20 May 2007

"Eucharistic" Prayer V

Taken from Rorate Caeli

What does that Eucharistic Prayer really say?

An article by our reader Antonio Basto, an attorney and law professor in Rio.


The Vatican website released the Presentation of Pope Benedict's apostolic voyage to Brazil (in Portuguese; in Italian), a document signed by the much (ill)-famed Archbishop Piero Marini, Master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations. As it usually happens, the document of presentation contains a chapter about the Liturgical Book of the Apostolic Voyage, a special liturgical book condensing the rubrics for all the liturgical actions to be celebrated during a Papal Trip.

According to said document of Presentation, the texts are in Portuguese as a rule, with the exception of the celebration of one Mass and of Vespers [both in the day when the Latin American Episcopal Conference-CELAM Conference is to be opened], in which, apart from Portuguese, the Spanish, French, and English languages are also used; furthermore, some sung texts are in Latin.

Apart from the private Masses that the Pope will celebrate in the places that will host him (the St. Benedict Monastery of São Paulo and the Good Jesus Seminary of Aparecida), the Pope will celebrate two public Masses, one in São Paulo, on Friday, May 11th, and another in Aparecida, on Sunday, May 13th. The first public Mass will be the Mass for the Canonization of Blessed Antonio de Sant'Anna Galvão, and the second, the opening Mass of General Conference of the CELAM. Regarding this second Mass, the Presentation informs that His Holiness will use Eucharistic Prayer III. However, the same document declares that, for the Mass of Canonization, His Holiness will employ Eucharistic Prayer V! That is correct, it is not a typo: Eucharistic Prayer... V!

This requires an explanation: thanks to bizarre requests on the part of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference (CNBB), and the leniency over the years on the part of the Apostolic See, several other Eucharistic Prayers are approved for use in Brazil, other than the translations of the Eucharistic Prayers I to IV. Those are the Eucharistic Prayer V, which we will discuss in more detail below, and also Eucharistic Prayers VI-A; VI-B;VI-C;VI-D (for various needs); Eucharistic Prayers VII and VIII (for reconciliation); IX, X and XI (for Masses with children).

Unfortunately, Eucharistic Prayer V is quite terrible: next to it, Eucharistic Prayer II seems the pinnacle of reverence in prayer. As far as possible for an Eucharistic Prayer, Eucharistic Prayer V contains no mention of the sacrificial nature of the Mass (in fact, the words "sacrifice", "victim", and similar expressions are NEVER used in this prayer), and it also manages to contain an impressive level of cheap, pedestrian language, whereas Eucharistic Prayers I to IV, in spite of the omission of several words and expressions denoting reverence in the process of translation, are still phrased, especially when compared to Prayer V, in respectful language.

For instance, Eucharistic Prayer II contains the words "E nós vos suplicamos" ("and we beseech Thee"), and contains several expressions such as "Remember, O Father", in which the "O", makes the prayer sound more reverent (much more reverent than if one were to say "Remember, Father"). It begins by acknowledging the Holiness of the Father, Fountain of all Holiness; it uses words such as "Bread of Life and Chalice of Salvation"... "Chalice of Salvation" is much better than "Wine that gives courage", an expression used by Eucharistic. Prayer V.

Eucharistic Prayer III also employs more than once the verb "beseech", and it refers to the Resurrection as "glorious". Eucharistic Prayer I starts by addressing the Father as "Father of Mercy, to whom our praise goes up" (Pai de Misericórdia, a quem sobem os nossos louvores), it asks "Receive, o Father, kindly, the offering", in the translation of the Hanc igitur, and "Vouchsafe, o Father, to accept..." (in the Quam oblationem); in the Qui pridie, the mention of the eyes of the Lord being raised up to the Father has not been omitted in translation; the Ascension is called "glorious"; in spite of a poorly translated Supplices Te rogamus, the words "we beseech" are employed in the Supra Quae, the line "not by our merits, but by your goodness", was preserved in the translation of the Nobis quoque. All that serves as a prelude to a comparison between those Prayers and the regrettable Eucharistic Prayer V.

Eucharistic Prayer V was drafted during the First Eucharistic Congress of Manaus, the 9th National Eucharistic Congress of Brazil, held in 1975. It was approved by the Brazilian Episcopal Conference, which requested to the Holy See for permission to include it in the Brazilian versions of the Roman Missal. Such permission was, of course, granted.

In Brazil, the use of the Eucharistic Prayer I, the Roman Canon, is quite rare. In most parishes, it is the Eucharistic Prayer II which is used from Monday to Saturday, and the Eucharistic Prayer III on Sunday. So the several other prayers, including the universal prayers I and IV, and the several specific Eucharistic Prayers, are rarely used.

However, if one goes to a church whose pastor is an adherent of Liberation Theology, he will be, in all likelihood, dressed without chasuble, wearing only alb and stole without cincture, and one will probably hear, as a general rule, Eucharistic Prayer V. Perhaps it is a coincidence. Or is it?

No, it is no coincidence that liberal priests prefer that pedestrian prayer. It is tailored for them. And now, thanks to the organizers of the Papal trip to Brazil, and to the good graces of Archbishop Marini, the Pope, the Supreme Pontiff, will recite that prayer. A prayer that should not even be on the Liturgical Books, that should not be recited by any priest, much less by the visible Head of the universal Church. The papal use of that prayer will send a wrong signal. Papal Masses should be an example of devotion. Instead of the Roman Canon, the concelebrants will make use of the worst Eucharistic Prayer ever to be approved by the Apostolic See, in one of the lowest moments of its liturgical law-giving activity.

Here is my translation of Eucharistic Prayer V, followed by more commentary [translation of the Portuguese ORIGINAL text]:


Priest: Lord, you who always wanted to be very close to us, living with us in Christ, speaking with us through him, send your Holy Spirit so that these our offerings be changed into the Body (+) and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ

Congregation: Send your Holy Spirit!

Priest: In the night in which he would be delivered, dining with his apostles, Jesus, having the bread in his hand, looked to heaven ["céu", same word in Portuguese for both heaven and sky] and gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples, saying: TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU, AND EAT: THIS IS MY BODY, THAT WILL BE DELIVERED FOR YOU. Similarly, at the end of the supper, he took the chalice in his hands, gave thanks again and delivered it to his disciples, saying: TAKE THIS ALL OF YOU, AND DRINK: THIS IS THE CHALICE OF MY BLOOD, THE BLOOD OF THE NEW AND EVERLASTING COVENANT, THAT SHALL BE SHED FOR YOU AND FOR ALL, FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS. DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME.

Priest: All this is the mystery of faith! [instead of "Mysterium Fidei", "Behold the Mystery of the Faith", a translation that is common to all other Eucharistic Prayers in Portuguese].

Congregation: Every time that one eats from this Bread, every time one drinks from this Wine, one recollects the passion of Jesus Christ, and one awaits his return.

Priest. We recall in this moment, o Father, the passion of Jesus, our Lord, his Resurrection and ascension; we wish to offer you this Bread that feeds and gives life, this Wine that saves us and gives courage.

Congregation: Receive, o Lord, our offering!

Priest: And when we receive the Bread and Wine, his offered Body and Blood, may the Spirit unite us in one only body, so that we may be one only people in his love.

Congregation: May the Spirit unite us in one body!

Priest: Protect your Church that walks in the roads of the world towards heaven, each day renewing the hope of arriving next to you, in your peace.

Congregation: We walk on Jesus's road!

Priest: Grant the Holy Father, Pope N., that he be very firm in the Faith, in charity, and to N., who is bishop of this Church, and to his auxiliary bishops, plenty of light to lead his flock.

Congregation: We walk on Jesus' road!

Priest: We expect to enter life everlasting with the Virgin, Mother of God and of the Church, and with the apostles and all the saints that in live knew to love Christ and his (the word used could also mean "their") brothers.

Congregation: We expect to enter the eternal life!

Priest: All those that you called to the other life in your friendship, and to those marked with the sign of Faith, receive them, opening your arms. That they may live very happy forever in the kingdom that for all you have prepared.

Congregation: To all give the light that never ceases!

Priest: And to us, who are now assembled and are a holy and sinful people, give strength to build together your kingdom that is also ours.

Priest: Through Christ, with Christ, in Christ, to you, God Father Almighty, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, be every honour and every glory, now and forever.

Congregation: Amen.


Eucharistic Prayer V makes use of clearly puerile and informal language: for instance, in "Senhor, vós que sempre quisestes ficar muito perto de nós", "muito perto de nós" (very close to us) is a clear use of informal language. Several other nobler images could be used, but since the drafter decided to speak about God´s proximity, they could use "próximo", instead of the informal "muito perto". The Prayer, following the bad example of Eucharistic Prayer II, starts immediately with the Epiclesis, and, again, the sole use of the image of proximity to God here makes this part of the prayer very poor.

In the equivalent of the Qui pridie, instead of using words to denote that Christ looked up to His Father, the word "céu" is employed, which means both Heaven and sky. Instead of "In the night in which he was to be delivered, He took the bread", as is used in most other Eucharistic Prayers, two insertions are here made: one is the "dining with his apostles" phrase, which emphasizes the idea of the Mass as a meal; the other is the replacement of the word "He took the bread", used in most Eucharistic Prayers (a reference to the earlier "Our Lord Jesus Christ") with the informal "Jesus took the bread". "Jesus", plain "Jesus", is informal, and is almost never used in liturgical prayer, at least in Portuguese, for it denotes a Protestant-like intimacy and lack of reverence.

The same lack of reverence is noted when the prayer states, "we recall.. the passion of Jesus, our Lord", instead of "the passion of Thy Son", or "Celebrating, therefore, o Father, the memory of Thy Son, of his passion that saves us, of his Resurrection from the dead and glorious Ascension into the heavens", as used in other prayers. Also, "passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ..." would be more reverent than "passion of Jesus, our Lord".

There is the absurd reference to "Wine that... gives courage" AFTER the Consecration. No other Eucharistic Prayer does that. Some speak of "chalice", such as in "chalice of salvation" (from the Latin calicem salutis perpetuae translated with the omission of perpetuae). However, no other Eucharistic Prayer speaks of the content of the Chalice as this one does. The content, of course, is the saving Blood of Our Lord, not "this wine that saves and gives courage". The reference to "wine" at this point, is unheard-of. Although references to "bread of life" are common, a reference to "chalice" would be much more appropriate that to "wine". And what is this "gives courage" line? Is that language appropriate for Eucharistic prayers?

The reference to the pope and to the Bishop is also done in a different way in this prayer compared to others: there is no reference to "your servant Pope N." or to "our Bishop N.", and that "plenty of light to feed his flock" line is also very pedestrian. In general expressions like "bem firme" (very firm); "bem felizes" (very happy) are informal ones, and thus unsuitable. They are, however, present in this Eucharistic Prayer. The "bem" clause gives that note of informality here. Other Eucharistic Prayers do not use that kind of cheap language, not even in very poor translations.

There is, finally, the problem of the acclamations after each paragraph. Certain acclamations after each paragraph of the Eucharistic Prayer were requested by the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil for every Eucharistic Prayer in the books. They can be dispensed with.

Almost every parish uses those acclamations, and there are different texts that go with different Eucharistic Prayers. The acclamations themselves are inappropriate, and the fact is that their very existence is a source of disturbance and loss of concentration, as it breaks the unified text of the Eucharistic Prayer into fragmented bits. However, the acclamations for other prayers, such as for prayers I to IV, are a bit more respectful towards God, at least, in that they use the "O" clause much more than prayer V --- "Accept our offering, o Lord" --- or in that they ask "Grant us society with the elect". Grant us (concedei-nos), is a formal verb, and denotes more reverence.

Here, however, reverence is totally absent: "Send your Holy Spirit!" -- who do you think you are talking to? That is certainly no way to address God the Father. And also, "We expect to enter eternal life!" -- it is proclaimed with an exclamation point, more like a demand, rather than a humble request. Not to mention the bizarre acclamation, "We walk on Jesus´s road", which sounds more like the language of Protestant neo-pentecostal sects. This line matches another very poor line on the Priest´s part, in which the Holy Catholic Church is referred not as "Thy Catholic Church", "the Church pilgrim on Earth", but in a cheesy way as "the Church that walks in the roads of this world". What is that, country music?

As it can be noticed, it is truly deplorable that Eucharistic Prayer V was ever approved as part of Catholic Liturgy -- it is even worse that it will now become a model, after being granted the rubber-stamp blessing of being used by the Pope himself.

First Picture: Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, in Aparecida, Brazil
Second and Third Pictures: Masses celebrated in the Jesuit Youth House of Goiania, Brazil.

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