Monday, October 16, 2023

Eucharistic Prayers: Not From Napkins


One of the most controversial aspects of the liturgical reform after Vatican II was the introduction of new Eucharistic Prayers to replace the Roman Canon, which had been the only anaphora of the Latin rite for centuries. The origin and development of these prayers is a fascinating and complex story, involving historical research, theological debates, and political maneuvers.

One of the main protagonists of this story was Father Annibale Bugnini, the secretary of the Consilium, the committee appointed by Pope Paul VI to implement the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. Bugnini was a skilled and ambitious liturgist, who had a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve: a radical simplification and modernization of the Roman liturgy, in order to make it more accessible and adaptable to the needs of the contemporary Church.

Bugnini was not alone in his quest. He had the support of many experts and bishops, who shared his enthusiasm for liturgical renewal. He also had the advantage of being in charge of the Consilium, which gave him considerable influence and authority over the liturgical reform. It is said that he used his position to promote his agenda, often bypassing or manipulating the normal channels of consultation and approval.

One of his most daring moves was the creation of new Eucharistic Prayers, which he presented as a restoration of ancient liturgical traditions. Some claim today that they were mostly original compositions, based on selective and questionable sources. Bugnini wanted to replace the Roman Canon, which he considered too long, too complex, and too rigid, with shorter and simpler prayers that would allow more variety and participation.

The first new Eucharistic Prayer was composed in 1966 by a group of experts led by Father Cipriano Vagaggini, a Benedictine scholar. It was based on the anaphora of Hippolytus, a third-century text that was rediscovered in 1894 and considered to be the oldest known Eucharistic Prayer. However, Vagaggini made several changes and additions to the original text, such as inserting a reference to Mary and the saints, adding an epiclesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit), and modifying the words of institution (consecration). The result was a prayer that was much shorter than the Roman Canon (only 218 words in Latin), but also very different in structure and theology.

The second new Eucharistic Prayer was composed in 1967 by two French experts: Father Louis Bouyer, an Oratorian theologian, and Dom Bernard Botte, a Benedictine liturgist. They were given a 24-hour deadline by Bugnini to produce a new prayer that would be acceptable to the bishops who had rejected Vagaggini's proposal. They decided to base their prayer on an ancient Eastern anaphora attributed to St. Basil, but they also borrowed elements from other sources, such as the Mozarabic rite and the Roman Canon. They wrote their draft on a napkin at a Roman cafĂ©, where they met to discuss their work. The result was a prayer that was slightly longer than Vagaggini's (289 words in Latin), but also more balanced and rich in content. This was of course an anecdote told by Louis Bouyer in his memoir—in which he and Bernard Botte put the finishing touches on their draft of the prayer in a cafe in Trastevere—gets garbled in transmission, such that I have seen the claim made that they drafted the whole thing on a napkin in about an hour.  Eucharistic Prayer II is most likely from the Missale Gothicum. 

The third new Eucharistic Prayer was composed in 1968 by a group of experts from various countries, who were asked by Bugnini to create a prayer that would reflect the diversity and unity of the Church. They used as their main source a fourth-century anaphora attributed to St. Athanasius, but they also incorporated elements from other Eastern and Western rites, such as the Coptic, Syrian, Gallican, and Ambrosian traditions. They also added some original features, such as an explicit mention of the four last things (death, judgment, hell, and heaven), and a tripartite doxology (praise) at the end. The result was a prayer that was longer than both Vagaggini's and Bouyer's (340 words in Latin), but also more comprehensive and ecumenical.  The fourth new Eucharistic Prayer was composed in 1969 by Father Giulio Belletti.

So as we can see, the Anaphoras or Eucharistic Prayers were based on previous ancient texts with a few adaptations here and there to fit the modern world in regards to language and updates in doctrine.  

Eucharistic Prayer II, which is part of the Roman Catholic liturgy, was not written on a napkin. The claim that it was composed on a napkin in a Roman restaurant in the 1960s is not accurate. In fact, Eucharistic Prayer II has a different origin.

The Roman Canon, also known as the First Eucharistic Prayer, is believed to be the oldest and most traditional Eucharistic Prayer. However, Eucharistic Prayer II is a more recent addition with contents that are much older than the Roman Canon, according to scholars.

Here are the details:

  1. Eucharistic Prayer II:

  2. Roman Canon (First Eucharistic Prayer):

In summary, Eucharistic Prayer II was not scribbled on a napkin but was thoughtfully composed by liturgical experts during a significant period of liturgical renewal building on a previous Eucharistic prayer attributed to Hippolytus. It is believed to be by some scholars the older Eucharistic Prayer. The Roman Canon, on the other hand, most likely has a much longer history and is deeply rooted in Christian tradition.

There will always be Catholics who will subscribe to delusions and conspiracy theories. This may be due to ignorance or an underlying undiagnosed psychological disorder.  

The fact is that the Church can change rites. She cannot change dogmas or doctrines and must not discard older rites for the sake of modernity. We read in Mediator Dei, an encyclical of Pius XII who as a pre-Vatican II pontiff the following:

58. It follows from this that the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification.[50] Bishops, for their part, have the right and duty carefully to watch over the exact observance of the prescriptions of the sacred canons respecting divine worship.[51] Private individuals, therefore, even though they be clerics, may not be left to decide for themselves in these holy and venerable matters, involving as they do the religious life of Christian society along with the exercise of the priesthood of Jesus Christ and worship of God; concerned as they are with the honor due to the Blessed Trinity, the Word Incarnate and His august mother and the other saints, and with the salvation of souls as well. For the same reason no private person has any authority to regulate external practices of this kind, which are intimately bound up with Church discipline and with the order, unity and concord of the Mystical Body and frequently even with the integrity of Catholic faith itself.

59. The Church is without question a living organism, and as an organism, in respect of the sacred liturgy also, she grows, matures, develops, adapts and accommodates herself to temporal needs and circumstances, provided only that the integrity of her doctrine be safeguarded. This notwithstanding, the temerity and daring of those who introduce novel liturgical practices, or call for the revival of obsolete rites out of harmony with prevailing laws and rubrics, deserve severe reproof. It has pained Us grievously to note, Venerable Brethren, that such innovations are actually being introduced, not merely in minor details but in matters of major importance as well. We instance, in point of fact, those who make use of the vernacular in the celebration of the august eucharistic sacrifice; those who transfer certain feast-days - which have been appointed and established after mature deliberation - to other dates; those, finally, who delete from the prayerbooks approved for public use the sacred texts of the Old Testament, deeming them little suited and inopportune for modern times.

60. The use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth. In spite of this, the use of the mother tongue in connection with several of the rites may be of much advantage to the people. But the Apostolic See alone is empowered to grant this permission. It is forbidden, therefore, to take any action whatever of this nature without having requested and obtained such consent, since the sacred liturgy, as We have said, is entirely subject to the discretion and approval of the Holy See.

61. The same reasoning holds in the case of some persons who are bent on the restoration of all the ancient rites and ceremonies indiscriminately. The liturgy of the early ages is most certainly worthy of all veneration. But ancient usage must not be esteemed more suitable and proper, either in its own right or in its significance for later times and new situations, on the simple ground that it carries the savor and aroma of antiquity. The more recent liturgical rites likewise deserve reverence and respect. They, too, owe their inspiration to the Holy Spirit, who assists the Church in every age even to the consummation of the world.[52] They are equally the resources used by the majestic Spouse of Jesus Christ to promote and procure the sanctity of man. 


Pius XII also states in Sacramentum Ordinis the following:

“It follows that, even according to the mind of the Council of Florence itself, the traditio instrumentorum is not required for the substance and validity of this Sacrament by the will of Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. If it was at one time necessary even for validity by the will and command of the Church, every one knows that the Church has the power to change and abrogate what she herself has established.” - Sacramentum Ordinis #3: Pope Pius XII - 1947

So as we can read here, Pope Pius XII made it clear that the rites of the Catholic Church can be modified or even done away with if necessary. This is because they belong to the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church developed these rites and can do what she wishes with them.  Catholics who push lies regarding the anaphoras, the Ordinary Form, and Vatican II are doing a disservice to the Catholic Faith.  They completely ignored history and the facts of how the liturgy has developed since the first century.  The 1962  Missal itself is a product of centuries of revisions. There is no "traditional Latin mass." It has constantly been evolving. 

There is no "Mass of the ages." These are coined terms meant to push a narrative that is not based on reality, history, and facts. Whether extraordinary or ordinary, the Mass is ONE and the same based on two hinges: the Word of God and the Eucharist. If a Catholic cannot see this or understand this, then he or she is worshiping rituals, not God Himself.  This is why the current pope did not repress the rite, but restricted its use showing he is protecting a treasure that is being abused by some fanatics for political reasons. Pius XII called the Church and Liturgy a "living organism" that grows and adapts, develops, and accommodates to the current situation.   This does not mean the Mass rites of before Trent, the Mass rites before Vatican II are obsolete, or that the Mass rites after Vatican II are modernism or innovations. They are all part of the One and Same Mass and are valid, but applied appropriately depending on time, circumstances, and the needs of the people's spiritual lives.

We as Catholics must accept what the Catholic Church presents via faith and obedience, if not, then what we believe and accept is not Catholic, but our own ego. The Eucharistic Prayers are fine and worthy to be used because they come from the Catholic Church. Only she is the master of the Liturgy. Those pushing lies about Eucharistic Prayers being written on napkins and so on are sinful and we can get a hint of their poor state of mind and soul. 


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