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New Words for Worship Part 24: Eucharistic Prayer I
THE FIRST EUCHARISTIC PRAYER
Recently I outlined the general structure of the Eucharistic Prayer. The first Eucharistic Prayer has the same elements but is structured differently. The kernel remains the consecration by the words of Christ and the memorial of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The other elements are arranged symmetrically around this centre.
Praise and Thanks in the Opening Dialogue, the Preface, the Holy Holy.
1st Intercessions (for the Church, Pope and Bishop, the Living)
1st List of Saints (we pray in communion with them)
1st Formula of Offering (accept this oblation of our service)
1st Invocation (bless, acknowledge and approve this offering)
Institution Narrative (the powerful words of Christ)
Memorial (Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension)
2nd Formula of Offering (look upon these offerings... accept them)
2nd Invocation (filled with every grace and heavenly blessing)
2nd Intercessions (for the Dead, for participants)
2nd List of Saints (grant us some share and fellowship with them)
Praise, expressed in the final sentence and the concluding formula
Several aspects of the new translation of Eucharistic Prayer I are challenging. Whereas all other Eucharistic Prayers say “he took the chalice” in the Institution Narrative, this has “he took this precious chalice”. The word “precious” to describe the vessel used by Christ at the Last Supper is problematic as is the determiner “this” which in normal usage would indicate the chalice which the priest is holding at this point of the Mass. As with so many of the changes to the Mass texts, the explanation is that the new words are a direct translation of the Latin.
And so we have “in his holy and venerable hands” instead of “in his sacred hands”, “oblation of our service” for “offering”, “this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim” in place of “this holy and perfect sacrifice”. These are good examples of the “vernacular of a sacred style that differs from the usual manner of speech” required by the translation rules set out in Liturgiam Authenticam.
Is it not taking this principle too far though when it results in expressions that are:
(a) convoluted/incomprehensible: “Remember, Lord, your servants N. and N. and all gathered here, whose faith and devotion are known to you. For them we offer you this sacrifice of praise or they offer it for themselves and all who are dear to them.”Unravelling who the ‘they’s, ‘them’s and ‘themselves’ refer to is no easy task!
(b) bad grammar: “Through whom you continue to make all these good things, O Lord; you sanctify them, fill them with life, bless them, and bestow them upon us” is not a correct English sentence.
(c) distracting: “… and the offering of your high priest Melchizedek, a holy sacrifice, a spotless victim” reads as if Melchizedek is the spotless victim; “we offer to your glorious majesty” sounds as if something is being given to the Queen; “a place of refreshment” conjures up images of a café by the sea.
Surely clear communication of meaning and the formation of the prayer of the assembly take precedence over strict adherence to the Latin!