Another Liturgical Q and A

Here another interesting liturgical question I was asked recently and the response I gave.

Q. Is there any restriction on choosing the Preface, Eucharistic Prayer and Memorial Acclamation for Sunday Mass?

A. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal #365 offers these norms for choosing the Eucharistic Prayer:
“Eucharistic Prayer I, that is, the Roman Canon, which may always be used, is especially suited to be sung or said … in the celebrations of the Apostles and of the Saints mentioned in the Prayer itself; it is likewise especially appropriate for Sundays, unless for pastoral considerations Eucharistic Prayer III is preferred.

“Eucharistic Prayer II, on account of its particular features, is more appropriately used on weekdays or in special circumstances. Although it has been provided with its own Preface, it may also be used with other Prefaces, especially those that summarise the mystery of salvation. When Mass is celebrated for a particular dead person, the special formula may be inserted (Remember our brothers and sisters).

“Eucharistic Prayer III may be said with any Preface. Its use is preferred on Sundays and Feast days. If this Eucharistic Prayer is used in Masses for the Dead, the special formula for the dead may be used (In mercy and love unite all your children).

“Eucharistic Prayer IV has an invariable Preface and gives a fuller summary of salvation history. It may be used when a Mass has no Preface of its own and on Sundays in Ordinary Time. Because of its structure, no special formula for the dead may be inserted into this prayer.”

As for choosing the preface, sometimes – usually for feasts and seasons - a proper preface is set down for the day. The Ordo indicates when this is the case. On these days, Eucharistic Prayer IV cannot be used because it has a fixed preface that can never be replaced by another as explained above.

Eucharistic Prayers I and III do not have a fixed preface - one is chosen for the feast, season or celebration from the more than 80 given in the Sacramentary. Eucharistic Prayer II has a proper preface but another may be substituted.

Of course, there are more Eucharistic Prayers in the Missal than the four listed above.

The Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs and Occasions has four given prefaces that match sections in the second half of the prayer, so it is not suitable to use when a proper preface is set down for the day.

The three Eucharistic Prayers for Masses with Children are restricted to Masses which are celebrated with children only or where the majority of participants are children.

The Eucharistic Prayers for Masses of Reconciliation are appropriate for any Mass where the focus of the readings or the liturgical season or the particular celebration is on forgiveness, mercy and justice. They have their own prefaces so again are not suitable when a proper preface is set down for the day.

The choice of memorial acclamations is not regulated in any way. I know of a parish where the music director insists that Acclamation 1 be used with Eucharistic Prayer 1, Acclamation II with Eucharistic Prayer II, etc. But there are actually 13 Eucharistic Prayers and the memorial acclamations are labelled A-D in the Sacramentary, not 1- 4, so the system doesn’t work!


Elizabeth Harrington