharistic Prayer, the Roman Canon, is indeed Roman. Its theology is the old theology of Consecration which preceded the changes driven in the East by the realisation that the Holy Spirit is fully God. In the Roman Canon, the Spirit only makes an appearance in the Doxology. Its doctrine is very simple: Divine acceptance is Consecration. In the Quam oblationem, we ask the Father to accept the offering; to bless it by writing it on the Official List of Eucharists (remember Christine Mohrmann’s demonstration of the legalism of Roman religious thought both Christian and pre-Christian) and ratifying it (benedictam adscriptam ratam rationabilem acceptabilem…). The next word is ut; the linkage is precise and intended. God is asked to accept the offering in order that it may become the Lord’s Body and Blood. Then follows Qui pridie … This *qui *has a sense of ‘forasmuch’ as (remember all those collects beginning Deus qui …, in which the *qui clause gives the factual basis upon the logic of which we base our request which follows in the second half of the collect). The Qui pridie gives the grounds upon which we centre our confidence that the Father will do what is asked. Accept this offering so that it becomes the Lord’s body; and His statements at His Last Supper form the ‘legal’ basis for our confident request.

In this sense it rather reminds me of Abraham’s negotiations with God and his appeal to God’s own previous statements in order to avert his destructive wrath. “Christ did X; therefore, on this basis, we ask of you Y.”

I am not sure how, if at all, an anaphora is enriched by the inclusion of a recounting of salvation history or even an epiclesis. Which isn’t to say its impoverished by its inclusion. I just don’t see the relevance of it. “Anaphora” literally means a “carrying up,” i.e., the offering of sacrifice to God in Heaven; hence an emphasis on its sacrificial character can hardly be thought of as misplaced.

Well of course it is plausible. If scholarship has been in error before it could well be in error today. My point is that if we want to shackle the form of the liturgy to trends in scholarship, then there is no good reason to continue using EPII on the grounds of its supposed primitive authenticity, because the consensus no longer supports that it definitely predates the Canon. (There might still be good reasons to continue using it otherwise, of course, like its brevity).

For what its worth I don’t much care either way which came first because I don’t care for archaeologism, so the dispute is kind of irrelevant to me. I don’t think the liturgy ought to be so shackled to the fashions of academia at the expense of impiety and contempt toward the way the Roman rite Mass has virtually always and everywhere been celebrated.

Sure, but in fairness, the Anaphora of Apostolic Tradition contains none of the elements that got Hippolytus in trouble, so even if it were written by him, that wouldn’t necessarily be a reason to forego its use.

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